Friday, February 4, 2011

California attack highlights importance of personal safety

More than a month after a woman was attacked and sexually assaulted in Pico Rivera, California, police are still feverishly searching for the man who they believed committed the crime. Investigators have had little to go on, however, and released a composite sketch of the suspect in the hopes the public will be able to identify the perpetrator, the Whittier Daily News reports.

The attack occurred as the victim was walking along the street at around 7 p.m. Police say the man then approached the victim and assaulted her, slashing her face with a knife in the process, according to the news source. Soon after the man fled the scene, and the woman had to be treated for a non-life threatening wound to her face.

It was a similar attack of a female jogger in San Diego that led many in the city to turn their focus toward their own personal safety, and East County Magazine reports that there are several things that everybody can do to ensure that they are not the victim of a physical assault.

Among the most important things to remember when one is out by themselves is to be aware of one's surroundings. This can be accomplished by a number of ways, experts say, such as removing anything that obstructs peripheral vision like a hood, and taking out headphones, which can decrease awareness. Perhaps the most effective way is to make eye contact with those in the immediate vicinity. This small act helps individuals pay attention to what's around them by ensuring that their eyes are up, and reduces the chances of being attacked by surprise.

Instincts are also another crucial aspect of personal safety. According to the news source, many law enforcement officers say that most victims of violence had an uneasy feeling right before the attack happened. Another, more substantail way to protect onesself is to sign up for self-defense classes. Experts say that being prepared will reduce the feelings of apprehension.

"When you are habitually prepared to protect yourself and your family, you will probably never have to." states retired Deputy Chief for Westland, Michigan Police Department, Gary Sikorski, told the news source.

Those looking for a way to disarm a potential attacker should consider carrying pepper spray if they head out alone. When used correctly, the device is able to temporarily disable a potential assailant, and will allow a victim to get to safety. However, experts recommend that users familiarize themselves completely with the product, and practicing beforehand will ensure that it is used properly if the need ever arises.

"I don't care if you carry an ink pen, pepper spray, Taser or bazooka, you have to get the muscle memory down," safety expert Steve Kardian told the publication. "You must practice."

Not only is practicing important, but knowing where to keep pepper spray is paramount to safety as well. The device should be in a easy-to-reach location such as keychain or carabiner so that it can be used quickly if necessary.

According to ABC News, recent statistics from the Justice Department and the Centers for Disease Control indicate the high number of women who experience some time of assault during their life time. Around 1.9 million women are physically assaulted each year in the United States, and around 15 to 25 percent report being the victims of sexual assault or rape some point during their life time.  

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