Say ‘No’ To Street Harassment: A Lankan Girl’s Starter Guide To Self-Defense - Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka
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Say ‘No’ To Street Harassment: A Lankan Girl’s Starter Guide To Self-Defense

‘Cause our streets are not always hearts and flowers!

Pamod Nilru

There’s no denying that Sri Lanka is an island paradise. But underneath all this beauty there’s an inevitable sense of insecurity drilled into all of us from a very young age. Be it walking past a huddle of men, a busy street in broad daylight or using any of the modes of public transport, we’re always on our toes, ready to spring. We never know what will be flung at us and in what form.

We’ve all been there, from being subjected to outbursts of profanity on a daily basis to severe cases of harassment at least once in our lives. Therefore, if there’s one thing us Lankan girls are good at, it’s knowing how to maneuver through crowds of men, their catcalls and sleazy attempts at getting a handful. But, since we all agree on the phrase ‘better safe than sorry,’ we sat down for a chat with our March 2017 Cosmo Guy, Naveen Abeysinghe, to find out how we can deal with such hindrances. With a black belt in Karate to his name, we couldn’t think of a better person than this martial artist for our discussion.

Q/ What should a woman carry on herself as a safety precaution that could be doubled as a weapon?

A/ Don’t even think about a weapon if you don’t know how to use it. All you’ll be doing is providing the assailant with resources. The same applies to pepper spray; always be sure of yourself because we want to avoid a situation where you might drop the can and have it roll right up to your enemy’s feet! Now we don’t want that, do we?

Objects you carry around or things in the environment can be used as weapons. This can be as simple as holding a key or pen in between your middle and ring finger to tossing some dirt or sand into your attacker’s eyes. Even something as small as a safety pin can be super handy.

Q/ What should we keep an eye-out for during a situation that might take a turn for the bad?

A/ To prevent such situations, it might take more than just being vigilant about your surroundings. A fair knowledge of body language would be helpful here. Try studying the behaviour of the person, and identify any potential threats. This is obviously a very vast area, so it’s best to read up on this topic. I would suggest referring to The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, a perfect read which talks about many interesting facts, including PINS (Pre-Incident Indicators).

A few tips:

Watch out for someone giving out too many details. If someone is lying, they will always add extra, unrelated information.

Not everyone who acts nice and polite is a gentleman.

Discounting the word “NO”. This could be a psychological attempt to not accept rejection.

Please consider that not everyone might have the intent of harming you, while those who do might most likely give out some clear hints. 

Pamod Nilru

Q/ It doesn’t really make sense to remember a certain routine or complicated karate chops when you’re in a threatened situation. So where do you suggest attacking first in such a situation and why?

A/ Fair enough!

If the case is to avoid confrontation try handing over your wallet, jewellery or whatever they want (not yourself most surely) and defuse the situation. I know, I know, doesn’t sound very heroic, but let’s not forget that nothing you own is more valuable than your life or health.

However, I would stress you equip yourself with at least some BASIC self-defense practices for situations where violence is unavoidable. 

If you are to confront your attacker, you only have a window of a few seconds and a couple of moves to execute before the ending is decided. The key is to never let the attacker have full control over you. Target the places where most of the damage can be done. Use your body’s bony built-in-weapons such as the elbows, knees and head. The nose, eyes, neck, knee and the all-time favourite—the groin (ouch)!

If it comes to a point where you feel an escape is not possible, shout loudly and push back. This will be a signal for help, and also get the attacker to not perceive you as an easy target. It might not always work, but getting loud will definitely warn away anyone looking for easy prey.

Now ladies, make, eyes, neck, groin your daily mantra. And don’t hesitate to let them sleazy gropers know that it’s not okay to mess with you. Let them know that you’re not going to keep your calm and ignore their attempts just because you’re woman!

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