Here are some of Penny's self-defence tips.


- Versatility
Having as many tricks up our sleeves as possible is the first step to safety.


- Self-esteem
It's hard to fight off or discourage a potential assailant if we don't feel that we are worth fighting for! About ninety per cent of our communication with other people is conveyed by our body language and tone of voice, so if we don't accept our inner selves, it usually shows. We must take a long hard look at what we have been taught makes us feel good about ourselves as women, and at the images we learn we must live up to in order to gain approval.


- Commitment
You can learn thousands of fighting techniques and study martial arts for many years, but in the end it's your own survival which will determine how safe you really are. In other words, what are you willing to do to survive? Ask yourself what you would be prepared to do to protect your children, and then consider if you'd be prepared to go to those same lengths to protect yourself. If you are like most of us - professional, unpaid, taken-for-granted caregivers - your answer will probably indicate that you would be much more ruthless in the defence of your children that you would be in your own self-defence.


True commitment to our survival means that we are willing to fight for our freedom and our lives, as well as for that of our families. We're prepared to fight, and fight dirty, not with the Marquis of Queensberry's rules! Squeamishness has no place when you are fighting for your life.


Here is a checklist on ruthlessness to see if you are prepared to strike and strike HARD at vulnerable areas of an attacker's body. Would you be prepared to:

* Bite the top lip or nose of an assailant if you were pinned down? (This could send the attacker into shock).

* Squash an exposed scrotum?

* Jab a pen or sharp object at the throat of an attacker?

* Scratch the corneas of the eyes with your fingernails?







These tactics indeed show "no mercy", but how much mercy do you think you will get from your attacker? Mercy is a luxury we sometimes cannot afford. If it has to be them or us, let it be the attacker! This is not to say that if some drunk gets a bit "touchy-feely" at a party that we must bite his top lip off (even if you might feel like it)! You must gar your response to the level of muscle that the circumstances may warrant. We must keep reaffirming our new definition of self-esteem and self-love, enmeshing it with our right to choose who touches our bodies and how we have them touched. After all this is no more than our individual right to control our physical, mental and spiritual destiny, because, if one of those levels is violated, it inevitably effects all of the others and, indeed encourages or allows the violator to move on to harm us on the other levels.


- Overcoming Fear
Fear is a natural and healthy response to a scary situation. When we register fear it sets off a biochemical reaction in our brain, stimulating our adrenal gland: our fight or flight mechanism. It multiplies our strength many times over. We can use this positively to sharpen our reactions and to help us make vital decisions when we are in danger.

The fear most women have is that in a threatening situation they will simply freeze and be unable to act to save themselves. But is we have planted warrior images deep into our subconscious, we will be able to summon up our fighting energy when we most need it. The physical triggers for the adrenal gland are:

- Making a lot of noise (e.g. screaming, shouting);

- Breathing deeply (when you freeze your instinct is to hold your breath);

- Moving your body vigorously, thereby letting the warrior energy flow through you).

These are the physical manifestations of our commitment.

We must visualise our source of energy, flowing through our physical and emotional blocks and issuing as action. We must learn to appreciate our fear as a stimulus for adrenalin, energy, movement, and courage.

This courage will enable us to take responsibility for our own safety and defence. If we confront our fears on this level the world will be our oyster. We'll find that many other situations that have evoked fear will be challenged, so that we can go deeper into every area of our lives.


- Intuition
Knowing without proof is a virtue for which women have long been admired. Intuition is definitely a quality we must value and use. It can warn us to refuse lifts with friends or strangers when we get a funny feeling about them and their intentions; it can urge us to walk in a different direction on the way home from shopping, because we feel odd about someone in the vicinity; or get us to cancel a date with someone because of the vibes he sends.

One of my students had just met a fellow at a night club in Sydney and liked him initially. He asked her to go to a party on the other side of town. She had agreed to go with him until he started "jokingly" grabbing her from behind with his arm around her neck, playing mock attack games. She decided that these displays of dominance were not good signs of what was to come, so she cancelled the date. So, if your intuition warns you that something is wrong:

- Keep two arms' length away from anyone who tries to come unwelcomed into your personal space;

- Ask a friend to come and stay with you if you are at home alone and you get a funny feeling that there is someone outside your house;

- Leave a situation (party, office, house, car) where you sense a problem.


Observe early warning signs

The physical manifestations of intuition should be used as your built-in barometer of trouble. It may be a pain in the stomach, a sinking sensation in the knees, giddiness or any other host of physical symptoms. It's important to discover what your own personal body's wariness reaction may be and not deny the signals or funny feelings your body is sending you. So many women experience these feelings and then ignore them.
We have learnt to trust ourselves and our judgment.

Write down your early warning signs what are they? Write down a list of times when you've experienced these. What has happened?


- Surprise
The element of surprise can be simultaneously our best friend and our worst enemy. The good news is that most attackers see themselves as hunters after prey and they are not expecting a high level of effective resistance. Just remember that most attackers are known to their victim and are under the misapprehension that a woman is playing hard to get: "I'm sure she wants it, she's just playing games'. Even strangers may deceive themselves in this way or they may simply objectify and dehumanise the object of their attack, so that they don't consider that their victims has any feelings at all.

Some men may think rape is a man's right: 'If a woman doesn't want to give it, the man should take it. Women have no right to say no. Women are made to have sex. It's all they're good for. Some women would prefer to take a beating, but they always give in. It's what they are for.'(From an interview with an imprisoned rapist, quoted in Bart & O'Brien, Stopping Rape: Successful Survival Strategies, Oxford, Permagon, 1985, p.100.)

We must counter expectations of submission and ineffectiveness with a few little surprises of our own, such as commitment to self-determination, explosiveness, effectiveness and ruthlessness, if necessary. We must use all the strategies at our disposal. A woman willing to fight back effectively will come as a big shock to most men.

The bad news is that, if we haven't heeded our early warning signs or are caught totally unprepared, it's much harder to combat an assailant.


- Distraction
This is closely linked to the element of surprise. Most attackers are going to be bigger and stronger than the women they are attacking. Our ability to distract may be defined as the way we can stop this larger and stronger force from being directed towards us and deflect it into something else, even if momentarily, in order to give us a chance to escape.

Distractions may be divided into a number of different categories here are some examples:


You may be able to talk an assailant out of his intention. Some approaches that have proved effective include getting the rapist to identify with your humanity: 'How would you feel if this were happening to your sister, daughter, mother?'. Tune into your intuition to see what you can detect about the attackers emotions and areas of vulnerability. One woman talked her attacker down by saying, 'You look like nobody has ever listened to you'. The woman then proceeded to counsel her attacker, thus redirecting his energies into dealing with his emotions.

Claiming to have an infectious disease such as AIDS, herpes, or VD has also proven effective in dissuading a would-be rapist.

A distinction needs to be drawn between talking your way out of a situation and pleading or begging. Beseeching has been shown to be a pretty useless tactic because it reaffirms your position as the victim, the very position that your attacker desires to put you in. Pleading doesn't act as a deterrent at all, rather it often encourages the situation to develop. Generally, talking your way out of a situation has proven less effective than actively fighting back with commitment and intention.


When we were small children loud noise was one of our fears. This fear remains with us as adults and can be used as a primary distraction tool. The noise may be either your own screams and yells, or it can come from something breaking, or even from an external coincidental noise over which you have no control. I have been told of several incidents where a car back firing, a window breaking, a TV set thrown down and exploding, or a siren happening to sound in the vicinity have each been sufficient to make an attacker flee. Distraction can be creative. You never know what night work.

One woman who was attacked by a man in a balaclava managed to escape once she was already pinned down on the ground. She told her attacker that she was having her period and she to 'fix herself up'. He raised up off her just enough so she could kick him in the groin with enough power to propel him across the room.


Seeking and accepting outside help is very important. It's much better to get someone to help you than to deal with the situation alone.

Don't misinterpret this statement to mean that you don't need to develop your own resources to their optimum. You do. What I mean is, this if you don't have to put yourself at risk by fighting someone off, then don't. Part of your survival technique should be to attract the attention of someone who can help you particularly the authorities.

Many women have told me that they get no response from just screaming, as many people don't take this seriously or don't want to get involved and place themselves at risk. It has been suggested that victims yell 'Fire' instead of 'Help', since it's more likely to attract attention. There may be some kind of code system you could develop within your community so that a certain word shouted loudly can mean someone is in trouble.


If you are in your own home take advantage of the fact that you know your way around and the attacker doesn't. Always assess the exit points for a potential escape route. Remember anything and everything can be brandished as a weapon if you don't want o strike the attacker with your fist or foot. You may use dirt from a pot plant to throw in their eyes, or you could break the television or a window in order to attract attention and possibly external intervention, as well as quite likely alarming your attacker. It's wise once your early warning signs have started to tingle to start assessing potential weapons, escape routes and rescuers who could intervene between you and the attacker.

A list of potential weapons might include keys wedged between your fingers, a nail file, an alarm, an umbrella, scissors, a comb, a hatpin, spray perfume, rolled up newspaper, and any heavy object that can be used as a missile or a club. You could be carrying a veritable arsenal in your handbag.

Men are often afraid of male authority, so when possible threaten to attract the attention of someone who seems to have authority (for instance, someone in uniform - a security guard, bus driver, police officer).


This is a fairly obvious and highly successful strategy. The best thing you can do if you sense danger is to leave or run away In one case recounted in Stopping Rape, a man approached a woman from behind and held a sharp object to her back, saying that she would be alright if she didn't try to put up a fight. Instead, she fled immediately upon being attacked and thereby avoided being raped. (Bart & O'Brien, p.43.)


This is not a conclusive list of self defence tips for women these are just a few. A more comprehensive listing is available in Penny Gulliver's Self Defence Handbook for Women published by Hale and Iremonger, ISBN 0 86806 497 1

Contact Penny Gulliver 0411 808 451 to order the book or email