It seems to me this is essentially a question of risk management. (Though one of physical risk, not financial risk) In managing risk, most risk managers recommend:
1. Identify all potential risks, or at least as many as possible
2. For each risk, identify the frequency (or potential) and the severity associated with each risk.
3. If you are happy with the combination of severity a risk entails, retain that risk the way it is. If either the frequency or severity of risk is too high, take steps to reduce or transfer the severity and/or frequency to an acceptable level. If this can't be done avoidance is your only remaining option. Focusing on just some risks, while ignoring risks that have a higher severity does little to reduce your overall risk exposure. One needs to stay focused on the big picture.
Severity and frequency of risks can be addressed through both preventative measures and preparedness to be able to deal with an incident after it occurs. As an outdoor programmer what I see is most people place too much emphasis on skills after the fact and too little on prevention. (crisis prevention vs. crisis management) Obtaining first aid certification
with little discussion of injury prevention is a classic example. In this thread, I see the same with thoughts of martial arts training.
I know the focus of this thread is on the risk of being physically assaulted by other human beings, but I think the reality is one really can't talk about that without considering how it relates to other risk. While I have no data on sailing injuries, few accounts of bodily injury I read about occur from one personal intentionally harming another. It appears to me things like equipment
failure, human error, fatigue, weather
conditions and illness all account for more, much more.
Even within in context of the human element and intentional harm, one must balance actions against other risks. A crowded anchorage may afford some protection from harm by making it less likely invaders will board your boat and having more help nearby if they do. A crowded anchorage also brings a greater risk of an anchor
dragging or mooring
cutting loose resulting in damage to your boat and possibly yourself. Of course you also need to balance all risks against your utility. (essentially a cost-benefit analysis). Maybe a one in one million chance of being assaulted in that beautiful isolated anchorage is worth it to you. Maybe a 1 in 500 for a so-so isolated anchorage is not.
Properly identifying, categorizing and reducing risk has to start with accurate knowledge. It's difficult to reduce the risks you don't accurately understand and misunderstanding may lead to spending time and/or resources ineffectively, having a false sense of security
or feeling frightened of improbable risks.
Knowledge means doing your research
and combining that with your experience and the circumstances in which you will find yourself. Find out about the areas in which you will be cruising. If there have been reports of assaults, etc. under what circumstances do they happen? Boat invasions, bars late at night, walking in town, etc? From there you can forumulate an appropriate prevention plan. If that's not enough, you can add planning on what to do if something should occur.
Having been involved in outdoor recreation risk management for some time, here are some of the things I have seen that are common to many incidents:
People did not identify a potential risk, so put themselves into harms way without knowing it. Quite possibly, they did not research
a specific area. Perhaps their focus was on a risk of much lower nature that concerned them instead of a much greater, but unknown or discounted risk.
This happens frequently: People identify a potential risk but do nothing about it. A town doesn't feel comfortable after dark, but you stay out late anyway. You are not sure about your anchor
set, but you don't snorkel on it. All the training, preparation and safety
(self defense gear) means little if you don't act on it or don't have the proper items with you. It's been shown that in group situations having a designated leader gives structure, encourages people speaking up and decision making. More injuries occur in leaderless groups than in groups with a designated leader at a ratio of about 2:1 from what I've read. "We have no designated captain" may not be the best idea from a risk management view.
People put too much emphasis on what to do if something happens, but put little effort into preventing it in the first place. While having the skills to deal with a tragedy once it happens can be of great value, it's almost always far better to avoid the incident in the first place. It's better to avoid having anyone board your boat with bad intent than rely on being able to fight them off with judo. Again, this goes back to knowledge, listening to your gut instincts and acting on it.
In terms of gender, I'd argue that gender has little to do with the basic process of risk management, other than in some situations the frequency or severity of risk may be higher for women than men
. (and may be lower in others) It's important to note this as it rightfully should influence the need to address that risk.
Managing risk has everything to do with one's tolerance to risk and studies have shown women tend to be less risk tolerant than men. Also interesting, is that this difference is often expressed differently. Men tend to be less concerned about whether or not a risk will happen (frequency) and more concerned about the impact it will have (severity) if it happens. Women are more likely to be concerned about the potential for a risk to happen at all (frequency) and less about the severity. I've often noticed after something happens that fortunately only has minor consequences, that men tend to be thankful it wasn't worse and consider it a lesson learned and women tend to be concerned it happened at all. Part of me hates to even mention this because I think many such differences we see between men and women are more situational than have to do with any inherent differences between the genders. I find qualified experienced leaders in my program for example, in the same situations and in the same role tend to look at risk the same way. A man and woman sailing together often have different responsibilities and different experiences, so may look at risks differently, not because of their gender differences, but because of their different aptitudes and roles. Still, these findings do exist and are worth mentioning.