Bochum (dpa) - Most women will recognise the sensation - that slight uneasiness sometimes accompanied by butterflies in the stomach.
It usually appears when you are making your way home at night and realise you are walking along a darkened street or sitting in an empty train carriage alone - and each station could be the one where a strange and threatening man steps on.
Despite these uncomfortable feelings, very few women really take the danger of attack or even rape seriously.
On the other hand, most women would probably listen to the advice of friends or family and either take a longer, but safer route home or choose to spend a little more on a safe journey home - by taxi, for example - than save a little and put their trust in public transport.
What should you do if a character suddenly turns up with the clear intention of attacking and doing you harm? Women used to be advised not to put up too much of a struggle in such situations in order to prevent much worse happening to them.
The most recent statistics show quite clearly that there is a connection between an attack being broken off and how victims defend themselves.
This is one of the findings in a report on an internal police study carried out in the area around Hanover between 1991 and 1994 and taking 522 cases into consideration.
Only in 26 per cent of cases where victims did little to protect themselves were the attacks broken off before they were complete. However, around 84 per cent of attacks were broken off in cases where victims put up strong resistance.
But how can women defend themselves effectively against attackers, most likely male and more physically powerful?
"Of course, every woman is advised to take a course in self- defence," says Christian Stuecke, publisher of a website on the subject of self-defence and himself a martial arts fan.
"To a much greater extent than for men, it's about psychology for women. It's about training your own awareness and making women understand that they really can defend themselves with the skills and abilities they have."
Sascha Krefft from Goettingen, leader of a self-defence course, also brings up this topic in his book "Piss off!" published by Koesel in Munich: "The first step on the road to effective self-protection is to present oneself with confidence because very few attackers will choose to tackle a young, confident woman."
The Bochum police's crime prevention commission is well aware of this phenomenon. They have been offering self-defence classes for women for a number of years now.
The head commissioner Ina Braun, along with the two course leaders Roger Krause and Frank Plewka, have put together an approach which makes use of the results of criminal research, psychology and self- defence.
"We are concerned with giving women a confidence which they can then use in situations in order not to become the victim of a sexual crime against the right to self-determination," say the trainers.
They have their own website (www.geocities.com/Athens/Parthenon/
1716/TIPS.HTM) with useful tips on how to react to an attacker in dangerous situations. The main thing, they stress, is not to panic.
Many attackers can be deterred by adopting behaviour which is untypical for a victim: maintaining eye contact with the attacker, walking on confidently.
The authors advise that, should you want assistance from passers- by, then it is more effective to shout "Fire!" rather than "Help!" and that you should appeal to individuals directly in order to break through the wall of anonymity.
The organisation "White Ring", based in Mainz, was set up to give help to female victims of crime and agrees with the idea that attackers often look for less confident women as victims.
The group has developed a programme for women, children and the elderly called "Mirror Image". A guide book forms part of the programme, as do stickers which can be attached, for example, to bathroom mirrors.
Participants in the programme can draw confidence every morning from phrases such as "I am strong, I am important" and "There is a way".
The White Ring can post a copy of the guide book and several stickers for free under the address: Weisser Ring, Weberstrasse 16, 55130 Mainz.
Author Sascha Krefft points out, however, that simply walking along the street with confidence will usually not be enough to protect you against a determined attacker. His book therefore includes practical instructions on how women can best use their own capabilities against an attacker.
He advises every young woman to take a course in self-defence with a professional leader. "When it comes to self-defence, it is not simply a matter of regular practice or the correct application of what a person has learned, but it is also a question of clearly understanding what kind of damage women can do to attackers.
"Above all, it's important for women to have the chance to try out their abilities in a fight against a male opponent in order to get rid of any doubts they may have about their ability to defeat a 'really strong' man."