Updated: Aug 5
Welcome to GirlSafe! As a girls self defense organization, we are devoted to providing our students with the information they need to lead safe, confident, and successful lives. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw in our city and around the world a serious increase in assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking. We realized we needed to educate our students better on street safety and awareness, so we began gathering expert information and put our findings into this manual.
As a note before we begin, I want to emphasize that discussing safety principles requires an acknowledgement of some bad things that can happen in life. Our goal is not to make readers become more fearful of the world. This would actually be detrimental to a life well-lived, and even to a safe and successful life. What we want to do is arm our readers with as much useful information as possible so that if they ever must face one of these situations they will be better prepared. So that they can go about their lives with more confidence in their ability to handle scary situations. And so that they can be aware of signs of danger and avoid it altogether.
Let's Learn GirlSafe!
First we must start with some general rules that help our understanding of safety as a whole.
The Familiarity Rule
75% of kidnap victims are kidnapped by someone they know. This is an important thing to understand because we often think of self defense in terms of a stranger in an alley way, but the reality is that most kidnappers are someone the victim already knows and trusts.
The Disguise Rule
It is important to know that online predators do not say "I'm a 48 year old man, what's your address?" but instead, they disguise themselves as the same age of the victim to gain their trust. Similarly, in person or on the phone, predators don't say "When do your parents come home? I want to know when you'll be alone." We must be aware of the fact that predators will always use some sort of disguise to trick us, and it's often not obvious.
Yelling vs. Screaming
Since yelling is such an important component of self defense, it is important to differentiate between the two. High pitched screaming is easily misinterpreted- 'maybe it's some teenagers fooling around'. It is always better to YELL words that people nearby will understand. Yell specific things that will get attention and tell people what is going on: "HE'S KIDNAPPING ME", "GET AWAY FROM ME", "SOMEONE CALL THE POLICE NOW".
The Never Cooperate Rule
If you yell, people will come to help and call the police. The attacker knows this, so they will always tell you (and threaten you) to not yell or make a scene. It is very important that you don't listen and continue to yell as loud as possible and fight back relentlessly. The fact is, the attacker only has so much time before someone notices and calls the police. They are not willing to risk going to jail over you. We have to use this knowledge against them- every second you fight back is a second closer to them giving up and running away as fast as they can.
Now that we have established a few key principles, let's begin with the specifics!
Situational awareness is being aware of your surroundings- where you are, what’s around you, and the potential dangers. Good situational awareness can really be effective in staying out of harms way, because you will see dangers coming ahead of time, increasing your reaction time and your ability to call the police or avoid the danger completely. Here's how you can have better situational awareness:
1. Remove distractions
Do not walk around in public while on your phone or with headphones in. When you stop your eyes and ears from sensing, you significantly reduce your awareness and reaction time to possible threats, and you are perceived as an easier target than someone who is demonstrating good awareness.
2. Scan the environment
Make sure not to keep your gaze on the ground or only in front of you. Look forward at where you are going, and periodically scan from left to right. In situations that require heightened awareness, make sure to check out whats going on behind you as well.
3. Stay aware of environmental hazards
Situational awareness is as much about awareness of the natural environment as it is about human threats. Pay attention to where you step (a pot hole?), what’s above you (hanging street lights? Weak trees or wires?), and always be aware of traffic.