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Avoiding Violence at Your Vehicle

How to Avoid Violence at Your Vehicle

by Courtney Caldwell with
Contributions by Shannon Caldwell

Violent crimes against women outside the home are on the rise. The reason is simple: more women are working, traveling alone, and are active in outdoor activities such as RVing, camping, hiking, and biking. By virtue of exposure, women are just more susceptible.

The area near your car — or even en route to or from it — has become one of the prime target areas for thugs, thieves, rapists and lunatics because that area offers more protection for your attacker than it does for you, especially if you are in an unlit area, a secluded garage or between larger vehicles.

According to a national crime victimization survey report titled, "Violence Against Women," conducted and reported by Ronet Bachman, Ph.D., with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., 43 percent of the attacks on women were by strangers and occurred outside the home.

Included in the extensive survey are the following statistics:

  • 37 percent of all attacks against women occurred between 6 p.m. and midnight, when most women leave work, are on their way out for an evening or are on their way home.

  • 53 percent of all attacks occur near home, including in private garages. This figure also includes "follow-homes."

  • 36 percent of victimization's occur in parking garages.

  • 51 percent occur in open or public areas, such as parks.

  • Women who work or live in cities are considerably more vulnerable than those in rural areas.

  • 64 percent of all rapists used guns.

If you're a women who thinks, "It'll never happen to me," or "That only happens to other people," then there's a good chance that you would make the perfect target for a would-be attacker. The number one reason that women who think this way make prime targets is because it's easy for an attacker to tell who they are by their body language.

Generally, these women pay no particular attention to where they park so they park in areas that are secluded, not well-lit or between large vehicles — or park in the same place all the time. It's important to change your parking spot from time to time unless you're assigned a spot in a secured and/or guarded area.

These women also will walk to their vehicles alone at night. They fumble for car keys inside their purse when they arrive at their car, leaving ample time for an attacker to make a move. They don't pay attention to their surroundings. Some even believe, if attacked, they could handle it.

It makes women angry to have to alter their lives in order to be safe. But violence at vehicles can and does happen with frequency. It provides a great deal of cover for an attacker compared to an open attack.

Yes, it's a sad world we live in when we have to be on guard all the time, but pretending the danger is not there doesn't make the reality go away. As in all things today, the solution is education and awareness.

Anyone can be attacked including men. In fact, violent crime against men is on the rise as well. More men experience carjacking than women, for example. In the past, the odds of being attacked were slim, but today, it is just the opposite.

Steps You Can Take

To ensure your personal safety and gain more control over your life, then please remember to take the following steps:

  • If you go somewhere during the day and know you'll be there until after dark, park in a location that will be safe at night, especially in an area that will be well-lit.

  • Never park between two vans or trucks, where you can't be seen getting in or out of your vehicle.

  • Don't be too shy or too proud to ask someone to walk you to your car. Most men are happy to oblige.

  • Walk to your car with a group, making sure everyone is in their cars before you all leave. There is safety in numbers.

  • If you find yourself alone and afraid, call a friend or family member and wait somewhere safe. If you feel the conditions are extreme, call the police.

  • If you do have to walk alone, walk briskly and confidently, keeping your head up. Giving the appearance of confidence usually deters would-be attackers. They prefer weak, vulnerable and unsuspecting targets.

  • Don't fumble for things in your purse while walking. Remain alert to your surroundings at all times. In fact, if your purse has a long shoulder strap, wear it across your chest, leaving both hands free.

  • Keep your car keys clasped in your hand, with the door key protruding from between your index and middle fingers. Not only will it make a good weapon, if necessary, but you'll be ready to enter your car quickly when you arrive.

  • Always look in the back seat and floor of your vehicle through the window before you get in.

  • Always lock the doors once you're inside.

  • Walk on sidewalks that are well-lit, where there are other people. Walk near open businesses, so you can run into a restaurant or store to escape. Conversely, do not walk too close to the street, where a car can approach you from behind and someone can pull you in.

  • If you don't have an alarm on your key fob, then get one.

  • If possible, get a keyless remote entry/car alarm system and always have your cell phone charged and on.

  • Have your cell phone programmed for 911 so that you only have to push one button in case of an emergency.

  • Pepper spray has proven to be more effective and safer than mace. In a tense situation, mace can blow back in your own face, depending on the direction of the wind.

  • If you think you can't afford some of these items, compare their cost to the value of your life. The investment could mean the difference between life or death — or, mental anguish for you and your family and lifelong nightmares.

Self-defense by Shannon Caldwell

Think about self-defense classes. There are karate schools, self-defense classes, and kick boxing classes available in every city in the U.S. Look in the yellow pages under self-defense or call your local police department for recommendations.

Most martial arts studios will let you observe a class or even let you take a beginner's class at no charge to see if it's for you. You don't need to be an athlete to join, and you don't need to be a kid. While women ages 20-24 were the most likely to experience all types of violent crime, women over age 65 were likely to be a robbery victim as those between ages 35 and 64, according to the survey.

Martial arts, for example, is not only a great way to learn self-defense, it also increases confidence and discipline in other areas of life, including personal and professional relationships. It offers cardiovascular exercise while learning an art that will remain with you for life, both physically and mentally. Additionally, it's an awesome discipline for school age children too. Starting as early as 5 years old, children learn respect and discipline that will carry over into their relationships with teachers, parents and friends.

Two and a half million American women each year are the victims of crime, and those are just the reported ones. So take charge of your life now, before it's too late. And tell a friend. Knowledge is power, and there is power in numbers.

Courtney Caldwell trained and instructed in the art of Tae Kwon Do for 15 years. She holds a first-degree black belt. Inspired by her own experiences, Caldwell turned the tables to educate herself and others on preventing violence at home, work, and at your vehicle. Shannon Caldwell is a 6th degree brown belt in TKD.