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Safe in the city

health-and-fitness Updated: Mar 26, 2012 11:03 IST

Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Our experts tell you how to secure children from sexual harassment and show how basic accessories can help you escape dangerous situations. Also, for female drivers, there are tips on commuting safely.

Safety tip
If the attacker catches you from behind then you can use your leather belt like a whip, in case the assailant doesn’t back off. Just remember to hit effectively with full force to ensure that the attacker is left stunned. Don’t wait and watch, just run away after doing so.

Know your rights
Don’t let anyone bully you when your are travelling on the train. If someone is trying to encroach your space making you uncomfortable, take action against him. According to The Railways Act, if a person enters a compartment or a carriage or occupies any berth or seat reserved for women, then he shall — in addition to being liable to forfeiture of his pass or ticket — be punishable with fine, which may go up to Rs 500 and he can also be removed from the train by any railway employee.

Where I felt unsafe
I think, Gurgaon is the most unsafe place. Women cannot even travel alone in the daylight and travelling in the night is very dangerous. The police is also very incompetent. — Priya Aggarwal

The whole of Delhi is unsafe, especially during the night. — Malika Dua

My story
I have been reading The HT Safe in the City campaign everyday, and I would like to share an incident that happened to me when I was 11 years old. I went to Manali with my parents and brother, and there we saw people lending traditional Himachali dresses for photos. We decided to hire a dress for me. The person who dressed me up was a middle-aged man, and while taking the dress off he constantly touched my privates making me feel uncomfortable. As I was very young, I couldn’t do anything either. After leaving the place with my mom, I found it difficult to describe the situation to her and was scared of going near any older guy except my immediate family members. -Meera, via Facebook (name changed for privacy)

What the expert says
“Children are easy targets of molestation as they are vulnerable and don’t suspect elders. When they are molested, they do not know what is happening with their bodies, and often continue to be molested. They are often ashamed or frightened to tell someone about it. Parents should have an honest chat with their kids and tell them to speak up if someone tries to touch or see their private parts. Victims of such abuse can be emotionally scarred for a long time. They did nothing wrong and should stop feeling guilty about it. They should expose the offender even if he is a family member,” says Sheetal Jain, life skills trainer.

10 ways to make sure you’re safe while driving

Car maintenance is must
Always check if you have enough fuel in your car before leaving home. You don’t want to be stuck up in the middle of nowhere with an empty tank and bad guys on the prowl. Check the car batteries and coolant routinely. Check your wheels regularly and practice changing tyres at home — the faster you do it, the less chances you have of being harassed on the road. Also, subscribe to an emergency car breakdown repair service and call them in case your motor’s giving trouble — waste no time in dilly-dallying or seeking help from strangers.

Doors locked, windows up
The first step to being safe at the wheels is to make sure your
windows are rolled up and your doors are locked. You wouldn’t leave your front door unlocked and your windows open at home, so get in the habit of securing your car the same way before you set out. Do this as soon as you step inside the vehicle — you can touch up on the makeup and check your phone later. Often, women lock their own doors, but forget to check the passenger doors and windows. They prove to be more of a risk, so make sure other doors and windows are safely locked and rolled up too.

Avoid distractions
Keep your music system at a reasonable volume when driving, and don’t space out or check your text messages or make calls to chat up at every traffic signal. Carjackers and harassers rely on the element of surprise, so if you’re keeping eyes and ears alert to what’s going on outside your vehicle, they don’t have a chance to sneak up on you. Drivers should be scanning the road constantly, both ahead and in the rear-view mirror.

Don’t take the same route
It becomes much easier for a stalker to plan an attack if you’ve been using the same road everyday. Make sure you change your route to office, work and your gym or the mall as frequently as you can, especially if you commute during late hours. If there’s no alternative route to your place, pick a friend and bring him/her along with you one day, stop over at another friend’s or family member’s place the next time — the idea is to break the pattern and be unpredictable.

Don’t lock horns
If someone is trying to overtake from the wrong side or honking constantly in order to attract attention, let them go without engaging in road rage. Don’t even look at someone who’s trying to play Smart Alec on the road. Just drive on, or turn away. The worst thing you can do is get into a fight — such drivers are aggressive and can resort to harm in order to feel more powerful than you. It’s not worth it, really.

What to do when chased
Make sure you have emergency numbers on the first few keys of your phone; dial the police or their women’s helpline at the first inkling of being followed, and tell them exactly where you are and which way you’re headed. Drive to the nearest police station (you need to know this beforehand), hospital emergency room entrance (there are usually armed guards there) or any crowded market place where you can get help immediately. Do not stop, even if it means carefully blowing stop signs or a light or turn away into a crowded road.

Keep someone posted
When driving at night, let someone know when you are leaving, what time you expect to arrive at your destination (or checkpoints for longer journeys) and check in with a trusted person every hour. Agree that at check-ins you will give your exact location and if you miss a check-in, your trusted person will notify the police of your last whereabouts and intended destination. Make sure the trusted person has written identification details such as the make, models and year of your car, your license plate number, and a physical description of you including what clothing you have on.

Avoid playing a saviour
If anyone approaches your window asking for directions in slow or stopped traffic, leave the help to someone else — they have a hundred other cars to go to. Do not stop for a lone man or even a couple or family, even if you see their car broken down. In case you do decide to speak to a stranger, crack the window an inch or two instead of opening it all the way. Don’t pull over if someone stops you, and never, ever give a ride to a stranger even if he or she looks ‘genuine’.

Be careful while parking
If you’re parking on a street or inside a mall, find a spot that is well-lit. Avoid parking in areas where very few vehicles are parked. Always look out for crowded areas. Also, make sure you take out the key well before reaching the parking lot and clench it in your fist such that the metal part juts out of your fingers to turn into a weapon if you need to throw a punch at a troublemaker. Don’t park next to large vehicles, windowless vans, vehicles with tinted windows, or trucks with caps.

Don’t fall for old tricks
Not switching on the wipers when faced with an egg smash on your windshield or not reaching out for a pamphlet placed on the glass is important. Another common trick is that while one member of a group of attackers distracts you by making a sound, the other lies low to grab you the moment you step out to check if all is well. In such cases, ignore and drive away; you can always check later.

Emergency numbers
Delhi Police’s women helpline number: 23317004, 24121234,23490130
Anti-stalking and anti obscene helpline numbers: 27292523, -7894455, SMS-991135446
Delhi Commission for Women: 23379181/ 23370597

What to do when the attacker grabs you from behind?

So, the attacker has caught you unawares and grabbed you tightly from behind. Your arms are locked and you can’t move your body. What to do? Don’t feel that you are stuck in the situation. You can release yourself from his grip and escape from the scene if you keep your cool and follow these simple steps shown below:

1 The attacker comes from behind and grabs you from the waist, over your arms

2 Quickly bend forward to displace your weight forward making it difficult for the attacker to lift you. Now, he cannot bring his face closer to yours

3 Using the attackers own force, shift your hand towards his midsection and hit him in the crotch. The attacker will loosen his grip

4 Lift your elbow and strike the attacker under the chin causing him a lot of pain

5 Complete the sequence by delivering a ‘back kick’ into his knee or groin and run for your safety.