A group of serial rapists in prisons were interviewed to discover what they looked for in a potential victim:
Hairstyle A woman with a ponytail, bun, braid or other hairstyle can be easily grabbed. Rapists are more likely to go after a woman with long hair. Women with short hair are not common targets.
Clothing Rapists look for a woman whose clothing is easy to remove quickly. Many carry scissors to cut clothing.
Mobile phones Women on their mobile ‘phone, searching through their handbag or doing other activities while walking because they are off guard, can be easily overpowered.
Favourite locations include car parks of shops and offices, blocks of garages and around public toilets and, as we know, wooded paths
Rapists are looking to grab a woman and quickly move her to a second location where they don’t have to worry about getting caught. If you put up any kind of a fight at all, they are likely to get discouraged, because it only takes a minute or two to realise that going after you isn’t worth it – it will be too time consuming
This group of rapists said they would not pick on women with umbrellas, or similar objects that can be used from a distance, in their hands. Keys are not a deterrent because you have to get really close to the attacker to use them as a weapon. So, the idea is to convince these men you’re not worth it.
If someone is following behind you on a street or in a garage or are with you in an elevator or stairwell, look them in the face and ask them a question like What time is it? Or make general small talk about the weather. Now you’ve seen their face and could identify them in a line-up, you lose appeal as a target.
If someone is coming towards you, hold out your hands in front of you and yell ‘Stop’ or ‘Stay back’. Most of the rapists spoken to said they’d leave a woman alone if she yelled or showed that she would not be afraid to fight back. Again they are looking for an EASY target.
If someone grabs you, you can’t beat them with strength, but you can by outsmarting them. If you are grabbed around the waist from behind, pinch the attacker in the upper inner thigh – HARD. If you are grabbed round the chest pinch under the arm between the elbow and armpit. Try pinching yourself in those places as hard as you can stand it; it hurts. After the initial hit, always go for the groin. You might think that you’ll anger the man and make him want to hurt you more, but the thing these rapists told the interviewers is that they want a woman who will not cause a lot of trouble. Start causing trouble and they’re out of there.
If the man puts his hand up to you, grab his first two fingers and bend them back as far as possible with as much pressure pushing down on them as possible.
Practice some of these defences with a girlfriend – it will give you both confidence.
In conclusion, always be aware of your surroundings, take someone with you if you can. If you see any odd behaviour, don’t dismiss it, go with your instincts. You may feel a bit silly at the time, but you’d feel much worse if the guy really was trouble.
Rape is something that you may think will never happen to you. We hope it never does. Don’t take chances. Obviously it is best never to put yourself in the situation where you could be attacked.
So ALWAYS be part of a group or at least have a companion with you
NEVER EVER walk alone in the dark in poorly lit areas
ALWAYS have emergency money kept separately from your purse for taxi fares or to contact friends or family
CHECK your mobile is charged and topped up before you leave home
NEVER accept a lift from someone you don’t know or only know slightly
STAY SOBER if you know you might get separated from companions at a popular event
Rape is: demeaning, confidence destroying, has long lasting effects, you could be infected with STDs, you may be injured
A chilling but compulsive read is I Have Life, The true story of Alison who was raped, stabbed and left for dead. A book most women would find an interesting and instructive read.
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor