Opinions: If in danger, what would you do?

We asked women round the country to imagine this scenario:

You are walking down a quiet street, two minutes from home, as it grows dark. A man walks towards you, and as you pass, for no apparent reason he tries to grab your arm. What do you do?

MARIA RAGUSA, 39, self- defence instructor, Brighton: The worst thing to do is freeze up. Don't wait to find out what he wants - stand square and shout at him. If he doesn't let go, kick at his shins, aim a blow at the bridge of his nose. Then run. Whatever you do, do it with all your force.

GERMAINE GREER, 53, writer, Essex: I'd belt him, of course. Because I live in the country I don't tend to walk much - I usually go out in the car. But of course I go out alone and have walked back along a country hedgerow late at night. But I'm six feet tall and don't carry a handbag. A man attacked me once in Lyon: I chased him and grabbed him by the shirt tails and made him scream. I'm wary, but not afraid. I've never done self-defence. I suppose it lets you think you could handle a situation, and you probably could, but what are you going to do if you're 96? Hit him with your walking frame? Fear is not the prerogative of women, however. Men are probably more likely to get attacked on the streets. How can women defend themselves? It's not necessary to dress like a Sherman tank, but high heels are bloody stupid.

BARBARA CARTLAND, 91, author, Hertfordshire: I would never put myself in that situation. You can't walk around the streets, you must have an escort. Women have to realise things are difficult and protect themselves.

EMMA CADZOW, 22, student, Broxburn, Lothian: I wouldn't do anything - I'd let him take my bag. I was attacked last year at 7.30am, walking from my home to a country bus stop. But it hasn't made me afraid to go out - I refuse to let people like that ruin my life. I have done a self-defence course, but it wasn't much use.

POLLY FAWCITT, late 40s, charity administrator, Willingham, Cambs: I've never been attacked, so I don't quite know. There are basic self-defence techniques women should all know, but mostly we don't.

CAROLINE MANGHAM, 23, nanny, Braintree, Essex: I'd just kick him in the balls. If that didn't work I'd spray him in the face with some perfume; I always carry some for that reason. Since the Rachel murder I refuse to walk in the woods near where I live. I definitely wouldn't use public transport late at night.

RHONDA PAISLEY, 33, Belfast councillor and Democratic Unionist Party spokesperson: I'd run. I don't really worry about going out alone. I don't have a false sense of security, I'm just careful. I would hesitate to say that Belfast is safe for women, but relatively few women are attacked in Northern Ireland compared to other regions. I know women who are still happy to walk at night, even in the city centre. I believe very strongly that girls should learn self-defence in the school curriculum.

DAVIDA HIGGIN, 65, retired nursery teacher, Shotesham village, Norfolk: I would try to scream, but I don't know what would happen next. I don't like that feeling of being restricted - it makes me feel as though my civil rights are being infringed.

ANTONIA WARD, 19, student, Liverpool: I'd scream 'fire'; I was told in my self-defence class that it is better to shout that rather than 'rape', because people are more likely to respond. We were also told to pull out their ear-rings and poke them in the eye, but I don't know if I'd have time to think about it. I tend to carry a rape alarm, but I don't walk anywhere late at night on my own.

BETTY CLAY, 41, nurse, York: I'd scream, knee him, and go for the eyes with a Biro. I was flashed at once in Newcastle. A nice-looking man rolled up on his bike, and said 'Have you seen one of these before?' and proudly whipped out his penis. It was ironic because I was working in the urology department at the time. He didn't attack me, he just cycled off. York is much safer.

(Photographs omitted)

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