TRAIN YOUR INNER NINJA
I took martial arts and self-defence classes as a teen and both have helped me enormously. At the very least try and train yourself for the areas that do the most the damage. Attack the face and groin, other key areas are kneecaps, elbows and neck. Learn some basic self-defence moves if you can; obviously we can’t all be Jackie Chan but a basic awareness of where and how to fight is always useful.
Know the strongest areas of your body; biting, clawing (if you’ve got fake nails), head butting, elbowing and kneeing are all strong points. Kicking is a bad idea unless you know what you’re doing; if the opponent grabs your leg you’re screwed!
GET A BOY TO WALK YOU HOME
The more the merrier, as far as I’m concerned (wahey). Nobody mugs a group of 5 people unless they’re an organised crime syndicate or in a gang war. Even having one boy to walk alongside is a huge deterrent – recorded attacks on pairs of females are way higher than pairs of mixed gender. Ask nearby male friends if they can walk you home. Most of my friends lived in the same 10 minute radius during university so it was like a walking taxibus getting everybody home safely! I’ve actually left parties early on occasion if it means I can go home with my 3 male housemates, rather than risk it by myself.
KNOW YOUR OPPONENT
Your average criminal isn’t a psychotic mastermind or a hardened member of the of the Mafia with 20 assassins on speed-dial. It’s likely a teenager or somebody in their early twenties who is desperately chancing it for the chance to get some cash. They’re likely to be just as scared as you. Try to size them up; if they’re not wearing gloves, they’re unlikely to be using weapons. Do they have knuckle-dusters? Huge coats or sports jackets? I’m lucky to have only experienced petty crime; young kids trying to mug a phone and some dosh. I am sure if the attack had been more calculated I would have been screwed.
During my group attack (there were 4) I had a mental moment where I was screaming in the face of this guy in a trackie, and he looked at me in a really shocked way which is when I knew I had a chance of safety.
So you’re wearing stupid ballet flats and a cardigan, carrying a bag, you’re by yourself and you’re nowhere near a house. Well done for ignoring all my advice! I was 20 and in this situation (stupidly, as I knew better), and when I got off the bus alone I saw 4 boys waiting at the bus stop. I was at least a) alert and b) knowing my opponents. My first thought was “they’re going to get me” and I was right, after the bus had left I turned around; they’d formed into a line and were moving very close.
I immediately realised I could no way outrun them or fight them off – there were 4 of them and they were all taller than me and wearing sports clothes. I was pissed off and also terrified. I worked out my nearest safe point was the row of houses about 450m away: too far to run. I dug my heels into the ground, clenched my bag into me and started making the loudest, highest sound I could. I’m a soprano with a pretty formidable range (if I do say so myself) so it was pretty bloody loud.
There was some grabbing, some dragging on the floor, some shouting, but I didn’t let go of my bag and as soon as I saw the startled look in one of their eyes I realised I was winning; they weren’t expecting a fight. A car finally drove up and two of them ran off. Unbelievably the car saw me being dragged on the floor by two guys, and drove off again (screw you, crappy member of public). Thank God the second car that turned up stopped and got out to see what was going on. The other two boys scarpered, the incredible guy inside said he’d heard the screams and driven over. I had a weirdly dazed half-hour and then I was totally fine. Thank you, voice!
FINALLY: THIS IS NOT THE END OF YOU
So the worst has happened and you’ve been the victim of a crime. So have I! This is not the end of you. After the above incident the police offered counselling should I need it; I actually felt fine but if you are bothered by stuff like crime then take them up on this valuable service. I’ve met people who have been mugged and then not left the house for two months, people whose phone got nicked who no longer stay out after dark and so on. No!
Don’t let this get you down. It’s fine, really, it’s part and parcel of living in London or any big city. You are not your scars. You are not your dangers. You are not your worst experiences. Yes, maybe it will happen again; you’ll be better-prepared. Make sure you tell the police, warn your friends and try to just accept bad luck and move on. Our society has a lot of flaws and whilst I certainly don’t support crime, I do think it’s easy to see the reasons for it, and to acknowledge that those reasons aren’t going to change overnight. It may seem defeatist but I think the best way to counter it is to be prepared.
If you think I’ve left any tips out, please share them below, and if you missed my first post: catch it here.