Self-defense, part 2 – weapon of choice

This is the last in my eight-part series on personal safety. What makes me any kind of authority? My father, Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., was an authority who researched and authored books on this topic and drummed this information into the heads of his three teenage daughters in hopes of keeping us safe.

Different states have wildly varying laws when it comes to what you can carry to defend This Oneyourself. Obviously carrying a firearm comes with all sorts of rules and regulations and red tape, and this is a good thing. Too bad, though, that criminals and dangerously unstable people seem to be able to get a-hold of them so easily. If you want to carry a Taser, extenuating circumstances allowing special clearance and permitting needed. Certain types of knifes are also illegal. But a Swiss Army Knife, especially if it includes a corkscrew, could save your life in more than one type of situation.

We often hear that carrying pepper spray or mace is a smart thing for a woman to carry. In most parts of the country, it’s fine to be armed with these products to ward off a potential attack. But be aware of local regulations: In some areas (Illinois, Chicago included), one must be at least 18 years of age to legally carry pepper spray.

Carry other things on your person that you can get to in a jiffy (not by digging in the bottom of your purse) if necessary including tactical flashlights (that can be used not only to blind your opponent but use as a weapon on them as well if big enough), noise makers (air horns are great, but be aware: they’re painfully loud so make sure to aim it away from your own head) and police whistles (also illegal to use in some locations and certainly illegal in many places to use indiscriminately – that is, unless really needed at a time of danger).

Here’s an interesting tidbit: Only a very small number of captured rapists are armed. Rape generally carries a lesser sentence, but rape with a weapon can get someone thrown in the slammer for decades. This works in our favor

If you look like you’re going to be a force to be reckoned with, you stand a better chance of averting attack. Attackers have admitted when interviewed that they will usually avoid women carrying long pointed umbrellas or other similar objects that can be seen clearly from a ways off. They are out scoping for easy prey and if that doesn’t look like you, it’s likely they’ll keep their distance.

If you’re in a remote area, high-crime neighborhood or out after dark, it’s a good idea to have your weapon of choice (i.e., pepper spray) in hand and ready to use. Just remember that anything you can use as a weapon can also be turned against you, so stay out of arm’s reach and in control and don’t let that happen!

If someone is coming right at you, toward you, no matter how small and feminine you are, this is the time to get tough. Hold up your hands and yell “Stop!” or “Stay back!” Many would-be attackers don’t want your kind of trouble. They’re looking for a quick and easy mark, not someone who is going to give them trouble.

Even better, hold out your pepper spray or weapon of choice and shout in a loud serious tone, “I have pepper spray and I will use it!” What if you find yourself out and about and don’t happen to have a self-defense product with you? Pretend! The aggressor will probably not know the difference. Even a squirt gun can look menacing, especially at a distance and in the dark. If possible, do not shake and moderate your voice likewise. Let the pest know you mean business and you will hurt him or her if he or she tries to hurt you.

  • Any of the following that you might have in your purse or briefcase at any given time can be used as a weapon:
    • Pencil or pen
    • Nail file (the metal ones with a sharp end)
    • Tweezers (especially the ones with a sharp end)
    • Cuticle clippers
    • Pin (the longer and bigger the better)
    • Hair spray (to be sprayed directly into your assailant’s eyes)
  • Poke your umbrella [point, although most of them don’t have points as they once did] as if it’s a sword into the midsection or any soft area of your opponent’s body
  • Some people used to say keys were a good deterrent, but you have to be way too close to an assailant to use them as a weapon. However, if that’s all you’ve got, use them if it comes to that. Hold them concealed in your hand enough so that the assailant might think you’re holding a gun; don’t let him see that they’re merely your set of keys.

Look at these pictures to ready yourself psychologically to get tough against victimization. And consider getting the book “100 Deadly Skills,” a book my father gave to me in which I learned how to disarm an armed attacker. If you’re the one brandishing a weapon for your own protection, you also must be aware of how your assailant might try to disarm you so you could prevent that. Whatever you do, don’t let an enemy get too close to you while you’re holding a weapon.

Remember this: If you protest like you’re mad and act like you’re ready to fight, this can scare off an assailant. It won’t take long to get your point across, and let’s hope they scat. Then call the police immediately while getting yourself quickly to the nearest safe location.

Coming up: Posts on fun summer stuff to do! Follow by Blog to stay informed on what’s happening, especially in Chicago, so you can make the most of summertime. In the box on the right, insert an email address then click on the Follow button. You’ll get an email from WordPress asking you to confirm your subscription. Click on the link they send – and that’s the only thing they’ll ever send you — no spam — only my articles, hot off the press. Life is exciting; let’s jump in with both feet!


Self-defense, part 1 – let’s get physical

Male or female, this post has vital information to ward off an attacker. For the sake of continuity after my previous two articles on how not to get raped, the following is addressed mainly to women coming up against a male attacker. But men could use these tactics too.

Women, we are stronger than we think; and we are also smart, agile and resourceful. We can run and hide, dodge and duck. And when fearful, our adrenalin flow makes us much stronger than usual, like three times as strong – but also, when fright kicks in, sometimes confusion does too.

That’s why mind rehearsal is a good idea. No, it will not be your favorite form of daydreaming, far from it! But it’s important. Police women are trained to call on their wits in a hairy situation and they practice mentally by inventing dangerous scenarios and thinking up ways to escape.

GET FIT AND STRONG! Work out regularly, doing both cardio and muscle strengthening exercises. Your own safety is yet another good reason to keep a regular exercise program. Women’s muscles are not weaker than men’s; they’re simply smaller, putting most men at an advantage over most women. Our large leg muscles can be our ally in defense, but that takes balance, skill and know-how — in a word: training.

Get MAD if someone tries to take advantage of you! Be willing to HURT THEM. If it came down to who would survive, you or them, you would want it to be YOU. React like you are fighting for you life; you may well be!

Just as a weapon can be turned against you, physical combat is not a sure thing. Better to stay out of reach, scream and run; but if someone has a-hold of you or tries to, you may need to use physical force. STRIKE FIRST. Get the first lick in! Catch him off-guard before he catches you off-guard! Surprise works in favor of whoever makes the first move.

Strike quickly and with all your might at an assailant’s weak spots with the intention of wounding. After all, if someone wants to hurt you, hurt them before they get the chance. MAKE IT COUNT so you’ll be able to break away and get to safety. Here are some ways to fend off an attacker:

  • Jab your knee into his groin or whack him there with something hard — just make sure you don’t miscalculate and that you do it forcefully. This move may be blocked if the assailant is wearing a heavy coat.
  • Gouge the eyes with your thumbs. This is a very vulnerable part of the body. Poke hard. Yes, it sounds disgusting, but DO IT. You want to LIVE.
  • Strike his Adam’s apple, nose, or temple; you can use your purse or any heavy object, even the force of your hand — just be careful to not hurt your hand.
  • Grab his neck, try to aim for his windpipe, squeeze real hard. Poke him right in the soft spot in the middle of the neck above the collar bone; aim!
  • Use your fingernails; scratch hard.
  • Bend his fingers back. When the guy puts his hands up to you, grab his first two fingers and bend them back as far as possible pushing down on them with as much pressure as possible.
  • Bite if you have to. Do whatever it takes.
  • Your elbows are strong and sharp. Use them if as weapons: for instance, gouge an attacker in the ribs with your elbows.
  • Kick him in the shin(s) so as to disable him.
  • Knees are very vulnerable; a good swift kick here can take down even a big guy.
  • If grabbed from behind, smash down hard on his instep with your heel.
  • Also if grabbed from behind, head butt him in the face by quickly and violently throwing back your head.
  • If you are grabbed around the waist from behind, pinch the attacker either under the arm between the elbow and armpit or in the upper inner thigh real hard. These are sensitive areas.

Rapists interviewed behind bars concurred: they’re not looking for nor wanting any type of resistance; they’re hoping for easy prey. If you start causing trouble, making a real racket and fighting him off, chances are better he’ll flee.

Gals, some of these suggestions may turn your stomach. By nature, we are nurturers and don’t want to hurt anybody. But consider this: You don’t want to be hurt either! BE FORECEFUL when you fight off an attacker.

There is probably not a single person in the whole world who won’t benefit by taking a self-defense class or at least learning basic self-defense tactics — especially students, women, anyone living in the city, especially in a high-crime neighborhood, or anyone who is ever out after dark — that’s probably all of us. Don’t approach this half-heartedly, thinking that one class will enable you to street fight. Every bit helps, but it’s best to take a full complement of classes. A good school that teaches women basic self-defense and specializes in using the leg muscles is Impact – I was very impressed when I went to a girlfriend’s graduation to see how they teach women to use their thigh strength to ward off attackers. There are many self-defense methodologies out there. Choose a class and go.

My father, who wrote books on staying safe, gave me a book with a strange title — yet it contained great advice: “100 Deadly Skills,” available online. You can even learn how to disarm someone with a weapon – though such things take continuous practice.

DEVELOP AN ATTITUDE; see yourself as strong and capable; carry this vision of yourself wherever you go! Watch some inspirational movies about women who fight back and win. There are plenty of popular movies with athletic, superhero-type women. They are not squeamish; they fight when necessary! Hopefully this will become more of what the ideal woman will be like in coming generations. You can start to be this woman now!

James Bond is the ultimate survivor, as are many commonly revered movie heroes. Next time you watch such a movie, don’t just enjoy it, but let the survivor mentality rub off on you while taking note how to survive. You may find yourself in a life-or-death situation where you have to think fast. What would the James Bond character do, or Angelina Jolie in one of her tougher roles? YOU CAN SURVIVE!


Avoiding rape — or worse (part 2) – your escape

Gals, read my previous articles on staying safe in the world. This is one of the scariest subject matters, one we don’t like to think about — but stuff like this happens out there in the world, so we must be vigilant plus know how to get away from someone who would cause harm. Following are simple, ingenious, tried-and-true suggestions, some from Ralph E. Clarke who researched this topic exhaustively and wrote a series of books on the subject of personal security.

Daddy's Book-Be Safe Girl-2nd Ed.

Make Noise

To scream or not to scream: This depends on how close you are to them and whether or not they have a weapon; if they have a gun, keep your voice low and soft and don’t make any sudden moves. If the intent is simply to get your goods, cooperate up to a point. The contents of your purse are not worth your life!

Screaming “Fire!” may actually be more help than screaming “Help!” especially in the city and these modern times – because people are sometimes wary to get involved. Yelling “Fire!” instead will draw people to the scene because most people are gapers.

As a last resort, break a window, possibly by throwing something through it; this will create noise and possibly set off an alarm system. Curious people in the vicinity will head your way for a look; it’s human nature. Just make sure to shield yourself and don’t hurt yourself when breaking glass.


If the predator has a gun and your intuition tells you he means to kidnap, hurt or do worse, as long as you are not in his firm grasp, it’s best to make a run for it. Even trained police only make four out of ten shots even at a short distance of three to nine feet. This is because shooting a gun at someone is stressful and affects aim. Chances are your foe would shoot and miss; and even if you do get hit, being further away could avoid him hitting a vital organ. Courage: Make a break for it if possible.

Run and keep running till you are safe!

Be careful where you run to: Don’t run into a dead-end alley and don’t run up; once you reach the top, there’s no place else to go. You see this common mistake in movies a lot, so keep your wits about you because blind fear can make you do stupid things you wouldn’t ordinarily do.

Hide, but leave yourself an escape route in case you are spotted – or be prepared to get the first strike in case you are found.

In most cases, don’t run in high heels, unless high heels are more natural to you than bare feet. If you find you have to run away from someone in your heels, if you have a second, kick them off and pick them up, depending on the pavement. You could use your shoes, especially spiked heels, as weapons.

Put obstacles between you and your chaser. Run around and around something, i.e., a parked car; there’s a chance the enemy will give up, especially if help arrives. This tactic has saved lives.

A rapist is hoping to get hold of a gal and quickly move her to another location where he can get what he wants and not have to worry about getting caught. So sometimes it’s not just an attack, it’s an abduction. Your objective is to get away and not be taken away. Women, stay on your guard and, if necessary, take action quickly.

Who’s your favorite female superhero? BE HER!

Avoiding rape — or worse! (part 1) – be a deterrent

Hopefully you have read my previous articles on personal safety and will not ever find yourself confronted by a scary attacker. If you haven’t yet, please, for your own sake, do so, so you can stay safe.

This post has vital information to ward off an assailant. I am addressing this article to women in the event of an encounter with a male aggressor. I don’t mean to leave the fellas out, as 10 percent of rapes per year happen to males. So, everyone, be careful out there!

Of course, this is not a pleasant subject, but given that every 98 seconds – basically a minute and a half – someone in America gets sexually assaulted, it’s important. Ladies, here are some statistics that can help you avoid being a victim:

The U.S. Department of Justice reports the most common time that rapists attack women is between 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. So be careful if you work late or go out after work. And strive to get your shopping done earlier during the day, like on your lunch breaks or weekends. Another time of day it’s said that rapists attack often is between 5:00 – 8:30 a.m. So be careful going to work too! In fact, whenever you are out, especially if you’re in a remote location or a more vulnerable setting, always be on your guard!

Women are more likely to be jumped and abducted from parking lots than any other locale, especially grocery store parking lots. Large indoor garages are the second most dangerous place for women to be alone. The third spot is public restrooms. Sometimes you need to be in these potentially perilous places. Be hyper-alert, listen to your intuition, be smart: use the buddy system, and if something seems suspicious, enlist the help of a security guard.

If you are the last one to leave your place of business and close it up, you could be targeted. A woman should not accept this duty if there’s a man who could do it instead. Of course, in some retail professions, it may be unavoidable. Be ultra-aware if you are in this position.

Rapists behind bars were interviewed and many similarities were found as to who they approach and how. Here’s what to watch out for:

Long-haired females are far more likely than their short-haired counterparts to grab their attention. It’s not just about a feminine appearance; it’s about the vulnerable aspect of the hair itself: Hair can be grabbed, especially in a ponytail or braid. Tuck in your hair if you’re in a high-risk situation.

Women who are dressed for easy-access make easier targets. Unfortunately, this includes skirts and dresses with no hose. Yes, that seems so unfair – we should be able to be as feminine as we want to be, especially on a hot summer day – but dress wisely. Clothing that’s easy to rip open is also something would-be creeps will notice.

Women who are otherwise preoccupied, like on the phone, digging through a purse or otherwise engaged in something distracting are all-too-easy to catch off guard and overpower.

When you walk, walk tall and with an aura of confidence: Mind your posture, hold your head up, swing your arms purposefully. Use eye contact to someone who is menacing; make it the evil eye.

Here’s something my father, Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., author of “Be Safe, Girl,” recommended: If you suspect someone is following you or even if they get way too close, be bold. Muster up your courage to face them dead-on and speak — not in a soft, small voice, but with a loud, clear tone. In fact, be mad; use a manly voice. Look directly at this person, ask a question (like the time) or  blurt out a comment about the weather – that’s a trick that could confound and throw a would-be rapist off kilter. He knows you’ve seen his face and could identify him in a line-up. This also humanizes you; you’re not just prey anymore, you’re a fellow human being. This tactic could cause him to go hunt down someone more susceptible and/or even deter him from attacking anyone.

Have your cell phone handy and always know your location; the very second you sense you may be in danger, immediately call 9-1-1 and loudly give the police your exact location! Even after an undesirable person saunters off, call 9-1-1 immediately and get to a safe place.

Walk safely, part 1 – preparation

In my previous post, I tiptoed around the topic of Chicago crime. Whether or not you decide to visit this awesome city – and certainly if you live here — it’s always smart to play it safe. In fact, whether you live in a big dangerous city, quiet suburbia or a peaceful remote location, personal safety should play a part in your daily life.

My father, Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., was very security-conscious, especially of his three daughters, and wrote a book called “Be Safe, Girl” that contains self-protection advice for girls, women and anybody. Not simply because I am his daughter, but because the book is very practical – and potentially life-saving — I feel it should be in every household, especially one with young ladies.

In this post, the first in a series on walking safely, are some of the lessons I learned, mostly from my father, to stay safe or, if necessary, escape harm. Chicago is a great city for walking, so whether you live here or come for a visit, read on and walk smart. It starts before you even venture out to walk:

  • Obviously, it’s best to be out in daylight rather than after dark.
  • Plan your route – and vary it, as well as your schedule — even for routine journeys such as to and from work.
  • Tell a friend or family member where you’re going, your itinerary, expected time of arrival; keep numbers handy so you can keep them updated, and make sure they have your number.
  • Do not go off with someone mysterious; make sure someone knows whom you’re with, including the full name and as much data as possible, (phone #, city of residence, place of work, etc). If you’re with a newcomer in your life, a relative stranger, let that person know that others know whom you’re with and when you’re expected to resurface.
  • Even better, travel with a pal when feasible. “There is safety in numbers.” (Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., “Be Safe Girl,” p. 3)
  • Wear colors that repel being approached on the street. Black and yellow is the best color combination for this purpose, just as in nature where most critters that are black and yellow are dangerous. Also, warning signs are often black and yellow. You might, for example, wear a black coat with yellow accessories.
  • Wear shoes in which you can walk comfortably or run if necessary, and make sure your footgear is weather appropriate for stealth get-aways.
  • Consider investing in props that can protect you:
    • A flashlight can not only help you see in the dark, it can be used as a self-defense tool. If you don’t already carry one, you probably should. Latest models come small and compact and can double as a self-defense tool by blinding an attacker and more.
    • An air horn makes a really loud noise that would surprise and hopefully shoo off an attacker and will definitely attract attention from others in the vicinity who could help. There are air horn apps for your device in lieu of carrying an air horn.
    • Consider wearing a police-quality whistle; these are loud enough to be heard for blocks. When utilized, a thug will hopefully run away as you draw attention from people nearby.
    • Pepper spray, mace and even concealed weapons might be a good idea – or not: Realize anything you can use on an attacker can be turned against you; if the attacker gets the better of you, you could be the victim of your own devices; consider this cautiously.
  • Use the toilet before you depart so you can avoid using public facilities, especially at night.

Walk with a Pal

If you walk often, and especially if you walk at night or in questionable neighborhoods, learn some self-defense tactics or even take a self-defense class. More about this in an upcoming post.

Be smart: Walk wisely,
so you can walk through life with the confidence that you can go out in the world and be safe.