Editor’s Note: Beth Alcazar of Chelsea, Alabama, conducts between 60 and 100 seminars on women’s self-defense and safety each year, is the women’s editor for Concealed Carry Magazine and has authored the book, Women’s Handgun and Self-Defense Fundamentals. Personal Defense World has asked Alcazar to list the 10 self-defense questions and their answers that women most want to know.
Beth Alcazar Talks Women’s Safety
1: Why are women more often a target for physical attacks than men?
Beth Alcazar: Statistics show that one in four women usually is attacked by an intimate partner, spouse or unknown assailant. And that 40 percent of U.S. women are in abusive relationships. Women are smaller in frame and build and are often presumed to be biologically weaker. They often do not have the training or preparation to protect themselves.
Negative stereotypes still exist that say men must protect women. Or, that women look to others to provide their personal safety rather than protecting themselves. But more women today are changing their propensity for experiencing an attack by learning how to protect themselves.
2: How can I learn, practice and use good situational awareness to protect myself?
BA: Good situational awareness means:
- Being very conscious of what’s going on around you and other people.
- Avoid distraction by your children, your phone or tasks like shopping or working.
- Noticing everything around you and identifying exits and an escape route. This allows you to remove yourself from a conflict or someone or something that is making you uncomfortable.
- Parking where there’s the most light after dark.
- Avoiding people dressed strangely, such as with layers of clothing or a heavy jacket in warm weather; and
- Noticing people’s hands. A person preparing to take a weapon out of his clothing may have his hands deep in his pockets, be fidgeting with his hands in a bag or be reaching his hands around to his back. Scream or yell loudly to alert people.
3: How can I know that I’m about to be attacked? Can I trust my intuition?
BA: You can, and you should trust your gut. A book that explains why women often feel uneasy just before they experience an attack is The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence by Gavin de Becker. This book helps you recognize survival signals that our bodies already experience. These are signals that we’re born with, including intuition, like a tingling on the back of your neck. Another signal to pay attention to is an alert feeling that you are in a bad situation.
De Becker calls that the gift of intuition or the gift of fear. Fear doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Your eyes may have seen, heard or felt a micro-gesture, like a person’s voice changing to quieter, louder or more serious, and that alerts you to the presence of danger. De Becker’s book teaches people to trust those feelings of fear and remove themselves from possible oncoming danger. De Becker says interviewees almost always say, “Just before the attack or the danger presented itself, I felt very uncomfortable.”
4: Can I have permission to say, “No,” and do I have permission to be rude?
BA: Many women, especially in the South, learn from an early age to be kind, accommodating and often over the top with hospitality. For instance, if you’re at a gas station filling up your car, someone walks toward you, and you get that gut feeling that causes you to think, “Something about this guy isn’t right,” you can’t allow this stranger to get into your personal space. Yell. Don’t worry about embarrassing yourself or that stranger.
5: Should I and can I use a firearm for personal protection?
BA: Yes. I’d love to know that responsible U.S. citizens of all backgrounds and genders exercise their Second Amendment rights to protect themselves and their families with firearms. Many women think learning to use a firearm is scary or too difficult. They’ve been told attackers may take their firearms away and use them to harm them. Since the COVID-19 epidemic, more than 7 million new gun owners have purchased firearms, with 40 percent of them being women. If you choose a firearm, you need to learn how to use it, practice using it and know when and when not to use it. You must make a personal commitment that you’ll be a responsible gun owner and yet live your life as though the gun you have isn’t there. Using your gun is always the last resort.
6: What tools, other than firearms, are useful for self-protection?
BA: One of my favorites is a tactical flashlight, consisting of heavy-duty material that won’t crack or break. Besides producing light, you can use a tactical flashlight as a blunt instrument to protect yourself. Some tactical flashlights produce 500 lumens or more, an extremely bright light that can temporarily blind an attacker and prevent him from seeing you. I personally like a flashlight with a strobe option. Children and people with disabilities can take tactical flashlights with them—many are smaller than ballpoint pens. You can also use your flashlight to find the key to your door, peer into the back seat of your car and to look under your car.
7: Can I use some form of martial arts for self-defense?
BA: Yes! Numbers of martial arts and self-defense classes are offered throughout the country. I took an aikido course with my husband and learned to use joints, locks, pressure points and other types of moves that don’t require a person to be very strong in order to disable an attacker, and how to use an attacker’s body against him to disable him.
Another popular self-defense discipline is Krav Maga, which has been developed for the Israel Defense Forces, and combines techniques of aikido, judo, wrestling and karate, and focuses on real-world situations. You learn to remove yourself from an attacker. Many YouTube videos are available on martial arts.
8: How can I be safer in my own home?
BA: Home invasions have increased, but by spending a little time and a few dollars, you can make your home far safer. We often make the mistake of thinking that when we’re home, we’re safe and secure. FBI statistics show that burglars break into the home through the front door 34 percent of the time, come in the screen door or the back door 20 percent of the time and enter through a first-floor window 23 percent of the time.
- Alarms and Monitoring Devices Alarm systems can be very effective at stopping home intruders. An inexpensive tool is to put stickers on your front door and windows or yard signs that state, “This home is being monitored 24 hours a day.” Monitoring devices, like the Ring doorbell and devices that video or audio what’s happening outside and inside your house come with an app that allows you to monitor those activities remotely.
- Upgrades to Your Home’s Security An easy fix for your doors is to replace the small screws in the strike plate with 3-inch screws, to make kicking in the door harder by 17 percent. You also can buy bar stops and plastic window treatments that drastically increase the strength of your first-floor windows, and install glass break sensors to alert you to broken windows.
- Other Ideas A neighborhood watch or a neighborhood chat room allows you to mention vehicles and people not normally seen in your neighborhood. Always lock your doors and windows. Plan for a safe room in your house.
9: How can I be safe when I travel?
BA: If you travel all over the country as I do, you need to know how to be safe in unfamiliar places and motel rooms. Always print out a copy of where you’re headed, what routes you’ll travel, where you’ll stay and what appointments you have—showing times and places—and when you’re to be expected back home and give it to someone trustworthy.
You can buy inexpensive door jamming devices (aka security door stoppers) to prevent motel doors from opening. Before traveling to any city, I’ll check the laws pertaining to firearms, concealed and open carry and any other self-defense tools I may plan to use to be sure I’m obeying the laws. I’ve been working often in Wisconsin, a state without reciprocal laws with Alabama, concerning the carrying of firearms. I got a concealed-carry permit from Utah because Utah and Wisconsin recognize the same laws. I abide by the rules in the state I’m visiting and still have my choice of the personal-protection tools I want to have with me. Some states don’t allow you to carry knives of a certain length or style, or pepper spray containers.
10: What roles do technology, like my cellphone and my computer, play in staying safe?
BA: Although these tools are handy for navigation and information, they are also ways that other people can locate you, if you leave trails on social media. Don’t say, “Hey! I‘m at XYZ hotel in Kansas City, etc.” Instead, post information about get-togethers, vacations and trips once you’ve returned home. Then no one has current information on where you are or aren’t. Never release the names of your children or their schools. While I was in college, one of my suite mates posted a picture of her bulletin board on social media, forgetting it had her Social Security number taped on it. All her accounts were hacked.
This article was originally published in the Personal Defense World April/May 2021 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.