Fidelis E. Satriastanti
A friend of mine recently texted me saying that she might need to learn self-defense after all.
A little concerned, I asked her what had happened. It turned out that when she was walking alone at a huge mall, she found herself being followed by a man.
She didn’t realize it until she entered an accessories store, where the man had followed her and suddenly asked for her name. She refused to tell him and then ran out of the store. Apparently, the man was quite determined and kept following her.
When she entered a bread shop, there he was again, asking for her name. Finally, my friend began to panic and yelled at him in public, saying that she was not interested in introducing herself to him. That did the trick and he stopped following her.
I had never heard a story quite like that before, but I told her she had done the right thing and I completely supported her decision to take self-defense classes.
As a public transportation user, I am frequently shocked by weird incidents on the road, especially in Jakarta.
It ranges from stealthy attempts by pickpockets and bag-grabbers to much worse incidents, like sexual harassment and aggressive drivers.
Having “survived” many years on the road, I’ve created my own guide to road safety on how to deal with possible danger. My alertness is also due to the fact that I am a journalist, which at times can put me at greater risk. Here are a few of my many tips on survival:
1. Don’t check your cellphone too often. It will make you less aware of what’s going on out on the road, especially at night. If your guard is down, you will be too startled and panicky to be able to defend yourself properly.
2. Always carry pointy objects, such as keys or an umbrella, or even pepper spray. My favorite article is my sharp hairpin. In case you actually have to use them, aim for the throat or the groin.
3. Don’t try to be a “hero in the dark.” I don’t have a 9-to-5 schedule, so I often go home after 10 p.m. I usually walk with the crowd and stay in the light. I like to walk along with other women pedestrians, especially when crossing streets. If you’re on a quiet street with no one else around, try to find another road. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
4. If you ultimately encounter danger, just give the attackers what they ask for, which is usually money. However, if they say “come with me,” then ladies, you really need to make a quick exit. If they do not do anything to you within 10 seconds, they probably just want your money, not your blood. You can always earn more money, but not another life.
5. Training. There are lots of women self-defense classes open now. It’s not for you to be tough on the street, but you really need to be aware, assess any incidents and know how to react properly. If you have training, then you will know how to react to a knife attack and you can escape.
6. This is my crucial point when it comes to survival of the fittest — trust your instincts. It’s not about being paranoid, but saving your life. My friend was not being paranoid. She was smart enough to assess the situation and flee. Even with proper training, women can still lose a fight. Given the rapes that have occurred recently, I’m pretty sure women will attempt to resist, but men can usually still easily overpower them. So if you don’t feel comfortable in a situation, get out of it. Another friend said that using public transportation was about choices. Know your routes and have plenty of escape options.
Of course, you may feel it is the government’s and police’s responsibility to protect the public. However, if you are waiting for them to come to your rescue, you might as well hide inside your house and never go out again.
It’s not prudent or realistic to rely on others for your safety. I still have my own fears about going out at night, but with some understanding, training and common sense, I know how to survive.
Fidelis E. Satriastanti is a news reporter at the Jakarta Globe.