Sexual offences up by 71%: here are 11 tips to keep you safe

Woman holding a #MeToo movement placard.
Woman holding a #MeToo movement placard.
Getty Images

According to the most recent SAPS quarterly crime report, sexual offences increased by 74.1% during April to June 2021, when compared to the same timeframe in 2020. In just 3 months, 12 702 people were victims of sexual offences that include rape, sexual assault, contact sexual offences and attempted sexual offences.

READ MORE | Self-defence tips that could save your life

“We live in what President Ramaphosa has called ‘one of the most unsafe places in the world to be a woman’,” says Seugnette van Wyngaard, Head of 1st for Women Insurance.

“Marches, memorandums and hashtags finally mobilised government to declare violence against women a national crisis but it’s not enough. Sexual offences across South Africa have shown an unprecedented increase in recent months and women need to be vigilant to protect, and even defend, themselves,” she adds.

READ MORE | GBV: A far deadlier pandemic in our society

With this in mind, van Wyngaard offers SA women the following advice to keep safe:

1. Time and place:

Try to always have other people around. Avoid being out after dark, especially in areas that are known to be dangerous. If you’re new to an area, find out what the safest places and times are to shop, socialise, work out etc.

2. Eyes open:

Always be aware of your surroundings. Being focused on your cell phone, listening to music when working out in public etc. are all distractions that could create opportunity for a criminal to pounce.

3. The habit of double-checking: 

Making sure that a door is locked, a window closed, a vehicle secure etc. takes only a couple of seconds, but could save your life.

4. Gateway crimes: 

Petty crimes often carry the risk of escalating into physical harm, so it’s best to keep your valuables out of view at home, in your car and on yourself.

5. Safety in numbers: 

If you’re taking a stroll or a jog, it’s best to do so in a group.

6. Stay in contact: 

Let someone know where you’re off to, which route you’ll be following and when you’re expected to return. Keep them updated on your progress.

7. Vary the times of your activities: 

Attacks while you are out and about are often spontaneous, but predictable patterns are also a safety concern. Try to have some variation in the timing of your activities.

8. Check the tail: 

Whether driving or on foot, make sure that you’re not being followed. If you suspect that you are, get to a safer place immediately. Call for help if needed.

9. Help on speed dial: 

Be sure to have all emergency contact details – community protection, the police and trusted friends or relatives – on hand. Alternatively, there are various mobile or app-based panic buttons available, including the 1st for Women panic button, which you can use in any emergency situation where you feel unsafe.

10. Carry a whistle: 

Sports whistles are quite cheap. Having it on a lanyard around your neck means you can raise the alarm quite quickly if you feel unsafe. The loud noise may also startle your attacker into running away.

11. Learn basic self-defense: 

There are many courses and online resources available to help with this, like the 8 Self-Defense Moves Every Woman Needs to Know.

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