Recent news events have cast Louisiana into the national spotlight as a result of high profile violent crimes against women in the state.
"Southeast and Southwest Louisiana, in particularly, have been the primary settings of recent violent crimes against and abductions of women", says Sheriff Mike Tregre "but with this kind of criminal activity out there, it's only wise that women all over find ways to prevent and defend themselves against 'would-be' incidents."
Each year approximately two million women are physically assaulted in the United States, and 15 to 25 percent of all American women will report a sexual attack or rape at some time in their lives, according to the Justice Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sheriff Tregre agrees with experts who contend that most sexual assaults go unreported and that these statistics reflect only a fraction of the violent crimes against women.
"What can the average woman do to protect, prevent and defend herself against sexual assault and violent crime" Sheriff Tregre says "While statistics are extremely high, women need not view themselves as helpless victims."
He cites some effective precautions from safety specialists from The Women's Safety Project to minimize your chances of becoming a victim when walking alone:
Dress to Kill. High heels, clogs and fitted skirts are hard to run and fight in, while scarves and long necklaces are easy to grab. If possible, modify your fashion style or wear comfortable clothing when walking alone. You can always change into dress-up clothes later. Or, think about how you would fight in your dress-up clothes. Would you kick off your high heels or hike up your skirt to run or kick?
Make Eye Contact. It may be your first instinct to lower your gaze as you walk to your destination. But looking straight into the face of potential enemies is the better option. Direct eye contact may scare off attackers because they fear you will be able to identify them.
Keep Eyes and Ears Open, Hands Free. It is important to be alert to whom and what is around you. Talking on a cell phone or listening to headphones makes you easy prey for a predator. Also, limit the number of bundles and packages you have to carry by using a backpack or bag with a shoulder strap. This will ensure that your hands are free to defend.
Be Lazy. Take the Elevator Over the Stairs. And when in the elevator, stand in front of the doors, then if someone you feel uneasy about gets on with you, you can step off immediately.
Fight Your Inner Woman. Experts say that women tend to be sympathetic - don't be! History has shown that serial killers and other criminal predators often play on the sympathies of unsuspecting women to lure them into dangerous situations. If someone asks for the time, directions, or help in or around their car, be as courteous as possible but keep moving. You can always assist the stranger by making a phone call to police from a safe location, or by finding others to go back and help with you.
Change It Up. Regularly change your walking routine. Plan out a few different routes that you can take and mark 'safe houses' in your mind at intervals along the way. In the event of attacks, you can stop at these shops or homes where you know you will be safe. Try to incorporate these houses every time you vary your route.
Be Paranoid and Suspicious. It is always better to be safe than sorry. When in a parking lot, look at the cars parked on either side of your vehicle. If a male in a vehicle is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, or if you are parked next to a van, always enter your car from the side opposite the strange vehicle. If the parking lot is particularly dark or deserted, it may be wise to go back and find a friend or guard who can walk you to the car.
When It's Too Late
If you have the misfortune of becoming the victim of a violent situation, the most important thing is to react immediately.
Run, Run, Run. If the predator has a gun, but you are not under his control, take off. Experts say he will only hit you, a running target, four out of every 100 shots. And even then, it most likely will not be a vital organ.
Stay Put. Do not let your attacker take you to an abandoned area. If he does, the likelihood that you will be seriously injured increases tenfold. You do not want to get to 'crime scene number two' so do whatever it takes and never give up.
Hit the Attacker Where It Counts. The eyes, knees, throat and groin are very vulnerable, good places to gouge and kick. But listen to your instincts and try to determine if a counter attack by you is the best approach. If you do decide to fight, make sure your first move is as forceful as possible. It may be your only hope.
Try Anything and Everything. Additional approaches are offering your wallet, jumping out at a stoplight, doing something to cause an accident, or signaling to other drivers. If you are thrown into the trunk of a car, experts advise you to kick out the back tail lights, stick your arm out the hole, and start waving wildly. The driver won't see you, but everyone else will. This trick is said to have saved lives.
Sheriff Tregre concludes, "A woman's best defenses against violent crime are awareness and common sense. Use them wisely."
All info and facts provided by the Louisiana Sheriff's Association
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