Primal scream: how can we keep ourselves safe?


Talking with a group of women friends last week our conversation turns to self- protection. The topic was triggered by the recent spate of horrific robberies of elderly people and violent attacks on women. It’s a really serious issue but protecting yourself in a way that isn’t either illegal, dangerous or just plain foolhardy turns out to be a head scratching subject.

A lot of the advice around is about prevention. Keeping a watchful eye on things through Neighbourhood Watch in urban areas and Community Alert in rural areas is one approach involving two-way communication between the community and the Gardai about suspicious or anti- social behaviour in the area. But suppose you are about to be robbed or attacked?

How about zapping the attacker or robber and incapacitating them?

While this may work in Nordic noir thrillers, defensive weapons like tasers, stun guns or even pepper sprays are illegal here in Ireland although there a plenty of devices offered on line.

Googling local self-defence organisations later, I find pictures of wall-to-wall males in martial arts outfits and can’t quite imagine flinging them onto an EVA foam mat. More likely I will be flung. Someone suggested using a really loud sound device handy when worn as a deterrent, loud enough to discombobulate an attacker or alert people nearby.

Sirens may be effective and all right to use so long as they emit safe sound. But sonic devices or powerful amplifiers capable to sending sound over long distances can cause hearing loss, others can cause nausea or discomfort and while you might want to inflict this on the assailant you don’t want to be affected yourself. Again, there are lots of devices advertised on the internet.

There were 21,265 burglaries here in 2016, many while homeowners were out but one guesstimate suggests that in around 15,000 cases people encountered the robbers. There are a variety measures that could keep people safer from attack when at home like inexpensive, readily available door viewers, chain locks, door jammers.

Home and personal alarms are more costly deterrents and only effective so long as someone answers them promptly. But offensive weapons including sap (reinforced) gloves, Kusarigama and Ninja Shuriken ( Japanese ball and chain weapon and throwing star in case you wondered,)are out.
CCTV cameras are quite an effective deterrent and there are some relatively inexpensive types suitable for home use. One bright spark suggested putting up a notice saying “Smile you are on camera” to put off robbers.

Other ideas to prevent burglary that came up in the conversation ranged from dog deterrents, not necessarily a four-legged friend but alternatives like a Beware Of The Dog notice, a barking dog recording and even a large bone by the front door to indicate the presence of a hound.

Various subterfuges that come up in the discussion include: pretending to have an epileptic fit, threatening the rascals with a convincing toy gun, keeping a small sum of money hidden to give to thieves in the hope they will be satisfied.

One of the worrying things to emerge is the fact that several of us have been attacked or followed. There are local places where the women thought it wasn’t safe to walk alone, including a beauty spot where there have been attempted attacks.

Having public spaces with CCTN cameras and lighting would certainly help. Fingal County Councillors recently announced a move to consult with women in North County Dublin about ways to make public spaces safer. Let’s hope more councils follow suit.

My own suggestion in time of danger is to scream at the top of your lungs, primal maybe but it certainly scared off two hooded youths who were intent on robbing me.


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