Hate crime acts are at a high after the election--muslims and women being among the targets. This leaves the question of what can we do about prevention and dealing with an attack? There are definitely preventative measures that we can do to lower risk, there are ways to deal with a hate act and more importantly there are steps to take if one has experienced an attack. Below are some outlined actions to take starting with the initial feeling of fear to the point of activism.
DEAL WITH FEAR
We all feel fear. All! We are naturally built with it and it's a sign of humanity. The difference between some and others is that some have trained themselves to managed it so it won't paralize them in situations or hold them back from doing what they want to do. That's the key!
This is the most important and vital thing that you can learn to do in minimizing risk in an incident. Be aware of your surroundings-- it's something we should all at all times do not just in these trial moments. Look around you and quickly skim people's body language. Don't get too caught up on your phone because this creates opportunity of attack specially while walking down the streets. When on trains, don't give your back to the crowd. Find a wall or rail to lean on. Keep an eye out for other muslim women that may be distracted. Make eye contact with her and with a smile say we got this!
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
You're have legal rights. Exercise your rights by taking a workshop and/or reading up about them. Remember hate acts and different forms of microaggressions don't just apply outside in the street. They also occur at work and school. Know your rights at work and school. Ask for a company policy manual and get familiar with guidelines. Get familiar with work and school departments too. Learn the process of how to report on incident; know where to go and who to file proper reports with. You will need these reports in case you have to prove and push your matter legally. Don't sit and wait months to report. Knowing how to proceed about a situation will get you the most effective result. Also, remember that in court 'proof' is the way to go--collect evidence.
A few examples of common situations to know your rights in are:
- Know what to do if an FBI agent comes to your house, at work, or approaches you in the street.
- Know the police power limitations if you are stopped by a police officer.
-Learn to identify hate and discriminatory speech at work and school.
KNOW YOUR RESOURCES
Aside knowing your resources at work and school, be sure to know who are your local civil rights organizations. Make a list of community, city and state officials and departments that includes emails, addresses and phone numbers: police station, congressmen, aldermen and human rights department among some. Post it on your refrigerator. It's important to know who they are because if your work or school neglect to handle your incident, you must escalate the matter to the public representatives.
Keys to handling a violent encounter is to make people around you aware of what is happening, de-escalate the situation and find an exit from the situation. The goal is not to engage in fighting, unless you absolutely have no other choice. This is part of what self-defense teaches. Don't be surprise about this. We have the right to defend ourselves! Some violent physical situations happen too sudden, but even then the goal is to find an exit. Self-defense classes don't just teach the physical aspect of dealing with a situation, but also prepare you mentally. Do note that one class is not enough, it takes repetition to learn, consider taking a few classes. Also carrying a pepper-spray can help--make sure you carry it in a place where it's easy to reach.
Yelling is a good tactic. But, not just any yell. Be assertive when you do it. Say it like you mean business! When a women is being attacked by another male, we are taught to usually yell 'Fire' because it will get everyones attention. That's what you want!
As said above, some assaults will happen very quickly so try your best to remember details of the aggressor to report later. This is also why it's important to be aware of your surroundings.
Immediately call the police and file a police report right there and then! This is where remembering details will help you. Most of these individuals run after we scream and get people's attention. Filing a police report also applies when at work and school. Report. Report. Report and push forward for the school and workplace to do something on the matter. After reporting to police, call your local civil rights office.
USE YOUR FAITH
There are supplications and prayers for protection. Invoke them. Keep in mind that as muslim women, when someone is attacked, the power of God shifts towards us.
TALK TO SOMEONE
When physical and verbal attacks happen, we sometimes just push it back into our minds and move on. Don't! We should take the time to grief and look for healing, after reporting and taking all the proper steps towards an incident, even if it was just a verbal attack. We don't want this to internalize and less normalize. Get it out in the open and deal with it. Talk to someone if therapy is not an option--it can be very healing. These events can be traumatic and with the help of a professional we can come out stronger.
Getting involved in activism if you have been attacked helps heal too. One of the most impactful ways to chip away at a society problem is through envolvement--look back at history. Never underestimate your everyday activism! Turn some of your free time into social contribution, you won't regret it. Join marches, support the decision makers in your communities, join civil rights organizations--you don't know how much impact there is in just listening to someone else who has gone through a traumatic experience.
We got this!
Written by Mariana Aguilera