13 Ways to Defend Yourself from Violence in Quarantine

Written by Susie Kahlich and Eve Parmiter

Gabriel Benois via Unsplash

If you live in an environment of abuse, but are forced through quarantine or social distancing to stay home, the situation at home may be more volatile as panic, anxiety and the frustration of staying in a smaller area mounts. What do you do when home is not a safe place to be?

If staying away from home is not an option for you, here are some techniques to keep yourself as physically safe as possible until the current situation has passed:

1/ Make a plan. You do have a right to protect yourself, and you deserve basic safety.

Create a plan for yourself with “incident” markers that activate steps for you. For example, if the volatile person goes from screaming to punching a wall, that is your marker to call a friend for help. You know better than anyone what those markers are for you, but it helps to write them down into a clear guideline that you can easily remember when it’s hard to think.

Create safe words to use with friends when you cannot communicate openly, so they know to call for help if you need it.

Here’s a simple step-by-step safe plan to follow:

Step 1: If I’m ever in danger
I’m going call the emergency services. I will tell them where I am and what I need. I will stay on the line if I can.

Step 2: When I don’t feel safe I can contact
Name & Number of a:
Local organization
National organization

Step 3: If I can I will establish a code word
in advance with a friend so they know I’m in trouble and need help and they know to a) call the police, b) tell someone we trust, or c) meet at a previously agreed location.

Step 4: If I don’t feel safe I can go to these places
Name & Location of a:
Local organization
Safe room in my house

Step 5: I can get to my safe place by
walking, cycling, bus, taxi, calling a friend for a ride. I will do my best to keep enough money on me (in sock for example) for a phone call and taxi ride.

Step 6: Excuses I can use to leave the house are

•I promised I’d go help this person

•They’ve called us into work because so many people are off sick

•My relative is ill and vulnerable and can’t leave the house, I need to go stay with them to look after them

•My neighbour can’t get to the shops so I have to go get them some food.

When you are writing your safe plan, you can keep those names and numbers safe and private in a Vault App, like Calculator#, so that if someone else gets hold of your phone, they won’t be able to see the private information in your plan and the app itself is disguised.

Free download from Google Play: Calculator# for Android

Free download from the App Store: Calculator# for iOS

2/ Repeat and agree: validate the words and beliefs of the volatile person by acknowledging what they’re saying with some emotion, and then agreeing with it in a calm voice — regardless of how crazy it sounds:

Them: We’re going to run out of food!

You: It does seem like we’ll run out of food! I think I can make what we have last at least two weeks.

Acknowledging the other person’s panic and sense of loss of control by mirroring their emotions can help validate them in these instances, at least long enough to move to the next step (agreement) and away from the more volatile state.

3/ Be as adaptable as possible: you are probably already really good at pivoting to accommodate moods that can change on a dime. This is an excellent skill to have right now, especially with being able to repeat & agree as above.

4/ Lock the door: if this is available to you, then lock yourself into a room or closet if the situation becomes more intense. Know your path to that safe space, and practice walking there from different areas of the house in calmer moments. This teaches your body the muscle memory of the path to safety. Be sure that, if necessary, you will also be able to escape this space in case of fire or other threat.

5/ Go against the thumb: if your wrist or arm is being restrained, pull or twist your arm away from the grip by focusing on their thumb (the weakest part of the grip). Instead of trying to raise your arm up, move it to the side (like when a child says “mine!”).

If the thumb is on the inside of your wrist, i.e., by your pulse, first spread your fingers out wide, like you’re stretching your hand. This will loosen the grip on your wrist ever so slightly, giving you more room to move.

From here, try turning your palm to the floor, even if only a little bit. Now pull your hand away, focusing on bringing your thumb to your opposite rib cage.

© Pretty Deadly Self Defense 2020

Alternatively, you can clamp your arm that’s being gripped to your side, then bend at the elbow to bring your hand up, like you’re going to drive your thumb into your shoulder.

If the thumb is on the outside of the wrist, ie., on the same side of your wrist as the back of your hand, first spread your fingers out wide. Clamp your arm that’s being gripped to your side, think about using your whole body to turn your palm up toward the ceiling as much as you can. Keep turning with your whole body until you’re free of the grip.

© Pretty Deadly Self Defense 2020

6/ Tuck your chin: if someone reaches to choke you, tuck your chin to help block the choke cutting off your air. You can also reach across yourself like you are going to scratch your back, which can break the choke. You can see it demonstrated here.

7/ Move in the same direction: when we resist being pushed or pulled, the impact can be harder on our bodies. If you’re being pushed, go in the same direction. Hang on to the person pushing you if possible and bring them with. This can throw them off balance and leave you more time to get away.

8/ The floor is your friend: it’s scary to be pushed to the floor, but on the floor we can curl up into a ball or be small and squirrely and harder to grab. Tuck in your arms and legs quickly, and keep everything close.

9/ Assume the fetal position: curl up into a ball as much as tightly as you can. Wrap your arms around your head, not your knees. This is the best way to protect your vital organs.

10/ Shift balance: if you are on the ground on your stomach and someone is laying on top of you, slide one of your elbows down to your hip while sliding the knee on the same side up (e.g., left elbow down, left knee up). This will shift balance, and you can roll onto your back and get them off you.

If you are on your back and they are on top of you pinning your wrists, use the same technique, but slide the opposite arm up. Push off the floor with foot of your raised knee, and roll in the direction of the arm you slid upwards.

If you are on your back and are being choked, you can use the same “scratch your back” technique in this position, or push against one elbow to shift the balance.

11/ Elbows & knees: Pushing against the knee of someone standing directly in front of you can move them away and off balance; using the side of your hand to “karate chop” down into the crook of someone’s elbow can do the same:

If one elbow is locked (as in a choke or pinned against a wall), try karate chopping into the inside of the locked elbow to bend the arm and break the hold.

If both elbows are locked (as in a two-hand choke or being pinned against a wall), try karate chopping down into the inside of one elbow; with the flat of your other hand, slap up on the back of the other elbow at the same time.

For knees, if the knee is straight and locked, or if the person is standing with one leg forward and that forward knee is bent, push or kick on the inside of the knee if you can, which will move them away from you.

If the inside of the knee is not available to you, push or kick on the outside of the knee, which will also move them away. Do not use your arm or leg to pull the knee, as you will pull the person on top of you.

12/ Use your own elbows: your elbows are excellent space-makers, and they don’t require a lot of muscle or effort. Using the same movement you use to put your hair behind your ears, swing the elbow up — like a scrape up the surface of something. Keep the palm of your hand towards your face to increase range of motion.

13/ If you have kids: get them out — quarantine them at a family member’s or friend’s. If your friends or family don’t know about your relationship, tell friends and family that you are going to volunteer to help the elderly and don’t want to expose your children to the virus.

If it’s possible, try to minimize the time you spend at home. Here are some reasons to offer for staying out of the environment:

A/ Looking after an ill /vulnerable relative or friend and go stay with them (now may be a good time to do that);

B/ For shorter periods: shopping for an elderly/vulnerable neighbour who can’t do that for themselves;

C/ If you have the option, you can always say that ‘work has called us in to cover shifts as so many people are off ill’.

If someone you know or you suspect someone you know lives in a volatile domestic environment, please share this document and help reach some of the most vulnerable of us all during this pandemic.

Susie Kahlich is a violent crime survivor, 20 year martial arts veteran, and is the founder of Pretty Deadly Self Defense. She practices and teaches the art of Ninjutsu in Berlin, Germany.

Eve Parmiter is a 20 year martial arts veteran and a Jeet Kun Do champion, and is a Master Practioner in Cognitive Hypnotheraphy in London, England.



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Susie Kahlich

Susie Kahlich


Founder of Pretty Deadly Self Defense @ prettydeadlyselfdefense.com // Former producer of art podcast Artipoeus: art you can hear @ artipoeus.com