How To Handle The Attacks On Women In NYC?

With the recent news of women getting attacked in NYC, seeing numerous posts on social media, it’s pretty obvious we’re not just seeing random, one-off events. It’s a trend. Those are the attacks you have to learn about because they hit the news, while many others didn’t make it to the NYPD stats or the top of your media feed. My work always reflects the general sense of safety in the city – when people feel unsafe, more people show up at my door.

It feels more like we’re getting a glimpse of something bigger and way more worrying that’s taking hold in New York City. The fact that these stories are trending all over TikTok just highlights a truth that many of us living here are starting to really worry about. It’s a loud wake-up call about how much more vulnerable and anxious life seems to be getting on our streets, especially for women. Moving from just talking about individual scary moments to recognizing there is something a lot of us are concerned about, invites a much-needed discussion on the rise of these sudden, unexplained attacks throughout the city.

The flood of personal stories on social media turns these incidents into strong signs of a bigger problem our city is facing after COVID-19. The collective unease and erosion of our communal sense of security are palpable. These shared experiences urge us to contemplate the broader ramifications of this surge in violence, questioning its impact on our collective sense of safety and our communal resilience. By weaving these individual tales into the fabric of our city’s larger challenges, the message becomes unmistakable: reactive measures are not enough. We are called to unite in a dedicated, continuous effort to ensure our city is a sanctuary of safety and support for all its inhabitants.

Before you keep reading, let me make it clear – anyone can become a victim of an unexpected assault, regardless of their preparedness or physical prowess. The element of surprise in an attack can incapacitate even the most vigilant among us. This reality underscores the importance of understanding that the immediate response to an attack, while critical, is just one aspect of the larger picture. More significant is the psychological resilience and the narrative one constructs post-event.

I recently wrote about how women experience the world so differently than men. This week, we learned once again how women’s safety worries are at the forefront. I can’t yell it loud enough – being proactive and taking charge of personal safety is extremely important! This means equipping ourselves with physical defensive skills and arming our minds, and building resilience. Taking self-defense classes does more than teach us how to throw a punch or block an attack; it builds up confidence and transforms fear into a useful power. 

It is not news that feeling stronger and less exposed has a huge psychological benefit. Yet, what really calls for a deep dive into our psychological toolkit is dealing with what comes after an incident: the process of coping and healing. In other words, it’s about figuring out where we land on the spectrum from trauma to empowerment.

The distinction between reacting and responding to an attack is subtle yet profound. To react is to operate on instinct, often fueled by adrenaline and survival mechanisms. To respond, however, implies a conscious, measured approach that considers one’s immediate and long-term physical and psychological well-being. In the wake of an attack, the initial shock can be overwhelming. It’s a moment where the narrative about the event starts to form in one’s mind. When we are unequipped with the right toolkit, overwhelming events turn into trauma. This narrative can significantly influence the trajectory of recovery and the potential onset of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The story we tell ourselves after a tough event is key to how we move on. If we see ourselves only as defenseless victims caught in helplessness, it can keep us feeling scared and vulnerable, maybe even leading to more anxiety and the urge to avoid situations that echo past pains. As the Hebrew saying goes, “He who got burned by hot water is cautious with cold water,” echoing the English proverb, “Once bitten, twice shy.” This suggests that a negative experience instills a cautionary stance towards future encounters of a similar nature.

Adopting a point of view of fighters who can overcome challenges changes how we remember the situation. A strong mind helps us feel stronger and heal inside. This way of thinking doesn’t mean we forget our pain or tough times; instead, it helps us see our struggles as proof of how strong and able we really are to handle problems. It’s about using our experiences of getting through hard stuff to show ourselves that we’re tough and that the hard things we’ve faced before don’t have to hold us back in the future.

Speaking from my own perspective, if I were ever attacked out of nowhere, especially from behind, without any chance to defend myself, I’d definitely be furious. However, I don’t believe such an experience would lead me to PTSD. 

For those who understandably find themselves struggling in the aftermath of an attack, seeking professional support is crucial. I believe seeing a therapist helps, but alongside it, we must train our body that we are capable of responding in the future.

Psychologists and trauma specialists offer appropriate support, which has been shown to be effective in treating PTSD and other trauma-related disorders. Hard work, and a reconstruction of the narrative in a manner that reinforces resilience.

I’ve always believed that the training mat provides key resources for recovery. Being part of a community is crucial to getting better. Surrounding yourself with people who share your mindset brings a feeling of unity, and let’s not forget, endorphins are the top-tier natural mood booster. They’re free and all it takes is within you to unleash them!

The rise in unprovoked attacks in urban areas like New York City poses a difficult problem that needs a comprehensive approach. Being physically ready is important, but addressing the psychological impact of these incidents is just as critical, if not more so. Building a mindset of resilience is key. It’s more effective as a way to prevent trauma than to treat it afterward. True strength isn’t about never feeling vulnerable; it’s about having the ability to recover, rebuild, and reshape our sense of security and well-being when faced with challenges.

We might not be able to change the city’s climate, but we can teach women how to be safer. On April 14th, we’re hosting a special training workshop for women who use public transportation in NYC. In this workshop, we’ll analyze and break down recent events, training participants on the appropriate responses based on the timeline of each event.

Do something amazing

Tsahi Shemesh
Founder & CEO
Krav Maga Experts

1 comment

  1. Thank you for highlighting the fact that numerous attacks go unreported and the importance of developing social/emotional strength. Living in NYC for the past 15 years I have been assaulted twice…randomly and unexpectedly…and only one did I report, which likely went nowhere. The first time was over 10 years ago when I was walking through Times Square with my husband and his parents. A man suddenly punched me in my leg so hard it caused me to crumble. My husband initially attempted to chase after him, but quickly realized he appeared homeless/crazy and his parents begged him to let it go. I didn’t report it. The second incident happened within the past 5 years. Ironically, after walking home from a noon Krav class at KME’s Union Square location. I passed by a group of teenage boys on the corner of 34th and 9th, and as I was crossing the street, they began throwing food at me for no apparent reason. A part of me wanted to turn around and go confront them, but then I realized the smarter move was to keep walking. I reported the incident to a traffic cop a few blocks away. Neither incident left me feeling afraid about walking the streets of NYC, but I was angry, and I do have increased situational awareness. I now cross the street, even if out of my way, if I see someone looking a bit shady/crazy, or when there is a group of teens/twenty-somethings gathered.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *