Crimes against women in our community is one that is most often at the forefront of discussions about public safety.
According to Vancouver Police Inspector Colleen Yee, assaults against women are one of the few crimes that residents of the metropolitan area should still be concerned and vigilant about. While other types of crime are going down, assaults are still a real threat to the wellbeing of women in every part of Metro Vancouver, and there are points in the commute, running errands or getting to and from activities that put them most at risk for being attacked.
Most of us will agree that Vancouver feels like a pretty safe city. But, examinations of that mindset have proven to reveal different results.
Last year, the CBC spent a night out on the Granville Strip to track the reality of the safety of women out there. This night was spurred by the establishment of Good Night Out Vancouver, a street team that patrols the strip to make sure that partying doesn’t end in sexual assault.
Organizations such as Battered Women’s Support Services are working closely with other groups as well as local women and teens to educate us all on assaults against women and how to protect ourselves.
That is taken a step farther by the devoted female officers of the Vancouver Police Department Women’s Personal Safety Team. These women volunteer their time to teach free self-defense workshops to women across Vancouver in order to empower and help them defend themselves in circumstances when attackers mean to seriously harm or even kill them.
Inspector Colleen Yee, who heads the program, offers these important safety tips:
- Awareness is your first line of personal safety, which begins long before any actual physical contact. Be aware of yourself, your surroundings. An attacker’s primary strategy is to use the advantage of surprise. They are adept at choosing targets who appear to be unaware of what is going on around them. If you are aware of your surroundings, you can spot suspicious circumstances or people. It provides time for you to plan your reaction.
- Intuition or “gut instinct” is something everyone has experienced – the feeling that something isn’t quite right, but you’re not sure why. It’s important to pay attention and trust this feeling. Use it to your full advantage and avoid any person or situation which does not “feel” safe. Your instincts are probably right.
- Prevention is taking measures to make yourself less of a target. We look both ways before crossing the street because we don’t blindly trust that the drivers will see us and stop. We take ownership of our personal safety by using tactics that will keep us safe, much like ensuring the roadway is clear of threats before stepping off the curb. When it comes to avoiding or minimizing situations where we may be subjected to violence, we need to learn and employ tactics that will help keep us safe.
- Fighting back may be necessary in situations of unavoidable violence. You have the right to fight back as hard as necessary to protect yourself and get away safely. The important thing about fighting back is that it must be done effectively. Struggling and scratching is fighting back, but it won’t be effective in a violent encounter where the assailant’s primary focus is to seriously hurt you or worse.