It's late and it's dark, and you're finally leaving the office for the night. You're tired, frustrated, and just want to get home. As you're walking to your car in the deserted parking lot, you think you hear a noise behind you. You whip around, only to be forcibly grabbed. What you do next could make all the difference.

  1. Scream and yell. Make a lot of noise, even if you think nobody is around to hear you. By making a scene, you may scare your attacker away. Shout specific words such as "Help!" or "Police!" or "I don't know you!"
  2. Use your belongings like weapons. Every item in your pocket (even a pen or a set of car keys) has the potential to be used for your survival. Use them to poke, jab, or scratch your assailant's face; the eyes and throat are especially vulnerable areas.

  3. Use pepper spray. If you carry and can reach your pepper spray, direct it right to your assailant's face. Made from Oleoresin Capsicum (OC), a natural substance derived from the oily resins found in cayenne and other varieties of pepper , pepper spray can be very effective when used correctly. Contact with OC in a sprayed mist causes an immediate and intense burning sensation of the skin but especially affects the eyes, causing them to slam shut, burn, tear, and swell. In addition, the mucous membranes of the nose, throat, and sinuses burn, swell and make breathing difficult. Even those under the influence of drugs or alcohol will feel the effects. Often, pepper spray temporarily immobilizes the target. This may be what it takes for you to make an escape.

  4. Move as much as you can. If an attacker is holding you and doesn't have a firearm or knife up to you, move and squirm like a worm. Squirming will make it harder for him to get a good grip, significantly increasing your chances of getting out of his clutches. If your attacker comes from behind you and locks his arm around your neck, turn your head so that your neck is in the space where his arm bends. This will allow you to get a pocket of air to breathe better, and you'll be in a better position to fight back.

  5. Aim for important spots. If you're being restrained, you may not have a choice about what part of your assailant's body you can grab or attack. But if given the opportunity, aim for his face, stomach, knees, and shins. If you're able to hit these areas, you may be able to knock him down, giving you precious time to escape. And if you can, go for a kick or knee strike to the groin, an especially vulnerable target. Even slight pressure to the testicles can produce great pain, making it difficult for the attacker to stand, fight, or sometimes even breathe. Keep in mind, though, that men have a natural instinct to protect their groin from harm, so experts recommend redirecting the attacker's eyesight before hitting him there. Even covering his eyes with your fingers may be enough to distract him from your intention. If his brain doesn't perceive the attack, he's less likely to reflexively block his groin—potentially giving you time make your move.

  6. Do a palm-heel strike. This method is often recommended over punches. Closed fist punches rely on wrist strength and stability to deliver a proper strike, and your knuckles can easily be broken. A palm-heel strike involves hitting your attacker with the heel of your hand or the inside of your wrist. To form your hand for a palm-heel strike, bend your wrist back at a 90 degree angle, spreading and clawing your fingers. For an edge of hand blow, straighten your fingers and press them together, striking with the muscle in the side of the hand. This intense blow may catch your attacker off-guard and could give you a few moments to flee.