Violent crime in San Antonio increased 25 percent in 2016. Homicides alone were the highest since 1995, so knowing how to protect yourself from attackers can mean the difference between life and death.

Herminia Maldonado was attacked by a stranger mid-day while walking through San Pedro Park.

"I was walking to meet a friend and this man just jolted out of nowhere," Maldonado recalled. "[He] called me a bad word and looked at me like he was going to knock me down like a quarterback."

That's when she said she screamed for help.

"A lady got a hold of me and she told me I was alright, that nobody was chasing me anymore," Maldonado said. "There was a class nearby. They called the police and the man was apprehended."

Maldonado described the experience as traumatizing, and she's not alone. According to the Rape Crisis Center in 2016, nearly 1,200 people reported sexual assaults in San Antonio.

Sergeant Marcus Williams teaches a Rape Aggression Defense class at the UT Health Science Center. He said that everyone has personal weapons they can use to defend themselves. He suggests using elbows, fists, knees, and feet. However, Williams also said that the first step in self-defense is being aware of your surroundings.

"When you're alone, make sure you're looking up, looking around," Williams said.

If attacked, he suggests hitting vulnerable areas on the attacker like the eyes, throat, and groin.

Charles Bradley with the Tactical Safety Institute said that non-lethal weapons that don't require physical contact are most recommended. It creates what he calls a reactionary gap, which is defined as the distance that has to be maintained between a person and an attacker in order to properly respond to an attack. That distance, he said, is 21 feet.

Bradley said that the only non-lethal weapon that maintains that gap is pepper spray, given the distance it can reach. While other non-lethals require direct contact.

Another non-lethal option is a knuckle claw called the "TigerLady." It's an object that has blades that pop out of it. While it's tempting, the San Antonio Police Department says it's illegal here, along with brass knuckles. Pepper spray, pepper guns, stun guns, and pocket knives are all legal.

"But of course, several areas like government locations, airports, prohibit certain weapons in their locations," SAPD Officer Douglas Greene said.

Whatever your choice of protection, experts say that having more than one option is important, and practicing in advance is key, so you're comfortable whipping out the weapon if needed.