Self Defense/Self defense


QUESTION: Hello.  For an mature lady who occasionally uses public transportation at night in the San Francisco bay area, what would be your suggestions for protection?  I have pepper spray.   I think most alarms would be ignored but what about a call horn for a large animal or such?  Just a thought.  Thanks!

ANSWER: Marie,

You are very smart to be concerned about your safety, on public transportation and when you are walking to and from it.  Pepper spray is a wonderful tool to have with you at all times.  If you have a very small spray (keychain size) trade up to the next larger size, with the bottom about the size of a quarter.  The bigger can has more pepper in it, so it lasts longer, and can be used against two or more people. Check the expiration date - if your spray doesn't have one, it might already be expired.  

You are right about alarms sounding like car alarms, so everyone ignores them. An animal sound might be an interesting choice, but the best alternative is your voice.  Practice yelling something like "No!" or "Leave me alone!" If that's hard to do, try to find a place that teaches women's self protection - they might be able to help you develop that voice.  Depending on your physical abilities, you might also learn a few simple defensive moves, like elbow strikes, or clawing someone's eyes.

Keys in your hand can be an excellent improvised weapon, but only if one or two stick out between thumb and forefinger, not a key between each pair of fingers. Martial arts keychains can be dangerous and illegal, but one called the Kuboton is strong, safe, and as far as I know, legal.

A cell phone set up to make it as easy to call 911 as possible is a very good thing to have.  You probably already know to wear shoes you can run in if necessary.

I hope these suggestions help you, and I already feel sorry for any mugger who encounters you!

 Stay safe,   - Lyn

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Thanks for all that helpful info.  Hope you don't mind a followup.

Would talking on a cell phone (for support only) deter a would be assailant?  What about wearing something that would be very modest but be like a neon  (or the like)  piece of garment to make you very visible for others to see in case of being mugged etc.

Thanks again for your expertise advice!


Yes, a cellphone is a good deterrent.  While you are talking, or appear to be talking, a mugger is unlikely to take the chance of attacking you.

Your idea of bright, distinctive clothing is an interesting one.  I haven't heard of that before, but I can't see any negative aspect to wearing neon clothes.  The more you stand out from other people, the more those people might notice if something is happening to you, so sure, try it.

  - Lyn

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Lyn Bates


Are you being stalked? I can help evaluate the amount of danger you are in, and can provide very specific suggestions for increasing your safety, and for managing your situation.


As a founding member and the current Vice President of AWARE (a volunteer, nonprofit organization), I have helped thousands of women learn to protect themselves from crimes ranging from minor harassment to serious assault. I am currently writing a book on safety for stalking victims. I have lectured at annual training meetings of the American Society of Law Enforcement Training, Women in Federal Law Enforcement, the International Women Police Association, the American Society of Criminology, and the American Women's Self-Defense Association. In 1997, the American Tactical Shooting Association gave me their annual Tactical Advocate Award for teaching and writing.

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