Self-Defense Techniques For Sexual Assault Survivors

Learning how to properly execute basic self-defense moves can make you feel more confident in stressful situations. When you know how to use self-defense as a means of protection in dangerous situations, you may be more likely to assert yourself against an attacker and survive the experience. 

According to a study from the University of Oregon, women who learned basic self- -defense techniques felt safer interacting with strangers, had a more positive body image, and experienced an increase in self-confidence. Sexual assault survivors may experience even more benefits by learning basic self-defense techniques. 

According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, when female sexual assault survivors learn basic self-defense techniques, they gain “access to a new set of assertive and combative responses to various forms of intimidation and threat along the continuum of sexual violence.” 

Learning how to implement simple self-defense techniques will make you more confident in your ability to mitigate sexual harassment that escalates into assault or another threatening situation.

Hit the Most Vulnerable Areas

During an attack, your focus should be on getting away from your attacker as soon as possible. Blunt contact to a vulnerable area on your attacker’s body may be enough to allow you to flee. The most vulnerable areas to target include the following:

  • Eyes: Interfering with your attacker’s vision, even if it’s just momentarily, may give you the time you need to run away. Be prepared to gouge, scratch, or poke your attacker in the eyes with your fingers or fists to stun them into letting you go.
  • Groin: A knee or kick to the groin causes your attacker pain and will likely make them bend over due to the shock of blunt contact in a sensitive area. Use this time to run the other way and call for help.
  • Base of throat (trachea): Keep your hand straight and flat in a “knife hand strike” position and forcefully hit your attacker at the base of the throat. This should stun them, inducing pain and the sensation of choking. Your attacker should be distracted so you can escape.
  • Knee caps: Knees are a vulnerable area and one swift and forceful kick with the bottom of your foot against your attacker’s kneecap should disable them. You can aim at any angle of the knee and your attacker will feel intense pain and be incapacitated enough to not be able to chase you when you run away.
  • Nose: You may only have access to your attacker’s nose if they’re within close proximity. If this is the case, target the nose with a swift and forceful strike from the heel of your palm in an upward motion. When your attacker feels this pain, their grip on you will loosen, giving you an opportunity to escape.
  • Temples: You may be able to target your attacker’s temples if they have you in a chokehold. Throw your elbow into your attacker’s temple with a swift motion. Your attacker should be stunned and the pain of your dropped elbow should make them stagger away from their hold on you, giving you a chance to get away.

Know How To Defend Yourself

In addition to identifying the most vulnerable areas on your attacker’s body, it’s also important to know how to defend yourself from the attacker’s movements. Follow these defensive strategies when experiencing an attack so you can protect yourself from harm.

Hold Your Body Ready To Punch

If you find yourself face-to-face with your attacker, protect your face. In most cases, your attacker is already familiar with vulnerable areas on the face, head, and neck. Protect these areas by holding your fists up, ready to punch. Widen your legs and bend your knees in a boxer stance so you can use your entire body’s power to increase the force of your punch.

Know How To Defend a Punch

If your attacker attempts to punch you, their punch will either aim directly to the front of your face or from the outside directed at the side of your face. If a punch is attempting to land straight at you, use your hand to sweep it away to the side.

If a punch comes in from the side, it’s harder to use your hand to swat it away. In this case, reach your entire arm up and attempt to block the punch before it can land. Be ready for additional punches and react quickly with your hand or arm to block them.

Target a Choker’s Thumbs

If your attacker is successful in positioning you in a chokehold, use your hands to pull the attacker’s thumbs from your neck. Your attacker’s thumbs are what give them the power and leverage to maintain and tighten grip. 

Make a strong hook with your thumb and the side of your index finger. Slip your attacker’s thumb into this hook and pull down as hard as possible, using your elbows for leverage if possible. Push and kick your attacker away as you maintain pressure with your hands to pull their thumbs from your neck.

Make Yourself Hard To Hold

The more you struggle, wiggle, kick, punch, and move, the harder it is for your attacker to continue holding you. If your attacker came in from behind and has you in a bear hug, drop your weight as low to the ground as you can so it’s hard for them to pick you up and move you. 

Consistently attempt to target vulnerable areas on your attacker with any limb that’s free. If it’s too hard or exhausting for your attacker to continue holding you, it’s possible they’ll give up.

How To Stay Safe if You Aren’t Physically Able To Protect Yourself

If you don’t feel confident in your physical ability to protect yourself, be aware of alternative ways to prevent or potentially stop an attack, including the following:

  • Carry pepper spray, a taser, or another self-defense tool.
  • Remain in well-lit areas and consistently aware of your surroundings.
  • Always have a buddy and don’t walk to your car or use public transportation alone.
  • Call the police if you think you may be in danger.

Pressing Charges Against an Attacker

If you’ve been the victim of an attack, consider filing a lawsuit against your attacker to hold them accountable for their actions. The only way to ensure your attacker is disciplined for their harmful act is to press charges for assault in a court of law. Before taking legal action, request legal help so you’re prepared for the trial and can be sure your attacker faces harsh penalties for the trauma you experienced.

Learning and practicing basic self-defense techniques increases confidence in your ability to survive and escape a dangerous situation. If you’re an assault victim, it’s even more important to equip yourself with these techniques after pursuing legal action against your attacker.

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