According to the most recent SAPS quarterly crime report, sexual offences increased by 74.1% during April to June 2021, when compared to the same timeframe in 2020. In just 3 months, 12 702 people were victims of sexual offences that include rape, sexual assault, contact sexual offences and attempted sexual offences.
“We live in what President Ramaphosa has called ‘one of the most unsafe places in the world to be a woman’,” says Seugnette van Wyngaard, Head of 1st for Women Insurance, “Marches, memorandums and hashtags finally mobilised government to declare violence against women a national crisis but it’s not enough. Sexual offences across South Africa have shown an unprecedented increase in recent months and women need to be vigilant to protect, and even defend, themselves.”
With this in mind, van Wyngaard offers SA women the following advice:
- Time and place: Try to always have other people around. Avoid being out after dark, especially in areas that are known to be dangerous. If you’re new to an area, find out what the safest places and times are to shop, socialise, work out etc.
- Eyes open: Always be aware of your surroundings. Being focused on your cell phone, listening to music when working out in public etc. are all distractions that could create opportunity for a criminal to pounce.
- The habit of double-checking: Making sure that a door is locked, a window closed, a vehicle secure etc. takes only a couple of seconds, but could save your life.
- Gateway crimes: Petty crimes often carry the risk of escalating into physical harm, so it’s best to keep your valuables out of view at home, in your car and on yourself.
- Safety in numbers: If you’re taking a stroll or a jog, it’s best to do so in a group.
- Stay in contact: Let someone know where you’re off to, which route you’ll be following and when you’re expected to return. Keep them updated on your progress.
- Vary the times of your activities: Attacks while you are out and about are often spontaneous, but predictable patterns are also a safety concern. Try to have some variation in the timing of your activities.
- Check the tail: Whether driving or on foot, make sure that you’re not being followed. If you suspect that you are, get to a safer place immediately. Call for help if needed.
- Help on speed dial: Be sure to have all emergency contact details – community protection, the police and trusted friends or relatives – on hand. Alternatively, there are various mobile or app-based panic buttons available, including the 1st for Women panic button, which you can use in any emergency situation where you feel unsafe.
- Carry a whistle: Sports whistles are quite cheap. Having it on a lanyard around your neck means you can raise the alarm quite quickly if you feel unsafe. The loud noise may also startle your attacker into running away.
- Learn basic self-defense: There are many courses and online resources available to help with this, like the 8 Self-Defense Moves Every Woman Needs to Know.
If you do find yourself in a life-threatening situation, can’t run and have no option but to fight, Mark Grobbelaar, founder of Woman INpowered (WIP), says that the “1 move technique”, is simple and has proven to be devastatingly effective by targeting a muscle in the attacker’s throat:
- Your position is in front of the attacker
- You need to stand as close as possible without being in the attacker’s space
- Feet are placed a shoulder width apart
- Hips should be at a 45 degree angle to attacker
- If he is behind you, turn around to face him by whatever means possible
- Use your whole body, swivel hips and shoulders and punch “through”
Another tip is ‘don’t go with the attacker to the second place’. “Things always get worse at the second place. Your chances of survival at the first place are above 90%, and below 35% at the second place. Ensure that whatever is going to happen, happens at the first place,” says Grobbelaar.
“1st for Women has been long-term advocates in the fight against women abuse. If you are at risk of abuse or know someone who is, visit the ForWomen website, an online platform that consolidates woman abuse fighting efforts, or report it: GBV Command Centre: 0800 428 428 or *120*786#,” Van Wyngaard concludes.