The victim is often punished along with the perpetrator, especially as children in school when rules against ‘fighting' often punish the victim as well as the bully. We learn that standing up for ourselves is going to get us into trouble and therefore it is best to do nothing. We become programmed to be victims. Standing up for one's self does not necessarily mean fighting but being assertive or being involved as an onlooker when someone else is being victimised. Prevention is better than cure.
Why would I be a victim?
Victims of crime are just that, victims, and should never blame themselves or wonder what they did wrong or did to deserve some sort of punishment. Although any particular instance is often out of our control there are things that we can consider in order to minimise our risks without locking ourselves away and not having a ‘life’.
Similarly, locking yourself in the house as a way of avoiding potential risk outside is not practical either. We all need to live and go about our business - going to school or work, shopping, and enjoying our leisure time. This is why it's so important to be aware of our surroundings, what you are doing and what people around you are doing.
Hint: You can plan ahead to limit your accessibility to danger.
For example, when you go shopping and intend to follow up with an evening dinner or a film, think about where you park your car so that when you return to it late at night it will be close at hand. This may mean moving it between your shopping and the film. Plan ahead to be safer. Although it is unlikely that anything may go wrong if you don't move the car, you will be less stressed with a short walk back to your car after dark than when you have to wind your way across a poorly lit, half empty car park. Just by taking this simple action to move your car close to the cinema, you have made yourself less accessible to danger.
Let's do an exercise! Consider this scenario:
You are walking along a poorly lit street between a row of parked cars and building fronts. Where would you walk so that you are least accessible to any potential attacker?
Remember - Pre-thought, Pre-planned - Prepared!
The best answer is to walk along the footpath facing the on-coming traffic and thus the front of any parked cars. This way you are better able to look into cars and see if they are occupied. If you come from behind parked cars then it is difficult to see inside. An occupant of the vehicle may also spring open the door which can then act as a trap. By approaching the front of a car, when the door is opened it will act as a barrier between you and a potential attacker. Should the occupant appear threatening you can turn and run or kick the door closed. You are less accessible and more aware of car occupants when approaching from the front of a vehicle.
Don’t be afraid to cross the road or walk back where you came as if you had changed your mind rather than take risks passing a parked car with suspicious occupants.
Fear expresses itself in our body language. Vulnerability is easy for potential attackers to read as it shows up with a downward look, clutching at your belongings or suddenly changing direction and appearing unsure. To conquer this exposing factor and feel more in control, develop a confident walk, stand up straight and look at your surroundings with a goal in mind, even if it's only the next corner. Hold your belongings in a relaxed but firm grip.
With a little practice you will appear more confident and less vulnerable.
Another way to develop your self-defence skills is to spend time observing other people. Access their availability, accessibility and vulnerability. Consider who appears to fall into these categories, and why it makes them an easier target. Why do some people appear more vulnerable than others? What habits can you change so as to make yourself less of a target? Learn from the mistakes of others and understand what is confident body language and, like an actor, fake it until you make it.
Observation and practise will create new habits that minimise your availability, accessibility and vulnerability resulting in a more confident ‘you’ that is less likely to become a victim.