After she survived a sexual assault, Avital Zeisler’s life did a 360. A professional ballerina before her attack, she’s since dedicated herself to showing women how they can protect themselves from being victimized—whether on the street or in their own home. Zeisler trained with self-defense experts and top security officials, then created her own empowerment program that focuses on mental tricks to recognize and avoid being victimized as well as physical moves that can disable an assailant, so you can get away. On the heels of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Zeisler shares three crucial things to know ahead of time to prevent an attack—and what you can do in the moment to save your life.
Clue in to Your Surroundings
It’s hard to resist scrolling through texts or cranking up an inspiring playlist when you’re walking down the street, stuck in traffic, or on your morning jog. But being distracted from your immediate environment ups your odds of becoming a target. So unplug, open your eyes and ears, and clue in to what’s going on around you—note the people on the street, if there’s foot or car traffic, and whether you can quickly dart in to a nearby house or store in case a creep appears. You’ll get good at sizing up potentially threatening situations—and getting out of them before anything happens.
Imagine How You’d React
You know how a fire drill familiarizes you with what to do to make it out of a real blaze? It’s the same principal here. Visualizing yourself being threatened by an attacker ahead of time lets you do a mental run-through of the right way to respond in the moment. That would be by staying calm, looking for an escape route, and then, if necessary, physically fighting your attacker off. Sure it sounds scary—who wants to think about being victimized? But it’ll actually help you come up with practical, effective responses you’ll remember if it happens.
Use Force as a Last Resort
Fighting back raises the stakes. But if an attacker is approaching and there’s nowhere to run, it’s an option that can save your life—thanks to the force of the blow combined with the element of surprise. Memorize and practice these easy, effective, no-black belt-required moves now, so you’re prepared.
Shin Kick: Lift your leg and drive the length of your shin to your attacker’s groin, drawing on the strength of your hips for more power.
Palm Strike: Drive your outer palm into your attacker's chin, nose, or jaw. As you push upward, draw on your core muscles to deliver as much force as possible.