THE STORY: Upper East Side. Middle of the night. Man climbs in through window 27 year woman wakes up during the process of being raped.
COULD THIS HAVE BEEN PREVENTED: This one is probably going to have aLOT of people saying, “Of course it could have been prevent. Close the window!” In my book, Preventing Sexual Assault: 171 Ways, an entire chapter is devoted to safety in the home.
There are several issues here so sit back. I will ask certain questions or make certain points and address each as a separate item.
1) How many of us sleep with our windows open instead of running the air conditioning? I say “us” because I am one of these people.
In this particular case, many of the units in this part of town have what are known as window gates. Picture a metal gate that can be opened or closed and you get the idea. The problem is many people leave these gates open, making for easy access to rapists, burglars or other criminals.
I always tell people that they should NEVER leave first floor windows open. If you are going to leave a sliding door or window open leave it no more than maybe 6 or 7 inches and make sure the window or door can be locked into position.
I suggest that if there is easy access to 2nd stories – - such as is the case with many townhouse style homes, that people apply the same rules.
2) I have a screen on my window. So even though the window is open, I would hear someone trying to pull the screen off.
Right and wrong. Yes, most people would be awakened by an intruder attempting to remove a screen. HOWEVER, something as simple as a pen knife (small knife with a blade of less than an inch or two) can easily cut through most screens. Intruders don’t want to go through the hassle or the risk of waking occupants by trying to remove the screens – - they just take 10 seconds to cut the screen out and climb in.
If you are relying on a screen to stop and intruder at least hang some type of noisemaker in or near enough that if the screen is removed or someone climbs in, noise will be made and hopefully they will be scared off.
Best practice: assume the screen is not even there. Would you still feel comfortable being asleep? If the answer is “no” then do not leave your window open more than several inches and make sure it is locked into position.
3) One of the residents commented that she was keeping a baseball bat next to her bed “just in case.”
It makes no difference if you have a bat or even a gun, when we are in REM sleep, very little is going to wake us up. By the time you realize an intruder is in your room, it’s already too late. Do not count on weapons to keep you safe. Make sure these people can’t get into your home to begin with.
Further, in many situations weapons end up being used against the homeowner. They are valuable in situations where, let’s say someone has accessed the downstairs part of your home but has not yet gained access to your bedroom. But even in this case, having a lock on your bedroom door and calling 911 is still your best bet.
Somewhere in America a woman is raped approximately every 35 seconds. A couple more are sexually assaulted. And while approximately 80% of these occur where the victim knows her assailant, that still leaves a HUGE number where the victim does NOT.
Whether attempting to prevent rape or any other type of home intrusion crime, make sure windows that can be easily accessed remain closed and locked or locked into open positions of no more than 6 or 7 inches.
Your comments or ideas on safety tips you’ve heard??