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Pepper spray and Mace are among the most recommended personal security products, especially for women. Most of us don't want to take the step of buying a gun, although I've known some women that have scared off assailants just by showing that they were pistol packing mamas. We may all dream of being Thelma and Louise or Jennifer Garner from "Alias" in a crisis however, all of us hope we'll never have to put our karate chops to the test.
By the time an assailant gets within pepper spray range, chances are you've missed several opportunities to pre-defend yourself without confronting your attacker or robber. Pepper spray is a valid line of defense, as are some aikido techniques, but it's best not to need the pepper spray at all. How can you prevent a confrontation?
• Practice awareness. Don't tune out your surroundings, no matter where you are. Women have been attacked right in their own backyard.
• Project confidence. Don't slouch. Make eye contact. Don't look like a potential victim.
• Be wary of strangers and even acquaintances—though women are more likely to be assaulted by someone they know.
• Make sure friends and chaperones or co-workers keep an eye out for you—and do the same for them.
• Carry a cell phone and keep it visible. Sometimes if a stranger approaches you in your car, just whipping out your cell phone may be a deterrent.
• Although we've all been trained to be polite, be wary of anyone asking the time or directions (especially in deserted areas). I learned this in 1998 when a man in Los Angeles used this ploy to rob a friend and me at gunpoint. Plead ignorance if you have to or pretend you're not wearing a watch and, GET AWAY.
• Trust your gut. If something doesn't feel right, it usually isn't.
• If you feel you're being stalked, get to a safe location—a store, an office building, a church. Most businesses have security cams so, even if your pursuer follows you, you have a double line of defense: witnesses and a camera record of your would-be attacker.