Always be aware of your surroundings. Never walk on the road daydreaming, talking on the cellphone or listening to music. Look up and stay alert.
Always carry a cellphone
Be wary of strange men offering help. If you are stranded, call for assistance.
Trust your instincts. When in doubt shout and run as fast as possible (martial arts and fitness training will help) in the opposite direction. Look for a well-lighted area or try to enter a shop.
Whether you live in a city or a village, if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, you can fall a victim to robbery, murder, and, in the case of women and children, molestation and rape.
Statistics show that 25 per cent of children in India and 99 per cent of women have faced unwelcome sexual advances at some point in their lives. Ninety per cent of them admit to actual unwelcome or frightening physical contact. The exact incidence of rape is difficult to determine, as many victims do not report the crime. It may have involved a family member, a teacher (school or private tuition) or a neighbour. The family may not have wanted the “shame” or publicity that would result from filing an FIR with unsympathetic, unhelpful police officials untrained to handle these cases with discretion and empathy.
Some rapes are random crimes of opportunity that occur during the course of another crime such as kidnapping or robbery. In such cases the rapists are usually between 25-35 years of age, have not completed high school, have a history of violence, alcohol and drug use, are athletic and macho but unsuccessful in relationships with women. They rarely leave the victims alive. In other cases the attack is planned. Such rapists are better educated, and less violent. They are either acquaintances or family or have been secretly stalking the victim.
Children are sexually attacked by paedophiles, who are usually soft-spoken, educated men who may be married with children of their own. They come in contact with their victims through work or family. They win the trust of the child, and after the rape, frighten the child into silence with physical or psychological threats to self or family.
After a sexual attack, if you want to prosecute the perpetuator, it is important to get a medical examination done as well as lodge an FIR.
Internal and external lacerations and injuries need treatment. A single booster dose of tetanus toxoid is required. About 15 per cent of victims are in danger acquiring a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Medication needs to be taken immediately as a preventive measure. Treatment options are available for hepatitis B, gonorrhoea , syphilis, herpes, chlamydia, and trichomonas vaginalis. A single injection of ceftriaxone, plus an oral dose of azithromycin, and either secnidazole, tinidazole or metronidazole, will provide broad-spectrum coverage. Herpes can be tackled with a 5-7 day course of acyclovir. Hepatitis B requires only a booster dose in an immunised individual. If the immunisation status is not known, immunoglobulin needs to be given followed by three doses of the vaccine. The risk of acquiring HIV infection is less than one per cent. However it is important for medico-legal reasons to document the HIV status immediately. The test should be repeated after six months and a year. A 28-day regimen of medication for HIV should be started within 72 hours. A blood test should be done for syphilis after three months.
Criminals do not follow any particular fighting style. A person trained in one of the martial arts will be able to resist and tackle a criminal to the ground. So it makes sense to train in martial arts. They teach discipline, focus, evasion and attack. They concentrate on fitness and most incorporate running as part of the training.
All children should know their address and phone numbers. Teach them that certain body parts are not to be touched, to not speak to strangers or enter unknown vehicles. Don’t let them go out after dark and encourage them to tell you everything. And yes, make sure that your children learn martial arts.
Dr Gita Mathai is a paediatrician with a family practice at Vellore. Questions on health issues may be emailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org