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Better Safe Than Sorry
by Nightbird (Rev. Tim Cranford, HP)

Having been the victim of a "fag-bashing" several years ago, I have learned much about protecting oneself. The first thing to remember, being mostly non-violent Pagans, is that while most of us may never be in this kind of situation, when your life is on the line it is important to know what to do, even if you have to harm the attacker.

Let's begin with weapons. Today's more volatile society has given birth to the sale of all kinds of devices for personal protection, like pepper spray, tear gas, mace, and more conventional weapons like guns. Before you purchase any of these things, you must remember that any weapon can be taken from you and used against you if you are taken by surprize or over-powered by the attacker. Don't let yourself be lulled into a false sense of security by possessing these items. Even the most experienced soldier can be over-powered under the right circumstances. If you do choose to own any of these devices, take the time to take a class on the proper usage of that device. A can of pepper spray won't help you if you aim it at yourself, and a gun won't protect you if you don't know where the bullets go.

So what can you do? Quite a bit, actually. Good common sense and a healthy dose of suspicion can, in many cases, save your life. Be always aware of your surroundings. Know what is going on in your vicinity, and pay attention to things that seem out of place. Listen to that basic survival instinct. If your gut says "Danger", then there ususally is a good reason. Take heed to the message and get to a safer place. Don't let yourself end up wandering around unfamiliar territory alone. Always travel in pairs or groups. There truly is safety in numbers. When attending public events, be mindful of showing any large amounts of money, jewelry, or other valuables. If you look like you have nothing to steal, then you reduce the chances of being robbed.

Never look like you are lost or afraid. This is like shouting "I'm an easy target, attack me!" If you have been drinking, don't wander off alone. Drunk people are easy targets, because they have impaired co-ordination, they lack the ability to think clearly while intoxicated, and they often don't know where they are. Always lock your car (even while you are in it), lock your doors and windows at home or at the hotel, and don't open the door to people you don't know. If you go on a shopping spree (my favorite sport), don't carry tons and tons of shopping bags loaded with goodies. If you have too many purchases to carry in one hand, you need to take them to the car (don't go alone), place them securely in the trunk, and go back inside if you need to do more shopping. And never walk around with your head down. This body language is read as insecurity and fear by a potential attacker. Hold your head up, walk with confidence, and don't be afraid to look around you in a complete circle. If you look like a door mat you will get stepped on.

If you are attacked, don't allow yourself to be taken from the initial crime scene by the attacker. Most victims that are killed loose their life only after being taken to the "secondary crime scene". If you can escape, do so. If you can fight back, do so. When I was attacked, my attacker made a mistake. He loosened his grip on me just long enough that I was able to turn around and do some damage. That was the window of opportunity for me, and had I not taken it, I would probably be dead. And yes, I have to admit that it gave me pleasure to know that his love life was going to be on hold for a long time. Now, obviously, if there is a gun pointed at you or a knife at your throat, there may not be much you can do. But if you get that window of opportunity, you must make that split-second decision. And yes, screaming "Fire!" will get you more attention than screaming "Help!" A scream, by the way, should curdle the blood and clear the lungs. If you draw attention to yourself and the attacker, chances are he/she will end the attack and run.

The last word here goes to the subject of personal information. On the web, you should never post any information that could be used to find you. An email address, a URL for a homepage, or an extremely general location (like, "I live in Texas", for example) should be plenty of information. If any further contact need be made, you can be emailed first, and decide on a case by case basis. Social Security numbers, driver license numbers, phone numbers, etc should never be given freely on the Web, on the phone, or on the street. Be smart. If a person had your Social Security number, they could find out anything they wanted to find out about you. The same goes for credit card/debit card/ATM numbers, and to a certain extent, driver license numbers. The first line of security for yourself is YOU.

Be safe this summer, and have fun.

Nightbird (Rev. Tim Cranford, HP)
(c) 3/30/97

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