If you think you are being followed: Make a sudden turn, cross the street, accelerate, or go into a nearby business. If being followed by a car, reverse your direction - it will take them a much longer time to turn around and they will likely just continue on to find a different target. If you are unable to shake the follower, turn around and scream, "What do you want?" in your most indignant voice. This is likely to embarrass the innocent and frighten off a large portion of potential attackers. If this doesn't work, now you must:
Scream. Your voice is your primary weapon - remember that the last thing the bad guy wants is a fuss. Screaming ANYTHING halts the attack in many cases, or at least buys you a couple of seconds while they consider whether there might be easier prey. Over the years, experts have warned not to yell, "Help" but to yell, "Fire." I favor, "Leave me the $%#& alone! Get away!" If you carry a personal alarm or whistle, use it.
Run/retreat. Put yardage between you and the perpetrator. Distance equals time, you are giving yourself time with every footstep you put between you and him. An all-out run is what you need. Be screaming continually while running. Keep screaming. Don't stop screaming until you are completely out of danger.
Run toward other people: If there are other people nearby, run to them. If there is a lighted business or home, run to it. Even if they won't let you in, you are attracting attention which will likely cause the attacker to leave the area.
But what if he has a weapon? If the bad guy displays a gun, knife, baseball bat, etc. do the scream and run double time. Putting distance between you gives you protection against weapons - if it is a gun, run in a crooked line, looking for cover but mostly concentrating on gaining distance. It is very difficult for even the best marksman to hit a moving target, so become a moving target. Hitting anything over 15 yards away is very difficult. By displaying a weapon he has threatened your life, and you have to believe he means it. You need to get out of the situation before he completes his threat. The odds are on your side more with every yard you gain.
- But what if he shows a weapon and wants me to get in a vehicle or go off into the bushes? Unless he has you physically restrained, scream and run. If you are female, you have almost 100% chance of being raped and may be killed if you get into a vehicle. If you are male, you have almost 100% chance of being killed. With those odds, your odds are much better that he can't hit a moving object with a bullet, and in almost all cases he won't shoot anyway - he wants to scare you into the vehicle or bushes, not shoot you or he would have done that already. Remember, unless this is somebody you know, they aren't looking for you, they'll let you go and look for an easier target.
If you are grabbed
At this point, if you freeze and do nothing, and you survive, you did the right thing -don't dwell on what might have been. Freezing is a natural reaction to the unexpected, even in those trained in self-defense. But the odds are not with you in using this as a defense. If your attacker surprises you and gets you into a grip, now is the time to fight - because "only your life depends on it" (Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch). You need to get out of his grip and be able to run. Learn grip-breaking techniques. When you can't break the grip, now you've got to inflict surprising and/or incapacitating pain on your attacker. Gouge eyes, puncture eardrums, crush his windpipe, rake his shins, break his thumbs, rip his ears off (easy to do), jam a sharp object into any available portion of his body, and with caution regarding AIDS risk - bite any part of him you can. Fight dirty, cheat, win. Get away.
Crash the Car: If you have been forced into a vehicle, make every attempt to cause a traffic accident and crash the vehicle. By getting you into the vehicle, they attackers have shown they plan to seriously injure or kill you. Your chances are better in causing an accident and escaping in the confusion.