How Women Can Stay Safe in Car Parks
Another (attempted) assault on a lone female in a car park in Malaysia has female drivers on alert. Automologist LING shares her tips for staying safe while in the car park, and hope readers will share theirs too.
There is a recent viral video in Malaysia of a young woman cautioning viewers, after what she believe was an attempted robbery at a supermarket. She had parked her car when she noticed a guy leaning against a pillar nearby. Her suspicion was aroused and she had the right mind to stay in her car, with the doors still locked. When he saw that she was not leaving the car, the predator approached her vehicle and tried to open the door. She immediately drove away, and luckily was unharmed. See the video here (in Chinese).
If you are from my neck of the woods (Malaysia), you would remember the case of Canny Ong, which shook the nation back in 2003. Canny was kidnapped from the parking area of an upscale neighbourhood mall in Kuala Lumpur, and subsequently raped, murdered and burnt. Her case would not be the last of its kind here. While car parks have improved a lot since the tragic case—better lighting, emergency buttons, female-only parking sections, regular guard patrols—the perceived weaker sex continue to be preyed upon there.
I have, in my time as a writer, been fortunate enough to interview a security consultant and a self-defence coach, both who have shared tips on how I can (try to) stay safe in situations such as this. Here they are, plus some of my own: –
1. BE & LOOK ALERT
The young woman in the viral video was aware of her surrounding before she even exited the car, which was what kept her unharmed. Predators select easy victims—no different from animals do—preferring the lone, distracted and weak-looking ones.
Do not fiddle with or talk on your phone in the car park. Instead, look around you and at the people around you. Body language also conveys strength and weakness, so hold yourself erect, with your chin up. I tend to look like I’m ready to punch someone—hey, better to look mean than be assaulted.
2. DO NOT VISIT THE ATM BEFORE HEADING TO THE CAR PARK
Robbers are opportunists. They would likely target those who just withdrew money from the ATM and head straight to the car park. If you must, withdraw money when you just arrive at the mall—the robber would be less likely to (though not never) follow you around the mall while you shop and dine, and have to wait for an opportunity to rob you.
I also prefer to use my Touch n’ Go to pay for the car park fee—since I don’t have to fumble with money at the autopay machine, that’s one fewer opportunity for predators to select me as a target.
3. DO NOT LET STRANGERS COME WITHIN ARM’S REACH
“The problem with Asians is…,” the self-defense coach told me “…we are too polite. If a stranger approaches us, we will not tell him to back off. But you do not want a potential assailant to come close enough to grab you.”
So, if a stranger comes towards you and you do not feel comfortable, tell him firmly to “stop” and “stay away”. If he doesn’t oblige…
4. ARM YOURSELF WITH A LONG-RANGE, MULTIPLE BURSTS PEPPER SPRAY
Long-range because, again, you do not want the attacker to come close enough to overpower you—some spray have ranges as far as 12 feet. Look for one that is capable of multiple bursts because—and I do mean to scare you because this could very well happen—there might be more than one attacker. (Here’s an example of such a pepper spray.)
Hold one in your hand while you’re walking from or to your car, and also keep one within easy reach inside your car—in the compartment on the inside of the driver’s door, for instance.
5. HAVE YOUR CAR KEY READY, BE QUICK TO CLOSE THE CAR DOORS, AND LOCK THEM.
If you do not have one of those keyless car fobs, avoid being distracted fumbling for your car key in the car park. Have it ready in your hand.
When you are at your car, quickly load your things in and get in yourself, close the doors and lock them.
6. FIRST, FLEE. BUT IF YOU HAVE TO FIGHT, GO FOR THE EYES.
Always, always try first to remove yourself from danger. Re-enter the building. Go to where there are other people. But if you cannot avoid the attack…
“You’d think to go for the balls, but no,” the security consultant said to me. “You might kick his thighs instead or he might have low-hanging jeans on. The most fragile part of a person is his eyes—jab them with your fingers, keys, whatever you have on hand.”
There you have it. These are the safety precautions that I practice/keep in mind every time I am at the car park. Do you have any tips of your own? Do share.