Tuesday, June 7, 2011

New York attacks emphasize need for a focus on personal safety

Residents in the Upper East Side of Manhattan are on guard after two women have been physically assaulted within several days of each other. The pair of early-morning incidents shines a spotlight on the importance of personal safety and has police feverishly searching for the two men they believe to be responsible for the attacks.

NY1 reports that the first incident occurred in late May, and the second took place just over a week later when an elderly woman was assaulted around the same area. The most recent attack took place around 5 a.m., and police have a surveillance tape of the incident and are looking for a man in his 20s, about 5-foot-10 inches tall with tattoos.

"The woman on 90th Street that was attacked, she was grabbed and I believe was roughly about the same time in the morning, 5 o'clock," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told the news source.

What is especially troubling about these two attacks is that both victims were elderly and likely unprepared to withstand the brunt of such a brutal encounter. However, other individuals may want to be ready for such an incident, especially given their prevalence. According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and the Justice Department, around 1.9 million women in the United States are assaulted each year, and nearly 25 percent of all American women will report being sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

Personal safety experts say there are a number of small steps women can take to prevent becoming the victim of an attack. Perhaps the best way to ward of an assailant is to make eye contact. The natural instinct may be to divert your eyes if you're approaching a suspicious individual, but according to ABC News, it can go a long way in making them think twice about targeting you.

"Eye contact may scare off attackers because they fear you will be able to identify them," Mary Ellen Burns, a spokesperson for the Boston Police Department, told ABC.

Along with how you carry yourself, there are certain changes you can make to lower your chances of becoming a victim as well. First and foremost, while it might be tempting to listen to music or talk on the phone while you're walking or running, it can seriously lower your awareness and make you the target for assault. Furthermore, you may want to switch up your routine every now and then to lessen the chances that someone may know the path of your walk home.

Still, there are sometimes where it may not be able to avoid coming into contact with a dangerous individual. If this is the case, there are a few things to remember. Perhaps most importantly, you may want to buy pepper spray in an effort to protect yourself. This helpful device will temporarily disable an attacker by causing both temporary blindness and difficulty breathing, which can be crucial when it comes to getting to safety.

Buying pepper spray is one thing, but knowing how to use it is another. Experts suggest practicing with the device ahead of time so that you know how it sprays and how to use it effectively. Specifically, it should be sprayed in an "x" or "z" pattern to ensure that it hits the attacker. Additionally, you should be sure to carry it in an easy-to-reach location, because if it is hard to grab when the need arises, you may not be able to use it in time.  

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