It seems like violent crime is everywhere these days. From the local nightly news to the front page of the morning paper, we are constantly reminded that we live in a dangerous and unpredictable world. Crime statistics confirm these reports – according to the FBI, there were a reported 1,390,695 violent crimes in 2005. Today, it’s more important than ever to be able to defend yourself if it becomes necessary. But what exactly does “self-defense” mean? Is it about being bigger and tougher than a potential attacker? Does it mean carrying a gun in your purse? Not all of us are capable of fighting back physically, and sometimes fighting can make your situation more dangerous. Plus the laws concerning self-defense can be tricky – lethal self-defense is not always the solution from a legal point of view, no matter how frightened you may be in a situation. Your Best Defense The key to self-defense is preparation. You don’t have to be paranoid, and you don’t have to carry a gun. The best way to defend yourself is to be aware of your surroundings and to know what to do if you feel threatened or unsafe. Here are some things you can do to avoid being a victim: • Be aware of your surroundings. Always pay attention and observe what’s going on around you. Criminals often choose victims who appear to be preoccupied or distracted. • Avoid isolated places. Whether you’re finding a parking spot at the mall or going out for an evening stroll, make a point to be around other people. You’re significantly less likely to be attacked if you are in a well-lit, high-traffic area. • Trust your instincts. Don’t worry about seeming paranoid. If a person or situation doesn’t seem right to you, get away immediately and tell someone. You’re far less likely to become a victim of a violent crime if you’re alert and aware. Unfortunately, there’s no 100% guarantee. For a little extra peace of mind, you may want to consider some additional non-lethal self-defense options: • Pepper spray: A small but powerful deterrent. It causes temporary blindness, difficulty breathing, and an intense burning sensation. Spraying an attacker with pepper spray gives you extra time to get away and get help. • Stun guns: Stun guns are available in a variety of sizes and deliver a powerful jolt of electricity that temporarily disables an attacker for several minutes. • Personal alarms: A personal alarm or panic sensor can be worn around the neck and pressed if you’re in a dangerous situation. The noise can startle and scare away an attacker – and it draws attention to you. By staying alert and using non-lethal self-defense products, you are minimizing your risk of becoming a victim. You don’t have to live in fear. A little preparation can help you feel empowered in an unpredictable world.