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Self Defense

Why You Should Defend Yourself
Educate Yourself
Purse Snatching
Domestic Abuse
Martial Arts
Safety Devices


Your personal safety is something you should take the time to learn about. In this fact sheet you will find several dimensions to self-defense and personal safety. First, find resources and safety services at your college campus. Second, think about the places and times that could be dangerous. Take measures to avoid these and keep out of harm's way. Third, help yourself, or a friend, leave an abusive relationship. Fourth, check out self-defense courses in your area. Lastly, learn about safety devices. Are they a fad or do they really protect you?

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Why You Should Defend Yourself

If someone plans to hurt you it would be helpful for you to know how to defend yourself. You may be scared that you are not strong enough or the person that is trying to hurt you may do more damage if you try and fight back. This is normal. However, learning some self-defense techniques and building confidence may save your life.

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Educate Yourself

Evaluate the safety and security of the places on campus and the quality and availability of resources to ensure safety. For example, find out about campus escort services often offered through campus security and student government programs.

Do not walk by yourself at night. Walk with a friend or use a campus escort service.

Report any violence that you see to orientation and awareness programs on campus. Help develop effective linkages between campus and community law enforcement personnel.

Do not let anyone into your dorm who looks like they don't belong there.

Support a coordinated community response/ college initiative to prevent violence against women.

Provide a voice for women on campus. Start a support group and/or victim advocacy group on campus.

Take a self-defense course.

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Since newer cars are being built with anti-theft devices, thieves have begun to focus their attention on easier options such as carjacking, the process of stealing a car while someone is inside.

What should I do to prevent myself from being carjacked?

  • Before you enter your car, check to see if anyone is hiding in your back seat.
  • Get into your car quickly by having your keys ready.
  • Keep in mind when you enter your car that someone may want to steal it.
  • Once you get into your car, lock it immediately.
  • Make sure your windows are rolled up all the way.
  • Leave space between your car and the car in front of yours when you approach a stop so that you have enough room to pull away from a potential carjacker.

I am being carjacked! What should I do?

  • It may be best to let the carjacker take your car, but make sure you are NOT in it.
  • Remember that if you are being threatened with a weapon, you should protect yourself and not your car.
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Purse Snatching
How can I prevent purse snatching?
  • Do not carry a purse
  • Carry your purse under your jacket or in a way that makes it hard to snatch.
  • Avoid wearing your purse diagonally from your shoulder to opposite hip. A purse-snatcher can quickly pull the strap around your neck.
  • Place your arm around your purse, holding it close to your body.
  • Look around and be aware of who is near you.

Do I give up my purse to the snatcher?

This is up to you. Giving up your purse really depends on how dangerous of a position you will be in if you do not give it up. Just remember that your life is more important than a few treasures inside your purse. If you decide to fight back, make sure that you are trained and that the assailant is not carrying any weapons. In almost all cases it's better to give up your purse. If your purse is snatched try to remember identifying characteristics about the person who stole it from you and call the police or 911 immediately.

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What is Stalking?
  • Being followed
  • Harassment of any sort.
  • Unwanted telephone calls.
  • Having your house watched
  • Receiving unwanted mail or email.

What should I do to prevent being stalked?

In most areas, stalking is illegal because stalking can result in a dangerous situation. Stalkers may be inconsistent with how many times or ways they stalk you. If you are starting to feel uncomfortable, try to pick up on signs of a stalker and report it immediately to the police.

Record each stalking incident. If you know the person who is stalking you, get a restraining order, even if you think it will be violated.

For more information on stalking check the Helpful Guide For Stalking Victims.

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Domestic Abuse

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Domestic Abuse[2]

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if domestic abuse is occurring. There are several different signs that you can look for to figure out whether you or someone you know is being domestically abused. These include:

  • Someone keeping track of you all the time
  • Constant accusations of your being unfaithful
  • Physical abuse (such as hitting, smacking, etc.)
  • Being forced to have sex against your will
  • Being humiliated in front of others
  • Feeling that you are criticized too often
  • Preventing you from seeing friends and family

If this sounds like a life you or someone you know is living, there is help out there. Do not try to solve the problem on your own, seek advice from professionals. You can contact your local police department for a listing of women's shelters or check out the resources below.

Domestic Abuse Resources:

For general information on domestic abuse check out:
Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community:
Other Links on Abuse, Assault, Rape & Domestic Violence:
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Martial Arts

Are martial arts good for self-defense?

Martial arts build confidence but may not be the best choice for someone wanting to defend him/herself. Martial arts take too much time to execute the movements for most people.

Take a course on Self-Defense[6]

There are courses available to teach you how to defend yourself on some campuses and in the community. If your campus does not offer self-defense course, urge your Student Affairs Department or college health center to establish one.

Self-defense Programs

1. Full Power for adults teaches everyday self-defense methods. Find a location near you:
2. Martial arts course for women focuses on self-defense through martial arts and empowerment. Keep in mind, though, that this method may not be the best form self-defense for most women.
Find out about different self-defense seminars from the American Women's Self-Defense Association.
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Safety Devices

What are personal alarms?
A noisemaker, usually operated by battery that makes a loud noise when you trigger it.

Why aren't personal alarms the best choice for ensuring safety?
While the loud noise may startle an attacker, often times the noise will go unheard or ignored by other people around you without helping you out of the dangerous situation.

When you rely on blowing the alarm you put your safety into someone else's hands, expecting a bystander to save you.

Blowing a whistle often takes longer that getting attacked. A personal alarm can take anywhere from 2 to 20 seconds to make noise while the outcome of an attack is usually decided within the first 8 to 10 seconds.[2]

The whistle may not work taking away precious time while you fidget with it to get it to work.

Stun Guns[2]

What are stun guns?
Stun guns are not traditional guns with bullets, instead they deliver an electric shock.

Stun guns are held in your hand and are operated by battery.

There are two metal prongs, which need to be pressed against the attacker for the shock.

Why stun guns are effective:
Stun guns interfere with your attacker's neurological functions or cause rapid fatigue of their muscles.[2]

Are stun guns legal?
It depends on where you live. You should check with a lawyer, your police department, or your state's attorney general. You should probably check with more than one of these sources, or do your own investigation and read the laws yourself. You can find copies of your state's statutes at your public library. Courthouses also have law libraries that are open to the public.

Chemical Defensive Sprays[2]

What kinds of chemical defensive sprays are there?

  • OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) - Pepper Spray
  • CS (Orthochlorobenzalmalononitrile) - Super Tear Gas
  • CN (Chloroacetophenone) - Mace

What is Oleoresin Capsicum (pepper) spray?
Pepper spray (OC) is an inflammatory that has a physiological effect on the attacker.

Physiological effects include:
  • Eye lids slam shut or spasm
  • Blood vessel dilation
  • Brachial tube constriction when inhaled
  • Mucus membrane secretion and blood to rushing to the upper body

Pepper spray may protect you against many people and animals. It may be not be effective on everyone.

Pepper spray needs to be tested before carrying it to use and shaken at least once a month so ingredients do not separate.

Are Mace and OC spray legal?
Each state has its own laws governing the legal use of mace and OC spray. In Massachusetts, it's considered ammunition and you need a license to purchase and possess it. In New York, for example, it's illegal no matter what. It's also illegal under FAA regulations to have either in checked luggage or carry-on luggage on any airplane. So check with your state government or police to find out if pepper spray is legal where you live

Where can I buy OC spray?

Many places, including hardware stores, firearms stores and supermarkets.

Why do I need a class to learn to use it?

Police aren't allowed to carry pepper spray until they take a class. In the same way, you should have training to avoid inappropriate use of OC. These inappropriate uses include holding it too near, too far, or using too much spray.
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This website is an information resource center and does not provide medical advice.
Information from website should not be a substitute
for medical advice from a health care professional.