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Batterers often have size and strength on their side when committing acts of violence, making it particularly difficult for the person being abused to get away. And as much as we wish getting away were as easy as it is in the movies, that’s rarely the case. Fortunately, some self-defense tactics are highly effective and easy to learn. The best part is they’re based on body mechanics, not ability, meaning you can use them against an attacker of any size or strength. (Note: Survivors should always use their best judgement and take care not to put themselves in additional danger or cause further harm by using these tactics.)
Here are some simple moves as described by Gabrielle Rubin, founder and head instructor of Female Awareness Self-Defense, that you can learn at home. These moves are meant to help you escape or stun your abuser in life-threatening situations long enough to flee or call 911.
If you’re attacked from the front: Hold your arm straight out in front of you and make a U shape with your hand. Press the U into your batterer’s trachea and push quickly yet forcibly away.
Another option is to stroke your abuser in the nose with the heel of your open palm. “The key to this move is to strike quickly, driving your palm up through the nose and then bringing your hand back to you,” Rubin says. “And don’t lock your arm straight on this move or you’ll absorb some of the shock for your attacker.”
If your abuser is straddling you with your hands pinned: Rather than trying to free your arms, wiggle your hips to try and get one of them pointing toward the ceiling. This will either cause your attacker to lose balance, or it will drive your hip bone into the batterer’s groin, which is highly sensitive, causing him or her to shift their weight enough for you to escape.
If you’re being pinned down at the shoulders: Turn your head and bite anything within reach.
If you’re pinned face down: Make swift motions with your legs as though you were trying to kick your own buttocks. You’ll strike your attacker’s groin area.
If you’re being held by the upper arm in an escort hold: Lock your arm straight and swing it up and over your shoulder like a tennis serve. Then bring it forcefully down across your body toward your opposite thigh.
If you’re being punched: Bring up both arms to protect your face. Nestle your face in the crux of your elbows. “Elbows are great protectors because they hurt when you punch them,” Rubin says. “But they’re also great strikers. Aim for the soft part just under the chin.”
The most important move is what you do right after you escape or stun your attacker. “Be prepared to defend, strike or flee,” Rubin says. Get to a safe place and call 911.
Check out this article from DomesticShelters.org on planning your escape.
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