Even though statistics show that as we age the possibility of being a victim of most violent crime decreases, we can still be the object of certain types of crimes that can injure us short-term or for the rest of our lives. I always say that the most valuable thing in my house is me, so I make sure that I’m prepared for most threats. I offer these suggestions gleaned from multiple sources, a self-defense class, and my own experience.
As an educator, I was trained how to safely control students who became violent at school. The instructor told me I’d never use the techniques, because of my short stature. That was a way to protect the student, other students, and myself from harm. It wasn’t meant to be used to keep me safe in the outside world. Out there I can use whatever I’ve available to fend off an attacker and that’s what I plan to do. To this point, I’ve never had to, but I want to be prepared. I know my keys can be a great weapon if used to jab at a vulnerable part of the body. Attached to my keys, I now have a cat face with sharp ears made from an extra strength plastic that would do even more damage. I also have pepper spray that was advertised to be as strong as that used by law enforcement. I’ve yet to try it out, but I keep it in my car and can attach it to my keys. One thing to note about pepper spray is that it doesn’t work as well if it’s old. It must have shot out away from my grandson’s hand and face when he used it years ago without my permission. When I tried the spray a few days ago, it dripped on my hand and caused a minor burn. In a shooting for distance contest, it would’ve come in last. The directions instructed me to release the spray away from my face, which should be a no brainer, but in the heat of battle or on a windy day, it could happen. When your adrenaline starts pumping, all bets are off on how you’ll react. Sandra Bullock’s movie, “Miss Congeniality” gave all of us valuable tips when as her talent she used the “S.I.N.G. Method” to disable her partner- Solar plexus, Instep, Nose, Groin. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNJwxJXr2jc. There are other delicate body parts you can strike. Larry Jordan, author of “The Dirty Dozen: 12 Nasty Fighting Techniques for Any Self-Defense Situation”, who’s a former member of the U.S. Army Rangers and Special Forces and a master-level martial arts instructor recommends other vital targets, including the top center of the skull, eyes, temples, ears, windpipe, knees, base of the skull, and spine.
In order to be able to accomplish this, you need to be physically fit. Even if you’re a young Baby Boomer, lack of exercise or physical impairments can hamper this, so both cardiovascular and strength training is essential. In an earlier blog, https://singleboomerlife.com/2015/11/exercise-can-help-you-age-gracefully, I addressed this. The take away is, you need to do whatever your fitness level allows. Any kind of physical exercise is helpful, even if it’s just walking, chair exercises or lifting small weights. I took a class at the local college on self-defense with women of all ages and saw that some older women were afraid to even try to stop an attacker, because they were worried about hurting themselves. The instructor wasn’t encouraging them to do anything that would injure them, but they seemed so timid. I wondered if they’re aware of what could happen to them. A friend of mine told of a 73-year-old woman who was repeatedly molested in her own home. Just because we aren’t the nubile beauties we used to be, it doesn’t mean we couldn’t be raped. Remember rape is about power, not sex. In this case the young men were after money from their family store. They’d studied her husband’s and her routine and knew they lived in a rural area without cell service. After beating her husband, they went after her. The husband was able to get a gun while their attention was focused on his wife and shoot at them. When they tried to return fire, the gun’s trigger fell out and they fled. The couple survived, but the fear and scars remain. Now imagine you’re a single living alone. No one would be around to come to your aid and instead of only physical and sexual abuse, you’re dead. Now you realize that at any age you need to be cautious, prepared, and armed with the tools you need to fight back or get away.
If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t look down at your phone or use headphones when walking. You won’t hear or see anyone threatening near you. Be present in the moment and show you can be assertive and handle yourself. If your eyes are down and you’re shoulders are slumped, you look vulnerable. Make eye contact so they know you see them and then look confident. I often smile at everyone. I figure who’s going to attack someone who looks like their beloved grandmother? If you have an uneasy feeling in an elevator, leave. You’ll have more room to escape. This is of vital importance if you’re alone.
In the past few years youths have discovered a type of hit and run assault called “The Knockout Game”. It’s a random act of violence in which teens push over an unsuspecting victim on a dare or as part of a gang ritual. It happens all over the world and has resulted in serious injuries and death. See http://www.today.com/news/knockout-game-teens-attack-innocent-people-just-fun-2D11648773/ . The perpetrators run away after the crime and have even been known to film it to post online. Remember, avoid dark places, alleys, parking lots, and stair wells, and always be conscious of your surroundings.
If you’ve the choice to flee rather than fight, you may want to take it. Always be aware of your flight options no matter where you are. Know the layout and the location of all the light switches in your home and work place. Whether you’re walking in your hometown or an unfamiliar city, keep in mind where you can run to escape, so you don’t head into a dead end. Always run to a populated area to enlist the help of others. Shout “Get Back” rather than screaming. People equate yelling or screaming with excitement and fun. If at all possible, don’t leave the attack area with the perpetrator. You may get hurt, but you’re more likely to be heard or seen where there are people than if you’re driven to a remote area.
If you’re in the car:
- keep your doors locked and don’t roll down the window for anyone.
- Before getting in, look in the car and under it. An attacker could be waiting.
- Make sure your car is in good working order and has enough gas to get to a populated area.
- Avoid parking in isolated areas. If you’re uncomfortable, ask a store employee or security guard to escort you to your car.
- If you’re being followed, drive to the nearest open business or other well-lit, crowded area. Use your cell phone, if you have one, to call the police.
- Don’t pick up hitchhikers or accept a ride from a stranger.
If you taking buses and subways:
- Use well-lit, busy stops.
- If you must get off at a little-used stop, try to arrange for someone to meet you.
In all threatening situations you’ve many choices to make in a brief period of time, so think about your security and escape plan ahead of time.
When I attended a Rape Aggression Defense, R.A.D., class at my local college, I learned some of the legal rights we all have if we’re in a threatening situation. We’ve the right to defend ourselves with as much force as necessary to ensure our safety if we’re in danger of being assaulted or detained against our will, but keep these things from the manual in mind.
- “The defensive actions must be required in order to extract oneself from the situation.
- The defensive actions and subsequent force being used must be objectively reasonable under the circumstances.
- An individual must be protecting themselves from imminent harm or injury, sexual assault, and /or unlawful detention and abduction.
- The force used in defense must be responding to ongoing or presently imminent threat.”
If you’re in the position to help others, remember the same rules as above apply if you try to defend them. In many situations it might be better to call for police assistance and note the details of the attacker’s physical characteristics, vehicle, direction of travel, etc. Your local and state laws may differ, so be sure to become familiar with them. The class also gave us some hands-on techniques to escape assault situations. If you take this class, you can take a refresher free of charge if you have the signed manual.
We may not want to admit we’re aging, but it’s inevitable. Even if we don’t have debilitating physical conditions, we’re more likely than younger people or those in a relationship to be responsible for the care of older family and friends. Elder abuse can take place at home by relatives or in a nursing home by professional caregivers. It can take many forms such as, verbal abuse, physical harm, financial loss, sexual abuse or neglect by someone you trust. Elder abuse is a crime. If someone you know is being abused or if you need help, contact your local or State Adult Protective Services programs for help. Call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800- 677-1116 or visit http://www.eldercare.gov/ to find a program near you. If needed, a lawyer can assist you in any legal action. You can find a lawyer who specializes in elder law by contacting the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys at https://www.naela.org/ . If you can’t afford an attorney, ask about “pro bono” or reduced cost assistance. For more information on how to protect yourself or others or for contact information, go to https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/crime-and-older-people#street/. To become aware of what to watch for with those who can’t care for themselves, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEutdrrp4XQ/ . This is a YouTube video from The University of California TV titled “Forensic Markers of Elder Abuse” by Dr. Laura Mosqueda, Director of Geriatrics. It’s meant for health care and social work professionals, but can be helpful to everyone.
There are many other ways you can protect yourself and others. I’ll be posting them on my Facebook Page “Single Boomer Life” all week. Please visit it and post your comments and suggestions there or on this website.
Continue the adventure safely!