Run,Yell,Tell, Hit, + Go Along

All self-defense strategies come down to these choices.


Run, the first skill, may involve running as fast as you can. But it’s really anything that gets you out of harm’s way. It could be walking, wheeling, or driving away. It could be not showing up for a meeting or date. It could be leaving a relationship or a job. It may mean cutting off contact with a family member. Anything that makes you Not.Be.There. for the harassment, abuse, or assault that’s happening (or might happen).

Defend Yourself team members have:

  • Cut off contact with homophobic parents
  • Ended abusive relationships
  • Runaway from attackers
  • Left jobs with toxic bosses

…and much more!

When have you used a “run” technique? Tell us your story and if you tell us it’s okay, we may share it in the spirit of skill-building.


Yell, the second skill, is anything using your voice. Talk to them, tell them what you want, give them a command, get really loud. Tell them what’s okay with you and what’s not.

Speaking up can be difficult but at the same time it’s simple. And practice makes it easier. Start small, with something like telling your friends what pizza toppings you want or telling a telemarketer to not call you anymore. Move up to telling a manspreader on the bus to please make room for you. Challenge yourself by telling a co-worker you can’t take their shift or help them with a project.

Whatever you do to use your voice, be sure to celebrate it. Even if it didn’t go the way you planned or have the result you hoped, you gained assertiveness skills by speaking up!

If you’d like to get more skills for growing assertiveness, check out one of our classes!


The third one — Tell — is getting help.

It’s really underused. Americans often think that we have to take care of everything ourselves. Asking for help is a profound way of taking care of yourself.

Get help while it’s happening: You can get help in the moment something bad is happening, for example if someone won’t stop hitting on you at a party, or you’re being harassed on the street or even if you’re being attacked. Is someone you know there? If you know someone who’s around you, like at a party or at school, you can ask them to stay with you until the aggressor leaves you alone.

If you don’t know anyone else, pick someone and tell them what you need. You in the red shirt go get the bouncer! (Or security staff, or your friend/mom/teacher, or whoever can help.) Identifying the person and giving them a task breaks through the bystander effect, which is the thing where the more people who are around, the less likely any one person will do anything about it.

When it’s over: You can also get help after the harassment, abuse, or assault is over, or at least not happening now. There are lots of ways to do that; here are a few:

  • Call a hotline
  • Report it to HR (in the workplace)
  • Talk to a faith leader, counselor, or support group.

If you’re not a full-on grown up, its important to tell an adult as well as talking to your friends for support. Talk to a parent or other adult family member, or a friends parent. Tell the school counselor, or a teacher you trust. Tell a therapist. Call a hotline.

If you tell someone and you don’t get the help you need, KEEP TELLING UNTIL YOU DO! It’s awful that you might have to ask more than one person, but many people don’t yet know how to deal with harassment, abuse, or assault. So keep telling until you get the help you need.

For a list of organizations that can help, go to our Resources page.


The fourth one — Hit — is what you do when you can’t do Run-Yell-Tell or you tried them and they didn’t work.

In Defend Yourself classes, we teach a basic set of hits that you can do without much practice. In an attack, they’ll cause either excruciating pain or temporary disability so you can get to safety. It doesn’t matter if you’re a couch potato or an athlete — we teach skills that people of any ability can do!

The best places to hit are eye, nose, throat, groin, knees, and feet. Find out how to hit them — and how easy it is — by joining us for a class.

If you’re being physically attacked, you may need to hit the attacker to protect yourself.

There are six primary targets on the human body that you can hit to cause excruciating pain or temporary disability: eyes, nose, throat, groin, knees, and feet.

You’ve probably felt the effectiveness of some of these, like if you’ve ever dropped something on your foot or gotten something in your eye. Now, imagine someone doing that with lots of force and on purpose — it hurts!

I (Lauren) was once bumped in the nose in a martial arts class by a small 10-year-old who wasn’t hitting hard or on purpose. It was just like in the cartoons — everything went black and I saw stars!

And anyone who’s done sports knows how easy it is to damage a knee. Knees are only made to go one direction, so pressure in any other direction can cause temporary disability, and then the attacker can’t run after you.

We hit only when there’s physical danger and when Run, Yell, and Tell didn’t work or aren’t available.

The goal of hitting (or any other self-defense technique, including Run, Yell, and Tell), is to give you enough time to get to safety (usually where there are other people).