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Today begins our monthly personal safety column penned by Michael Mercer of Michael Mercer Consulting. This retired police officer is now a crime prevention consultant with 30 years of experience preventing crimes against people, businesses, and properties. His offering includes prevention consulting, instructional classes, and educational programs. Mercer is a certified SABRE Personal Safety Academy Instructor.
We are beginning the second semester for most American schools. I felt we needed a reminder of the dangers that present at our schools and social events that go along with this time of year. Attending school and participating in leisure activities away from home are considered the two activities that result in higher occurrences of violence. The study by the U.S. Department of Justice,”Risks of Violence in Major Daily Activities” indicates leisure activity is more dangerous than attending school, but both activities are more dangerous than working or shopping.
The heightened risk of violence for students is likely due to the fact that this activity concentrates young people of the offending age in time and space. Among undergraduate students 23.1% of females and 5.4% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation, according to NCVS-National Crime Victimization Survey.
The high risk of violence during leisure activity can be attributed to the fact that it is most likely to involve the consumption of alcohol more than any other away-from-home activity examined. Thus persons participating in leisure activities may (a) be in the presence of intoxicated persons, (b) be intoxicated themselves, and/or (c) participate in this activity at a high-risk location such as a bar. Because alcohol consumption can lower the inhibitions of offenders and the situational awareness of victims [NOTE: victims are never at fault for being assaulted], leisure is an example of an everyday activity that provides an opportunity structure for violence.
In short, compared to other activities at home the risk of violence while attending school is nearly four times higher and the risk during leisure activity is almost five times higher. These results indicate that while away from home, the risk of violence Americans are exposed to depends on the activities they participate in as some activities are much more dangerous than others.
In 1998, rape victims took self-protective measures in 86.7% of the cases. “Rape victims were more likely to defend themselves than assault or robbery victims.”3
“In fact, the most often used strategy for avoiders (of rape) appears to have been a combination of screaming and use of physical resistance.”4
If you feel threatened, scream — because when you are screaming you are breathing. When you are breathing, you are oxygenating your blood so you can continue good blood flow to your brain and muscles.
In a worst-case scenario, remember: Scream. Spray. Run away.
1 Ms. Magazine Study on Sexual Assault and Rape
2 United States Dept.of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics
3 Criminal Victimization in the United States, 1988
4 Bart, P. & O’Brien, P.(1985). Stopping Rape: Successful Survival Strategies. Pergamon Press, New York.