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How to avoid being prey

Some time ago, I saw this ad in a magazine. Shell Oil advertising department was trying to make the gas station chain appear neighborly. So far, so good.

The advice seemed sound. In fact, I have seen much the same suggestions made at my favorite web board. However, something important was missing.

I remembered where I first saw this kind of advice: my college handbook. Their safety tips sounded equally reasonable and had the same flaw in their logic. What if no one is around to help?

Condescending advice
Women are at risk, yet they are seldom prepared
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Often, a "personal alarm" is touted as the solution to the problem. Pull a cord and let a loud siren deter your attacker. Would it work on an assailant used to loud music? Unlikely.

What happens if you are twenty miles from the nearest town, somewhere in the country? What happens if you are a hundred feet from a gas station, but your stalker is at arm's length from you? Perhaps people are present but, as was the case with Kitty Genovese, too afraid or apathetic to get involved.

A VERY loud alarm
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That's when we get to read headlines "woman abducted from her workplace" or "jogger missing since last Saturday". It happens to men, too, but women tend to be picked on more often through no provocation of their own. Don't you think it is time that the predator population stopped thinking of females primarily as "easy prey"? A different kind of personal alarm would work better for that purpose.
Be prepared
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Avoiding a confrontation is usually the best policy. However, sometimes that is not enough, just like careful driving is not a 100% guarantee that no accidents will happen over your lifetime. Wearing seatbelts, having a first aid kit and the skill to use it does not make you more likely to get into a car crash. Those measures can, however, make a difference between life and death.

No matter what some people would say, being a victim isn't noble or morally superior to being a capable survivor. Getting chewed up by a bear or cut up by a criminal would be equally painful and equally preventable. Taking precautions does not mean inviting trouble: on the contrary, that usually involves learning about potential threats and studiously avoiding them.

If your life was in danger
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The college handbook advised using your keys to scratch attacker's face. I wonder why they did not advise any effective means of self-defense.Seems to me that making your opponent even more mad would be the last thing you'd want to accomplish.

Tool-using human
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Other pundits tell women to pretend that they are asleep in the event of a break-in. "Play possum, little woman," they advise "You couldn't possibly offer resistence and win." In offering such poor advice, these self-proclaimed experts are merely exposing their own chauvinist beliefs. In reality, lawful women (and men) with proper weapons can fight back effectively, provided they have some training. By itself, not even the most potent gun would do much to improve safety. Guns are not magical amulets; competent users must operate them. Fortunately, proficiency with firearms is far easier to achieve than proficiency in any other martial art.

Defensive pistolcraft is easy to learn
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Two ways to shield yourself Hi-res

For example, this woman has fourteen rounds at her disposal with which to stop an attack. It is safe to assume that by the time she would have to re-load, any would be criminal would be either incapacitated or long gone. Her chances of surviving a hostile encounter are much better by fighting back in this manner than by any other method.

A more permanent solution
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I have even seen advice that women ought to carry condoms to protect themselves from AIDS and other pathogenic consequences of rape. Wouldn't a more permanent solution to that problem be a better idea? After all, every predator retired by his intended victim is one that cannot attack someone less able to fight back. I hear that rape isn't about sex anyway but rather about domination over the victim: in fighting back, you protect your dignity as well as your body.

Opponents of self-defense are quacks
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A woman armed with a scattergun

Armed and Female Hi-res

Perhaps they assume that a woman can live her entire life without venturing out of her home without an escort. Maybe they do not think that a female can fight back and win: the Victorian notion of a female as a beautiful invalid lingers within many minds, still. Most likely, the legal advisor would not permit publishing any advice that could get some poor stalker hurt. Equally likely the authors of such advice deem women incapable of fending for themselves, too weak or too feeble-minded to pull the trigger in self-defense. Watching any woman at a firing range would disabuse them of their delusions about females, but most bigots prefer their pet theories to the reality.

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Steady aim is always in fashion
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Self-sufficient female Hi-res

The reality is that women are usually better shots than men. It is a shame that relatively few make full use of their inborn advantage in that area. Fortunately, the trend has been towards increased defensive weapon ownership by women and that's good news.

Learning to operate a firearm, is no different from learning other power tools. A woman who can, if need be, change her own tire or fix a broken door is more independent that a woman who cannot do either of those things. Same is true for people who can hunt their own food or repel intruders instead of acting out "damsel in distress" routine and hoping that a suitable hero happens to be nearby to effect a dramatic rescue.

Lay back and enjoy? Never!
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Improvised defenses require dangerous proximity to the attacker. Criminals try to pick victims weaker than themselves, so closing in gives them all the advantages. US Department of Justice statistics indicate that half-hearted resistance is more likely to get you hurt than cooperation with the thug. They also note that you would be much more likely to avoid injury, by a factor of two or more, if you fight back using a gun.

You can fight back and win
A basic .38 Special revolver

Considering that neither pepper spray nor tasers are adequate for self-defense, I would like to recommend a life-saving tool that was first introduced over half-millenium ago. It has evolved into a simple, effective and safe device that saves millions of lives each year.

A speedloader, holding 5 roundsIf you have never fired a handgun, give it a try. You just might decide to get training in using it effectively. Get a friend or a certified instructor to show you the basics. Most ranges have firearms for rent, so you can try a low-power .22 firearm and, when comfortable with it, move up to a common defense caliber. If you are not sure if learning to defend yourself is for you, stop by Mothers Arms site, a great place for discussing this exact topic.


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Carrying a defensive weapon is not very difficult physically. The revolver pictured here weighs only 13oz (370g) and takes up no more space than a compact 35mm camera. In the rare instance when its use is warranted, the mere threat of harm sends most criminals fleeing. But, if you must, you would be able to save your own life when no other options exist.

Some women are independent
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Strong women can use tools Hi-res
By being armed and trained, you affirm your independence. No weak swooning girl, you can rely on your own skills and advance planning to stay alive and well. Capability for self-defense is a feminist value.
Are you pro-choice?
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Adult responsibilities but no adult rights? Hi-res
Unfortunately, about a dozen states in the Union have laws that prohibit or seriously hinder being armed outside of home. Of those that permit it, many deny the right to college students and others of the 18-21 age group. There's no surprise that these same states have bolder criminals and higher violent crime rates. The legislators side with the muggers and rapists by insuring that law-abiding citizens are easy prey. If you live in one of those states, perhaps you better do as the Shell ad advises. You might perish, but at least some innocent thug's livelihood would not be endangered.

Government sides with rapists
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Who profits? Hi-res
Even if you are armed and able to protect yourself from a stalker, the state might help the criminal get you. Using a law cynically entitled "Violence Against Women Prevention", they can render you unprotected. All the stalker has to do is request a restraining order against you! Many states now require people served with such an order to turn in or sell all their firearms within 24 hours, even if the request for a restraining order was without merit. Now, that wouldn't stop a determined criminal who's willing to murder you; after all, what's one more law when he's ready to break so many. It might stop you, a law-abiding American, from being able to protect yourself.


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