How do I feel secure?

How do I feel secure?
Highlights

How do I feel secure? Dear Pratibha, when I open the daily newspaper, it has become a daily routine to see news about sexual assaults on innocent people in some part of the country.

I live in a hostel in Hyderabad. Whenever I read about rapes in newspapers, I get very scared. My parents live in Nizamabad. I can’t go back home as there are very few employment opportunities I can get there. How should I overcome my fear and live happily in this insecure world.

- Pratiba G, Hyderabad
“Not by might but by thought is the defendant equal and superior to the attacker”- Colin Wee
Dear Pratibha, when I open the daily newspaper, it has become a daily routine to see news about sexual assaults on innocent people in some part of the country. I feel very disturbed when I go through such news. It is often a myth that such cases happen only in big cities or only to youngsters. Sexual assault or rape can happen at any time, any place and even in familiar surroundings. People of all ages, races, socio economical groups have been victims of rape. Rape is often planned act of power, control, anger and hostility. Sex is used to express their feelings.
If one feels that since they do not go to unsafe places, they are safe, it is a wrong belief. Nearly six out of 10 rapes occur in one’s own house. So, negative thoughts towards any situation often results in negative emotions like fear, insecurity, isolation etc. What we think about the environment (people, events, situations etc. around us) determines our response to the situation. Our thoughts are nothing but our conversations with ourselves.
Our emotions (fear, apprehension, insecurity) are based on our perceptions towards the situation than real events. If you start perceiving the world as a dangerous place, you start feeling fearful. It is our attitude that matters here. In psychological terms we call these thought patterns as ‘cognitive distortions’. Such exaggerated and irrational thought patterns often influence our mental state and we become vulnerable to anxiety and depression. Catastrophization is a pattern of thinking where people see greater or exaggerated worst possible outcome and feel unbearable about it and develop avoidance.
Cognitive restructuring is an effective method to come out of this trap and reduce the distress. Develop positive self-talk. Think in the lines of “I am not a weak person”, “I will learn self-defense methods and try to master them” etc… Threatening situations give opportunities to strengthen us and empower us to face life with more ease and comfort. They incorporate adequate self-esteem and enhance self-confidence.
In any type of threatening situation, self-defense is a physical and mental plan of action you use to protect yourself in adverse situations. Self-defense has to deal with a high levels of ambiguity and fear in us.
Sarah Ullman, a researcher at the University of Illinois, reviewed dozens of studies of police reports and rape crisis center information and discovered that more forceful resistance (verbal and physical) was related to less severe sexual abuse. There is a myth that fighting back will just make an attacker madder. It's safer to submit than to try to defend yourself. But many scientific studies repeatedly proved that, one can prevent rape if she take forceful and immediate action against the attacker rather than increase the risk of more injury. Psychologists are in complete agreement with this consistent evidence.
Martha Mc Caughy, an American author and Director of Women Studies at Appalachian State University reiterated that dealing with misinformation, myths about rape and fighting back are necessary before women can embrace the will to fight back.
Getting trained in self-defense makes much of difference. Take at least one Self- defense or Personal safety course once a year to keep your knowledge and skills updated. Self-defense training is a radical act because it confronts rape culture by removing men’s control over women’s physical bodies. It challenges the sex-power relationship that is the defining element of rape. It empowers women by reducing the constant fear of rape that acts to imprison women in their homes and keep them in unhealthy relationships with male ‘protectors’. Most potent of all, self-defense learning emboldens women by enabling increased freedom of action--the freedom to go, to do and to be.
Consider these as red flags if a person,
l Ignores your personal space boundaries. Stand or walk too close or touch you without permission.
l Push you to drink beyond your tolerance level or waits to make a sexual advance until you are extremely intoxicated.
l Express anger or aggression frequently. Hostile feelings can easily be translated into hostile acts.
l Uses hostile or possessive or derogatory language about their victims
l Has wrong or unrealistic ideas about women
l Tries to make you feel guilty or accuse you of being uptight if you resist their sexual overtures.
Few safety tips to stay in new city:
Awareness: Know about your surroundings. Be aware. Attackers often try to take advantage of the "element of surprise".
Intuition: Go with your gut feelings if you feel unsafe at any place, leave.
Flight: Have an escape plan. If any stranger demands that you go somewhere at gun or knife point, don't. Your chances of survival lessen drastically if you do, so yell like hell and run. Do whatever you can to get out of that situation. If you're traveling by yourself in the city, wear shoes in which you can run.
Fight: Got nails? Then use 'em if you have to. Though some worry that attacking might provoke the perp into being more violent, stats again suggest that this isn't the case -- you have better chances for avoiding attack if you fight back.
Be Smart: Consider picking a more populated subway and trying not to stand alone when you're waiting for a train or bus late at night. Walk like you know where you're going, not wide-eyed and confused-looking. Don't take dark shortcuts when you walk home. Keep your keys in hand for protection.
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