Women's self-defence - Renato Skofac

Women’s self-defence – does that even work?

We all can at some point get exposed to threats and potentially dangerous situations where we can get assaulted, mugged or even worse, no matter where we live or how much money we earn. The world is not a perfect place, far from it and the streets are not always safe. There might be differences in the number of violent attacks, rapes and stabbings if you compare a metropolis like London, New York, Paris or Berlin with smaller cities, but still, one cannot say that it is really safe anywhere, especially if you are a woman! This article is about personal safety and self-defence for women, as they, unfortunately, represent one of the most vulnerable groups in our society, being exposed to abuse, violence and crime in a different way than men are. By that I mean of course all forms of sexual harassment, psychological and physical abuse and rape.
sexual harassment

Violence against women is widespread…

It is incredibly sad that in times when we can look back on so many amazing achievements of our modern society, it is still necessary to address violence and crimes against women as a problem that is widespread throughout the world like a contagious disease. It really doesn’t matter where in the world you are, it just happens everywhere. What shocks me most, is that many women are not even safe in their own homes! Statistics say that 1 out of 3 women experiences violence and sexual abuse in her life, sadly often from her own partner. These numbers leave me speechless, as a man, a husband and a father! Another shocking statistic is the fact that around 90% of all sexual assaults and rapes are committed by someone the victim knew and trusted! It is therefore also a reality that self-defence alone is clearly not the answer to all these threats. I have meanwhile initiated a dedicated project that is trying to address this issue with more in-depth research and advice on the prevention of sexual assault. As I am teaching self-defence classes for years now, and although not specially intended to be self-defence for women, it does make me proud to say that my course participants have over the years mostly been women.
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security tips travel safety

Traveling for work? Who takes care of your safety?

Traveling for work can be sometimes a welcome alternative to sitting in an office day in, day out. But anyone who travels frequently will tell you that it has also it’s downsides. For one, it can be very tiring to constantly travel, after all you are not a tourist, you have work to do as anyone in an office has too, but you also have planes to catch, you do calls and online meetings in taxis between hotels and airports. You often respond to emails late in the evening in the hotel, in other words, days can be very long. If you are away a lot, you also miss out on social interaction with family, friends or colleagues, so it can be hard at times, even depressing. But traveling for work also comes with an increased risk for your personal safety, regardless where you travel to. Now let me ask you, have you ever really given it some deeper thought about your personal safety when traveling? I ask this, because I believe that most people actually don’t!  I will therefore cover here first some very basic travel routines to what we would consider “safe” destinations. I will also address in more detail the issue of “high risk” traveling in a separate post.

So, even if your travel destinations don’t fall into the “high risk” category, there are still potential threats and dangers everyone should be aware of. It is not my intention to make traveling look like an mission impossible, I simply want to raise your awareness to some of the situations that have frequently happened to other travelers before and therefore a certain likelihood of repetition exists. Let’s start with the essential then, shall we? Before your travel check the current situation in the country, are there any severe weather conditions, health concerns and diseases or political situations that might lead to conflicts, civil unrest or protests. Familiarize yourself with the local customs, religion, worth of the local currency and learn at least a few basic words in the local language such as “hello” and “thank you”. Avoid speaking about political or religious subjects, that way you prevent getting in trouble by saying something wrong or provoking, that locals might find offensive.

The most valuable items you carry with you on a trip are usually your passport, credit cards, your laptop and your mobile phone. Without your passport you are stranded and probably won’t be able to leave the country, loosing your credit card might put you in the unpleasant situation that you can’t pay your hotel and other bills, the laptop usually contains sensitive company data and the mobile phone has become in the smart phone age the most vital personal item, as almost anything runs on an mobile app nowadays. Most people probably don’t even know their own phone number out of the head anymore, not to mention anyone else’s contact details. Now imagine yourself in the situation that you are somewhere in a foreign country and some of this essential items get lost or stolen. Do you realize in what kind of trouble you would be in? Therefore make copies of your travel documents and itineraries, keep them separate in different bags, ideally also leave copies back at home so someone can access them for you if needed. Taking a picture of your luggage before check-in, makes things a lot easier if your bags get lost.

Safeguarding your essential belongings

You probably think now that all is common knowledge, you don’t need a security expert to tell you that. True, I totally agree, my intention was simply to raise your awareness and give you some simple advice on how to avoid that such things happen to you. Personally, I like to travel light with only one bag I can always take with me on the plane. If I have to travel with more bags, all the important items are with me on the plane, that eliminates the risk of losing important items should my luggage get lost at the airport. I use a travel backpack which is very handy and it has so many nice pockets, but make sure you don’t put anything important in the little handy pockets on the outside of the bag. They are very tempting as they are so easy accessible, but unfortunately they are also for anyone else and you wouldn’t even feel if someone would open it standing behind you. Trust me, pickpockets are very proficient in what hey do and for those who think where they would possibly meet such a daring thief, well try to think like one for a moment. If you live in a country that is economically weak but is visited by a lot of foreign tourists and travelers, you would probably also come to the conclusion that they are perfect victims, because they all come loaded with money, credit cards, passports, smart phones and other valuables with them. Now can you think of a location where many of them hang around and are easy to identify? Ideally a very crowded place so it’s easy for you to blend in, somewhere where anyone has access to without any questions asked and with many exits making it easy for you to flee the scene safely. Do you know such a place? An airport, bingo!

So, for obvious reasons, except my laptop, I keep passport, wallet and phones always on me. I have a system in which pocket I put what, preferably inside jacket pockets that can be closed with a zipper, so nothing can fall out accidentally while getting out of the seats or reaching for bags. It is also very simple to check if everything is still there, as I know exactly where everything is supposed to be. Some people prefer to have a small travel bag they keep on them, that has become a “thing” nowadays for men lately, so if you find that handy, go for it. But, and here it comes of course, the special expert advice, if you keep all your credit cards in a wallet, loosing it would mean loosing it all. I like to take one out and put it in another place, maybe hide it inside your backpack, I also always have some emergency money there, some 30-50 EUR cash to be able to get to the hotel or somewhere in case I loose my wallet. If you have some old credit cards keep them in your wallet along with some small amount of cash which you can hand over in the event of you being mugged, keep your main (company) credit card separately in a different place.

I hope I don’t need to say that a travelers bag, including your backpack should have a label with your name and contact details on it. I wouldn’t necessarily put my address on there, I don’t think anyone “normal” would send my belongings to my home address. Also write your name and contact details on a note and leave it in your suitcase on top of your clothes, should the name tag on the luggage get lost or ripped off. If you lose your luggage, or let’s say someone steals it, takes out whatever valuable he finds inside it and then throws it away or leaves it, if you have your name, phone number and an email address on it, that should be enough to get in touch with you. If you work for a well know company, don’t use your business email address, because that might bring the thief to ideas digging deeper what valuable data might be on the laptop, etc. As for the phone, many people carry actually two phones with them, a private and a company phone. Due to company restrictions on the use of apps etc. a dual SIM phone is no solution for many of us, so you might have two, I do so too. Despite the hassle of carrying two phones, that is actually a good thing from a security perspective, that is of course if you don’t keep them together in the same travel bag. Make sure you copy the most important phone numbers on both phones, and also write all important contact numbers down somewhere, should your phone get stolen or lost, you need to be able to contact at least your superior, family members or colleagues, the corporate security line or dedicated SOS number, and eventually local authorities. 

Hotel safety during your trip

When you are at the hotel, there is usually some CCTV installed and good hotels are well managed and really gives you that feeling of comfort and security, however, you should never rely on that! A big hotel might have hundreds of employees and they are usually not very well paid, especially when you travel to countries where the life standard is lower. If someone among the staff is dishonest, it is easy enough for them to figure out where potentially interesting customers are accommodated, how to avoid being caught on camera and even when you are outside the room. When people mention the term “organized crime” most people think of big and brutal criminal organizations. During my career I had the opportunity to discover several structured and very well organized little groups of employees, that had set up a very lucrative side business for themselves inside their companies, without anyone knowing for years! It is therefore important never to leave your valuables unattended in the hotel room, not even when you just go for breakfast or for a short drink at the hotel bar. Most decent hotels have a safe in the room and they are free to use, so use them! They are big enough to fit a few laptops, a camera or things like passports and wallets if you don’t need them and will successfully protect your belongings from thieves that just randomly try their luck. Should they manage to force open the safe, and they are not of the highest quality or are sometimes just attached to some furniture, you can at least say that you locked it all away. Should your belongings disappear from the hotel room and your manager asks you why you haven’t used the hotel’s safe, you won’t be able to explain that reasonable. By the way, that also applies to the wife and she has probably no technical knowledge what so ever. Should there be no safe in your room or it is not big enough for your laptop to fit, usually hotels have also a bigger safe somewhere beside the lobby and even if not, they have security on site and are certainly willing to look after your laptop, bag or whatever you might have with you that might be of some importance or value to you. The same rules also apply for leaving your bag in someones someones office, or maybe car, that one is really easy, DON’T! EVER!

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FREE professional security advice by Renato Skofac

Professional security tips!

There are certainly already many blogs about security advice out there, so you might wonder why did I think the world would need another one? Well, I have spent now some 25+ years working in the security industry and counting, mostly protecting businesses, politicians, corporations. Whenever I was able to work with ordinary people, helping them to protect their homes or teaching them how to defend themselves and their loved ones, my work had a REAL MEANING! I felt that I was doing something good and useful and that made me feel good in return.

Do you need to protect yourself?

Despite all the progress of our modern society, the world we live in can at times still be a dangerous place! There are many threats and dangers to our lives, many of which most people are not even aware of. I’ve created rssecurity.tips to help with FREE professional security advice on the subjects of personal safety and home security. I might sound like an idealist, but I believe that a few good people can make a difference, so I am trying to be one of those. Even if what I do cannot change the world, if it only might help one person, it was absolutely worth the effort!

Should you be taking your safety in your own hands?

Although for me the answer to this question is very obvious, I am aware that some of you might actually be still in doubt. As a law obeying citizen, you are being taught to rely on law and justice provided by the government. Think about that just for a moment, the law is only being enforced AFTER a crime has already happened, correct? The reality is, that no government can afford to put a police officer in front of everyone’s house, to ensure that everyone is safe. Our justice system, like many others, is based on punishment with fines and serving time in prison. That should scare lawbreakers off and make crime less appealing to them.

Now do I really need to say how effective this system is in reality? Not only do many crimes not get solved ever, but even if the criminals get caught, very often they walk away unpunished. The jails are crowded and therefore for certain crimes they do not even get sentenced anymore.

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