Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Women Offer Tips At Self-Protection On Increasingly Dangerous Streets
By Gabrielle Hollows
Budapest and Hungary on the whole, are relatively safe. But mounting evidence suggests they are becoming more dangerous. Forbes Magazine ranked Hungary number nine in 2008 on its list of “European Crime Capitals,” ahead of Scotland but behind Turkey, Italy and Spain. While total crime is actually down over the past five years, according to the Central Statistics Office, crime against persons hit an all-time high in 2008, with nearly 21,000 such acts indicted.
Much is known, by now, of the case of Ophélie Bretnacher, the 22-year-old French woman whose body was found at the shore of the Danube in February after going missing last December here in Budapest. While police decided not to regard the occurrence as a criminal act, this horrific story nevertheless calls into question just how safe women are on the streets of Budapest. News that a 21-year American woman had been sexually assaulted and beaten that same December raises this question to a higher level of urgency.
Women need to know how to protect themselves from potential attackers. If you know how to protect yourself it is harder for an attacker to get what he wants. By making it harder you are preventing yourself from getting into danger.
Many students have grown aware of the need to protect themselves, developing personal regimens of safety.
“Violent crime is becoming much more common in Budapest,” said Barbara Ürögdi, a PhD student in linguistics who studied previously in New York. “There are very few cases of rape. It's mostly people taking your phone or wallet.”
Barbara usually avoids walking, opting instead for her bike, or a cab if it’s late and especially if she’s been drinking. She suggested carrying a “fake” wallet – an old wallet with a bit of cash and some expired cards – as way to appease attackers. She avoids such areas as housing projects and places devoid of people and commercial activity after dark.
Being aware of your surroundings is one of the most important things that a woman can take with her anywhere she goes. Just by knowing where the dangerous or rough areas are is crucial. However, according to the US-based Women’s Defence Centre, if you think you are being followed, turn around and look at that person. This reminds a potential attacker that you are aware of his actions and are too hard of a target for him. It could also put him off attacking any body else that day and therefore you are helping other possible victims.
Everyday objects can be used as weapons, if absolutely necessaty. The Defense Centre says that you can improvise with pens and pencils. You may even think about your house keys as an “improvised weapon”. Not only would it help with a hard stab to the face. If you are near your home you would be able to get in much faster and out of danger quickly.
Don’t walk home alone is the best rule for young women to follow for preventing a personal attack. Such is the wisdom of myriad law enforcement agencies and universities applied to urban living around the globe. This means walking in the company of trusted friends or returning home by vehicle driven by someone you trust, e.g. in the cab of a well-reputed taxi fleet.
Budapest is fortunate to have efficient and reliable company taxis. Having a list of companies in your phone gives you a wide option for a taxi if one may be busy or unavailable. English-speaking operators gives you the opportunity to ask for a taxi quickly so that you are not waiting on the streets.