Have you every been followed? Have you ever known that gut-tightening fear that comes with the realisation that you are not imagining it, someone really is tailing you?
I have and it’s terrifying, especially here in the UK where carrying items of self-defence such as mace, knives and guns are illegal. Even in the United States there are areas where carrying a weapon is prohibited and if the gun control lobby have their way there will be a great many more of those places in the future.
I was 17 and the bus I was on had broken down. I was only a mile or so from home, it was a fine night and my route was well lit so I decided to walk the rest of the way. It was apparent early on that someone was behind me. I crossed over…so did the man behind me. I crossed back so did the man behind me…you know the drill. Still walking I opened the side pocket of my bag and took out a metal nail file, the kind with a handle, one something like this:
My nails were my pride and joy and I went nowhere without my beloved file and a small cosmetic purse with polish, polish remover pads and glue for breakages. All nicely to hand in the side pocket of my handbag.
The footsteps got closer and closer, I could see the shadow to my left, thrown there by the streetlights.
A hand grabbed my shoulder. Holding the handle of the file inside my clenched fist I stabbed it into my ”attackers’ hand, stepped out of my shoes and ran like hell.
“Aggghhh Lizzie, what d’ya do that for?” Screamed a familiar voice. I stopped running and turned to see a friend who thought it was funny to scare me.
The file was still sticking out of his hand, blood dripping onto the pavement.
” You won’t do that again will ya?” I said indignantly as I put my shoes back on and headed off towards the hospital with him. The phone call to my parents was a classic.
“Dad, I’m going to be a bit late, I’m at the hospital, I stabbed Frank but he’s going to be fine”
My father was in the First Battalion Parachute Regiment of the British Army, he wore his wings with pride and taught his little female warrior well. I attended a rather high-brow school for young ladies and I clearly remember the look of disgust on a teacher’s face when she asked the class what we should do if we ever found ourselves in a situation where a young man was rather ‘forceful in his attention’
“Grab his goolies tight and twist M’am” was my answer. Sadly she was thinking more along the lines of a ladylike retreat to an area where there were more people, or telling him sternly that his behaviour was inappropriate.
So, thinking along the lines of my trusty nailfile…a descendent of which I still carry, what other items can be utilised for defence? Working in accident and emergency for so long I saw an amazing amount of ingenuity come into play when people are intent on injuring others. Many of those things, like stuffing a boiled egg, shell and all, so far down someone’s throat that they choke are more one off’s than serious strategies so I’ll leave those for another day.
We move around in many ways, on foot, on public transport and in our cars, some suggestions will be more appropriate to given situations than others, hopefully a few of them will be new to you.
1. Nail File, metal with a handle. See the story above.
2. Spray deodorant stings like hell when sprayed in an attackers face. Buys you time to escape. Ditto perfume, body spray etc
3. Wallet or money purse: Throwing it some distance away from you may be distraction enough for a would-be robber.
4. Ball point pens: Used with enough force can inflict serious damage. Go for the simple plastic types like these, they are longer than round barrelled pens.
5. Small scissors or penknife: Self-explanatory
6. Lighter: One from accident and emergency. Guy gets attacked flicks the lighter and sets fire to the attackers hair. A lucky shot but worth a go if you have nothing else.
7. Laser pen: Very cheap and blindingly bright. You can temporarily blind someone very easily with one of these, you will have enough time to calmly walk away let alone run.
8. Water in a glass bottle: When smashed you have a really good weapon at your disposal.
9. A comfortable weight wrench: Your car gives you ample opportunity to have a variety of improvised weaponry available. Along the same lines, the ratchet handle from a socket set, a good sized spanner and even a hammer will provide you with plenty of blunt instrument force.
Now things you should not do at any time:
1. Wasp spray: Wasp spray shoots liquid a considerable distance, it’s also highly flammable…turning it into a mini flame thrower. Never use a naked flame near wasp spray.
2. Kids super soaker gun: can fire thin laundry bleach a good distance, aimed at the face it can cause burns and blindness. Make sure only water is in the gun.
3. Bleach Gas Bomb: Bleach and acid based drain cleaner form chlorine gas when they are mixed together. If you are using these products at home make sure you keep them in the original containers, or in separate jars. Make sure you do not drop the jars because the resulting gas, caused by the products mixing together can cause serious illness and even death
4. Got one of these lying around?
The stuff that clears the screen when you shake it is powdered aluminium. Mixed with rust, from old steel wool for example and set alight gets you a thermite reaction that is so hot it will actually burn through dirt. Make sure if aluminium powder is leaking from it that you throw it away.
5. Gasoline and polystyrene when mixed together form a sticky gooey mess that is highly flammable and sticks to everything it touches. You should never keep gasoline and polystyrene near each other in the garage and should certainly never mix them together intentionally as serious burns and death could result.
Remember that if you are attacked using an improvised weapon may be all that stands between you and death. Pots, pans, a chunk of wood, a brick or a broken glass can all be used as defence aids in a life or death situation. I would rather tomorrows headline be “Attacker hospitalised when victim fought back” Than “victim hospitalised by attacker”.
The choice is yours.
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Contributed by Lizzie Bennett of Underground Medic.
Lizzie Bennett retired from her job as a senior operating department practitioner in the UK earlier this year. Her field was trauma and accident and emergency and she has served on major catastrophe teams around the UK. Lizzie publishes Underground Medic on the topic of preparedness.