Defense strategy urged for women

first_img 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SANTA CLARITA — Erin O’Brien was asleep in her Canyon Country home when she awoke to a strange man on her bed, trying to cover her mouth. She screamed and didn’t relent, possibly saving herself from rape. Sheriffs’ deputies believe the man, who fled, could be the rapist who has attacked two other women at knifepoint this year in her neighborhood. O’Brien’s assailant hit at 3:30 a.m. June 26. She remembers he reached toward his waistband, and then she began to scream. At a press conference this week, the petite blond woman said she knew she had been lucky. “If I would have been raped things would be different,” O’Brien said. Since then, O’Brien has bought a pit bull for protection and taken other security measures. She suggests other women take such precautions. According to the National Violence Against Women Survey more than 300,000 women are raped annually and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says those numbers are usually skewed because the crime so often goes unreported. Sheriff’s Lt. Brenda Cambra, of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, said O’Brien saw an opportunity and took it. This, she said, is what women are advised to do if they’re attacked. “She took that opportunity to make noise. She screamed and he fled,” Cambra said. Cambra said victims have every right to grab anything that can be used as a weapon and use it. At the same time, they should look for ways to escape. “It’s not about staying there and fighting,” Cambra said. “Just stopping the attack and getting out of there.” Cambra suggested women also set up a system with their neighbors in case there is an emergency. “Let your neighbor know what a warning sign is,” Cambra said. “Tell them that if you run to their door in the middle of night you want them to answer it and let them know what is not normal for your household.” Sheriff’s officials are urging women in the community to be diligent about locking their doors and windows and Cambra said installing outdoor lights activated by motion detectors is a good idea. Tim Mitchell, general manager of the Oak Tree Gun Club in Newhall, said gun safety courses offered there are becoming more and more popular among women seeking protection. “It’s important for women to learn how to defend themselves by either learning how to use a handgun, pepper spray or stun guns and by learning moves to protect themselves,” Mitchell said. Still, organizations that support rape victims are wary of advocating self-defense. “It’s controversial,” said Susan Lewis, spokeswoman for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. “To say there was a way for the victim to prevent the act implies guilt. It is never the victim’s fault.” Lewis suggested women take precautions to reduce risk, especially women attending college where sexual assaults tend to be more common. Ultimately, Lewis said, the biggest threats for women often lurk in unexpected places. “Something like seven in 10 sexual assaults are non-stranger assault, that could be someone known or someone you see regularly,” Lewis said. Cambra added that, even in a community touted for its family atmosphere and low crime, terrible things can happen. “This city rates highly in safe city contests every year but that doesn’t exclude all crime,” Cambra said. “But these types of crimes happen everywhere.” — Connie Llanos (661) [email protected]last_img

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