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How to Defend Yourself from Sexual Assault

Since April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month it seems appropriate to briefly address the topic of women's self-defense (I use the word "briefly" because in a blog, it is not possible to address the subject in detail). While some self-defense techniques, such as a palm strike to the attacker's face, can be effective regardless of gender, it would be dangerously naïve to assume that techniques designed for men are necessarily well-suited for women. This can be attributed not only to the physical differences between men and women but also the type of attack members of each sex are likely to face.

As a police officer for the past 15 years, I've dealt with the aftermath of numerous fights. In my experience, I've found that a fight between males generally involves a combination of pushing, punching and grappling. While a male may very well strike a female, he will often times grab and restrain her.

One method of attack I've found to be much more commonly used against females is a choke, applied with either one or both hands. Obviously, if an attacker's intent is to rape his would-be victim, he will grab her, pull her to him and likely force her to the ground, where he would attempt to restrain her.

Whether male or female, your best chance to escape from a grab is as you're being grabbed. If you hesitate, the attacker will be able to secure his grip and escaping will be more difficult. In most cases, striking is an excellent primer to facilitate your escape. If you have a free hand or elbow, smash it against the attacker's face repeatedly to loosen his grip. If the attacker is controlling both your arms, can you headbutt his face with the top of your head, or maybe strike his groin with your knee?

Of course, a woman may be blindsided by a sucker punch from an attacker who intends to steal her purse or her car, or commit a much more heinous act. That's why awareness is such a critical factor in self-defense. In addition to awareness, a woman must develop an effective means of covering up, parrying and evading to whether the initial onslaught before mounting a committed counter-attack to diminish the attacker's ability and desire to continue assaulting her.

Just because you may be armed, doesn't preclude you from the need to develop empty-hand self-defense skills. If you're caught off-guard, immediately drawing your handgun may not be possible. Similarly, pepper spray, a knife or a stun gun may not be accessible or effective. You may very well have to fight with every ounce of aggression you can muster to create sufficient distance to draw your weapon. Don't assume being armed automatically equates to being safe.

Whether male or female, awareness is a key factor in self-defense. The sooner you detect potential danger, the more time you have to react and the safer you will be. If you are attacked, tap into that animal instinct that lives in each of us and be aggressive! Strike the eyes, throat, and groin -- whatever it takes. But the time to prepare is now. Keep in mind that articles, books and DVDs are great resources, but you really need to physically practice whichever self-defense techniques you intend to employ if attacked.

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