How To Stay Safe In An Attack: Tips From Vancouver Police Department Women

Imagine you’re walking down the street at dusk. It’s quiet, and feels a bit deserted for a weekday evening. The screen from your phone glows as you check your emails while you stroll. All you can hear is the clicking of your heels on the concrete. Suddenly, you feel like something is a bit off. Did you hear footsteps behind you or was it just your imagination? You start to walk faster, glancing over your shoulder every few steps. From the corner of you eye, you discover that a shadowed, hooded figure is approaching behind you, doubling your steps. Before you can run, you feel a hand grasp firmly on your arm. What do you do?

According to Statistics Canada, women feel less safe than men when walking the streets alone at night, and are therefore more likely to take preventative steps to protect themselves. In a survey that was conducted to examine the perceptions of personal safety and crime in Canada, it was found that “women were more likely than men to say that they regularly take steps to protect themselves from crime, such as checking the back seat of the car for intruders (47%, versus 23% of men), changing their routine or avoiding certain places (31% versus 23%), carrying something to protect themselves or alert others (16% versus 8%), or staying home at night out of fear of going out alone (10% versus 2%).

Yet while women seem to be taking the necessary precautions to avoid dangerous situations, it doesn’t seem as though enough are preparing themselves for what to do if they are actually attacked.

In 2013, a group of female officers from the Vancouver Police Department came together to create a Women’s Personal Safety Team, recognizing a need for the city’s women to be prepared in the case of an attack. Through conducting hands-on workshops, this group of women were on a mission: To educate, inspire, and empower women to take ownership of their personal safety.

Through their workshops, this team of police officers will provide women in the community with information and training to help improve their personal safety if faced with situations of unavoidable violence. On their site (and below), you can find actionable tips to ensure your personal safety.

Personal Safety Tips:*

    1. Awareness is your first line for personal safety, which begins long before any actual physical contact. Be aware of yourself, your surroundings.An attacker’s primary strategy is to use the advantage of surprise. They are adept at choosing targets who appear to be unaware of what is going on around them. If you are aware of your surroundings, you can spot suspicious circumstances or people. It provides time for you to plan your reaction.
    2. Intuition or “gut instinct” is something everyone has experienced – the feeling that something isn’t quite right, but you’re not sure why. It’s important to pay attention and trust this feeling. Use it to your full advantage and avoid any person or situation which does not “feel” safe. Your instincts are probably right.
    3. Prevention is taking measures to make yourself less of a target. We look both ways before crossing the street because we don’t blindly trust that the drivers will see us and stop. We take ownership of our personal safety by using tactics that will keep us safe, much like ensuring the road way is clear of threats before stepping off the curb. When it comes to avoiding or minimizing situations where we may be subjected to violence, we need to learn and employ tactics that will help keep us safe.
    4. Fighting back may be necessary in situations of unavoidable violence. You have the right to fight back as hard as necessary to protect yourself and get away safely.The important thing about fighting back is that it must be done effectively. Struggling and scratching is fighting back, but it won’t be effective in a violent encounter where the assailant’s primary focus is to seriously hurt you or worse.
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