Defending yourself against assault

November 16, 2009 8:01:27 AM PST
The recent increase in attacks on women in and around Philadelphia no doubt has many women wondering how best to protect themselves. Action news has checked in with local and state police, as well as a local professional who teaches urban defense."He came up from behind and grabbed me up my skirt. I turned around and hit him and yelled at him and he said he had a knife," said this unidentified victim.

Action News is not identifying this victim who spoke with us exclusively.

She used mace to fight off her attacker.

The assault happened August 29-th. It was dark and raining when she was approached as she tried to enter her home. "I wasn't going to let him in my apartment, that was never an option," added the victim.

"Sexual assault or money that is what most criminals want," said Lawrence Whitaker with the Urban Defense Center.

Whitaker teaches an urban safety and awareness program in Northern Liberties.

It combines real-life strategies for street safety.

"Making sure you look around before you get to your door especially living downtown in the city. Also, having the right key in your hand to get into the door. And to make that noise (screams)," said Whitaker. He also shared other safety tips with us, to help fend off a possible assault, including using that house key as a weapon.

"If he was to come up behind her and she did have the key she could turn and poke him in the eye with the key," he added.

According to Whitaker being prepared is your best line of defense but he says weapons like pepper spray and mace, although legal to use, can produce a false security.

"Most woman don't have a chance to use mace so they haven't had a chance to practice to see how it works," he said.

And when walking on a dark street Whitaker advices his clients walk with a purpose in fast and confident steps. He also teaches women to use shadows as their rear view mirror and: "Have your bag secure with you and have your cell phone separate from your bag," he added.

And if you text or talk on the phone don't do it while walking.

It not only limits your vision but it's also unsafe.

Now, when it comes to giving up property, Whitaker says give the assailant what he wants: "If he asks for the purse, give him the purse, you don't want to die over property. If its about the money, give him the money. If its about your watch, give him your watch. If its about your car, give him the car," Whitaker said.

Your main goal is to cooperate and escape, and if possible, avoid confrontation: "If you throw your purse he could still come get you or tell you to pick it up. Don't throw anything at me! This is a different kind of criminal," and adds: "Young guys today don't want to be disrespected, how dare you throw this wallet at me? Now you can get hurt."

But if you are forced to defend yourself here are some basic self defense moves.

"One of the moves most men will do is try to grab a woman by her neck this move goes just like so (shows move)" "Your hands are the most important weapons you have," he said.

They can also help block and create personal space.

Again, if you must defend yourself, strike where it hurts most: The eyes, neck, groin, shins, and feet.

"I recommend people to fight I recommend people to fight for your life," Whitaker said.

It is important to note that in most states it is legal to carry a pocket knife, 3 inches long or less, but Whitacker advises against it. He says most women won't know how to use, and it could be used against them.

Lawrence Whitaker's urban defense class runs an hour-and-a-half for $150 for 4 to 8 women. He will come to your home.

State-by-state rundown:
Pennsylvania weapons laws

New Jersey weapons laws

Definitions
"Gravity knife" means any knife which has a blade which is released from the handle or sheath thereof by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force.

"Switchblade knife" means any knife or similar device which has a blade which opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in the handle of the knife.

"Weapon" means anything readily capable of lethal use or of inflicting serious bodily injury. The term includes, but is not limited to, all (1) firearms, even though not loaded or lacking a clip or other component to render them immediately operable; (2) components which can be readily assembled into a weapon; (3) gravity knives, switchblade knives, daggers, dirks, stilettos, or other dangerous knives, billies, blackjacks, bludgeons, metal knuckles, sandclubs, slingshots, cesti or similar leather bands studded with metal filings or razor blades imbedded in wood; and (4) stun guns; and any weapon or other device which projects, releases, or emits tear gas or any other substance intended to produce temporary physical discomfort or permanent injury through being vaporized or otherwise dispensed in the air.

"Ballistic knife" means any weapon or other device capable of lethal use and which can propel a knife blade.

Prohibited weapons and devices.

Destructive devices. Any person who knowingly has in his possession any destructive device is guilty of a crime of the third degree.

Sawed-off shotguns. Any person who knowingly has in his possession any sawed-off shotgun is guilty of a crime of the third degree.

Silencers. Any person who knowingly has in his possession any firearm silencer is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.

Defaced firearms. Any person who knowingly has in his possession any firearm which has been defaced, except an antique firearm or an antique handgun, is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.

Certain weapons. Any person who knowingly has in his possession any gravity knife, switchblade knife, dagger, dirk, stiletto, billy, blackjack, metal knuckle, sandclub, slingshot, cestus or similar leather band studded with metal filings or razor blades imbedded in wood, ballistic knife, without any explainable lawful purpose, is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.

Stun guns. Any person who knowingly has in his possession any stun gun is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.

Handcuffs. Any person who knowingly has in his possession handcuffs as defined in P.L. 1991, c. 437 (C.§ 2C:39-9.2), under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for such lawful uses as handcuffs may have, is guilty of a disorderly persons offense. A law enforcement officer shall confiscate handcuffs possessed in violation of the law.

Unlawful possession of weapons

Machine guns. Any person who knowingly has in his possession a machine gun or any instrument or device adaptable for use as a machine gun, without being licensed to do so as provided in N.J.S.§ 2C:58-5, is guilty of a crime of the second degree.

Handguns. Any person who knowingly has in his possession any handgun, including any antique handgun, without first having obtained a permit to carry the same as provided in N.J.S.§ 2C:58-4, is guilty of a crime of the third degree if the handgun is in the nature of an air gun, spring gun or pistol or other weapon of a similar nature in which the propelling force is a spring, elastic band, carbon dioxide, compressed or other gas or vapor, air or compressed air, or is ignited by compressed air, and ejecting a bullet or missile smaller than three-eighths of an inch in diameter, with sufficient force to injure a person. Otherwise it is a crime of the second degree.

Rifles and shotguns. (1) Any person who knowingly has in his possession any rifle or shotgun without having first obtained a firearms purchaser identification card in accordance with the provisions of N.J.S.§ 2C:58-3, is guilty of a crime of the third degree. (2) Unless otherwise permitted by law, any person who knowingly has in his possession any loaded rifle or shotgun is guilty of a crime of the third degree.

Other weapons. Any person who knowingly has in his possession any other weapon under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for such lawful uses as it may have is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.

Exemptions

Nothing in N.J.S.§ 2C:39-5 shall be construed to prevent any person who is 18 years of age or older and who has not been convicted of a felony, from possession for the purpose of personal self-defense of one pocket-sized device which contains and releases not more than three-quarters of an ounce of chemical substance not ordinarily capable of lethal use or of inflicting serious bodily injury, but rather, is intended to produce temporary physical discomfort or disability through being vaporized or otherwise dispensed in the air. Any person in possession of any device in violation of this subsection shall be deemed and adjudged to be a disorderly person, and upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not less than $100.00.

Sale of knives to minors; crime of the fourth degree; exceptions

A person who sells any hunting, fishing, combat or survival knife having a blade length of five inches or more or an overall length of 10 inches or more to a person under 18 years of age commits a crime of the fourth degree; except that the establishment by a preponderance of the evidence of all of the following facts by a person making the sale shall constitute an affirmative defense to any prosecution therefor: a. that the purchaser falsely represented his age by producing a driver's license bearing a photograph of the licensee, or by producing a photographic identification card issued pursuant to section 2 of P.L. 1980, c. 47 (C.§ 39:3-29.3), or by producing a similar card purporting to be a valid identification card indicating that he was 18 years of age or older, and b. that the appearance of the purchaser was such that an ordinary prudent person would believe him to be 18 years of age or older, and c. that the sale was made in good faith relying upon the indicators of age listed in a. and b. above.

Sale of handcuffs to minors, prohibited

A person who sells handcuffs to a person under 18 years of age is guilty of a disorderly persons offense. A law enforcement officer shall confiscate handcuffs sold in violation of the law. As used in this section, "handcuffs" mean a device, conventionally used for law enforcement purposes, that can be tightened and locked about the wrists for the purpose of restraining a person's movement.

Side note:
New Jersey State Police recommend Pepper Spray over Mace. They say Pepper Spray is 96% effective if used properly. Mace is not as effective the State Police claim and does not work on many animals.

Delaware weapons laws

Definitions "Dangerous instrument" means any instrument, article or substance which, under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used or threatened to be used, is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury, or any disabling chemical spray, as defined in paragraph (6) of this section or any electronic control devices including but not limited to a neuromuscular incapacitation device designed to incapacitate a person.

"Deadly weapon" includes a "firearm", as defined in paragraph (12) of this section, a bomb, a knife of any sort (other than an ordinary pocketknife carried in a closed position), switchblade knife, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, metal knuckles, slingshot, razor, bicycle chain or ice pick or any "dangerous instrument", as defined in paragraph (4) of this section, which is used, or attempted to be used, to cause death or serious physical injury. For the purpose of this definition, an ordinary pocketknife shall be a folding knife having a blade not more than 3 inches in length.

"Disabling chemical spray" includes mace, tear gas, pepper spray or any other mixture containing quantities thereof, or any other aerosol spray or any liquid, gaseous or solid substance capable of producing temporary physical discomfort, disability or injury through being vaporized or otherwise dispersed in the air, or any cannister, container or device designed or intended to carry, store or disperse such aerosol spray or such gas or solid.

"Electronic control device" is a device designed to incapacitate a person, including but not limited to a neuromuscular incapacitation device.


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