How to Defend Yourself 101

Street attacks, harassment, and assault is an issue that affects 65 percent of women today. Female Awareness founder Gabrielle Rubin gave us tips on how to protect yourself, both before and after an attack.

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(Image credit: Archive)

80 percent of female victims of rape or sexual assault are attacked by someone they know, according to the Women's Center. However, it's just as important to remain prepared for that other 20 percent: an attack from a stranger. Gabrielle Rubin, founder of the Female Awareness self defense course, says that the root of dealing with street harassment comes not only from knowing how to defend yourself, but from displaying confidence as well.

"They're looking for an easy target, someone they don't think will fight back," Rubin says. "A woman who is rocking some confidence down the street is probably going to put up a fight."

Confidence is the first step towards protecting yourself, but there are plenty of things to do beyond that to stay safe.

Gabrielle's Top 5 Tips to Stop Yourself from Being a Target:

1. Stay off the phone. It may feel safer to call someone on your way home, but resist the urge. Talking on the phone leaves you distracted, without peripheral vision and with only one hand free in case of an attack. Keep your friend or significant other informed by calling them before you head out.

2. Keep your bag on your less dominant shoulder. "Our lives are in our bags," Rubin says. "So if we're faced with a scary situation, we're going to hold onto that bag with everything we have." You don't need your strong arm to grip your purse—you need it to fight off your attacker.

3. Don't advertise your purchases. If you're using a luxe looking bag (perhaps from your prized pair of shoes that left you eating ramen for a month) to tote around your dry cleaning, you're potentially making yourself more of a target.

4. Learn how to exude confidence. Treat the sidewalk like your own personal runway, Rubin says. Keep your head high and your posture straight, have a good pace in your walk—owning it on the street says to an attacker that you're not someone to best messed with.

5. Use your "lion's roar." Your voice is your best weapon, Rubin says. If your voice has some intensity, volume, and attitude, you can use it before an attacker lays a finger on you, and it gets others involved in your defense.

Gabrielle's Top 5 Tips To Fight Off An Attacker

1. If you're being attacked, you have to fight back. Whatever your level of strength is, everyone has a move in their arsenal; whether it's because of their age, body type, or fitness habits. Don't think—react, Rubin says.

2. Turn what you think is working against you into something that works for you. Your high heels may keep your from running away from your attacker at a quick speed, but bring your knee up and slam that pointy tip into your attacker's foot, and you've just made your weakness your best asset. Turn your handbag or your chunky jewelry into a defensive item.

3. Hit your attacker where it hurts. If your attacker has you in a chokehold, don't reach for his arms, but instead use your knee to hit him in the groin or the knee.

4. If you're going to carry a "safety item," make sure you know how to use it. Items like a such as mace or pepper spray can harm you too, so be sure you're comfortable enough to break it out in an emergency without hurting yourself in the process. And if you're going to carry it, keep it close at hand—attackers won't give you the time to riffle through your purse to find it.

5. When in doubt, bitch slap. One of Rubin's go-to strikes is the bitch slap. If someone grabs you around the neck or collar, straighten your arm, lock your elbows, and ram your hand into his ear at full force.

Diana Pearl

I'm an Associate Editor at the Business of Fashion, where I edit and write stories about the fashion and beauty industries. Previously, I was the brand editor at Adweek, where I was the lead editor for Adweek's brand and retail coverage. Before my switch to business journalism, I was a writer/reporter at, where I wrote news posts, galleries and articles for PEOPLE magazine's website. My work has been published on,,,, and in Every Day with Rachael Ray. It has been syndicated by,, and, among other publications. Previously, I've worked at,, and