Survival of women during SHTF

JL is a female member of my survival course and she asked a lot of woman specific questions about my SHTF experience. I decided to interview women because of that. I can talk about my experience but women live often in different world of feelings and emotions.

I spoke with first woman named Una, now 52 (so in her 30s back then) who took care of her family during that time. I asked JL to send me some questions she had on her mind and she did. If you have more women specific questions write in comments. I recorded interview and translated to English (sorry my English not proper English).

Una started to describe her situation

My first and worst concern was what is gonna happen with my kids, I had two toddlers, and I did not have any clue what is gonna happen, or even what is gonna look like when hell broke lose. We did not want to believe it could happen. We heard the sound of big guns miles away and stories of violence, rape and murder but everything looked so peaceful.

At the beginning, actually right before everything started during my meetings with my friends and colleagues at work we discussed the deteriorating situation, and pretty soon I found myself faced with important decision: is it worth to send my kids to some more “secure” region or to some relatives to neighboring country, or keep them with me, and wait what happens.

I never had question am I going to leave this place, I found it normal to stay in my city, with husband, in my house. Looking back now I know it was big mistake.

If I want to describe my worst feeling trough all of that, it was not hunger, danger, fire, cold or anything like that. It was definitely the feeling of uncertain future, complete absence of feeling that I control coming events, I was helpless and just like a leaf in a storm. Anything could happen.

Anyway I choose to keep my kids with me, still do not know if it was right decision. Survival was tough even at places I planned to send them before everything started. I found out after everything was over.

Anyway they survived, but with some mental trauma like everybody else who survived.

Some of my friends who send their kids through some organization to other countries, had kids getting lost and disappear, and in some cases they found place somewhere else but the kids lost connection with parents. If parents survived they became strangers with each other.

How did things start to change in your city?

Some very new emotions came up during that time, I was watching how city was dying slowly, together with normal behavior of people.

In the beginning people tried to stay together, I mean in the terms of neighbors helping each other. They had “normal” way of communication in the beginning. But as more bloody details, murder, rape and other crime became common trust faded and was replaced by fear.

Slowly people started to move away from each other and there was just us or them. Groups were not open anymore. No more welcoming.

I thought of my self as strong woman before, but that was before being without food and losing normal control of my life. I was teacher before everything, and of course I lost my job just like almost everyone. Nothing worked like it was supposed to work. I did not even have idea to continue to teach my kids at home, or try something similar, to survive took all my energy.

Did you have any ideas of how you would survive if you were alone or not?

I was with my husband and family and I think I would not have survived alone. Not because I’m weak spirited woman lacking will to survive but simply because what I saw and experienced was so different and “out of this world” that I would have not been able to handle it alone.

Being in family or group makes you part of something, if other depend on you and you have other who go through same unreal situation it makes you fight harder. I understand those people who gave up and locked themselves in to die.

Did you feel being a woman gave you any advantages or disadvantages?

For me I think it was better because I was a woman, I mean I was in a way protected from some of the hardest things, like finding food, resources or fighting. Hardest jobs were done by men, it was matter of luck for me. Woman are just more useful for certain kind of job like taking care of kids or wounded or sick people. Woman also have more feelings so some things like using violence does not come easy.

Did you realize how bad it would get?

No, definitely not, many times I thought this can not be worst and then it got worse.

Fighting for survival can reduce people to animal that we all are. Sometimes it was hard to still see that they or we are human. So much that we think makes us human is removed and then there is something very basic and brutal left. It comes as surprise that people can act without emotions like compassion that make us human. Since that time I never thought about humans like before.

How did the close people around you treat you?

I was protected, guarded in a way because I was a woman. It was not matter of some kind of gentlemen thing, I believe it was mostly about fact that I do my part of duties, like taking care for kids, food, trying to keep things clean etc. When I had to shoot, nobody would tell me: you are a woman you cant do that. Everyone in group had to function and people treat you good if you do.

What was your situation meaning how many people did you have as support, if any?

I spent that period in a group with 6 men, 3 woman and 4 kids.

What are you doing today that prepares you for any similar event or how did that change the way you live?

I have food in my house for several months, weapons and I am ready to leave everything at the first sign that something similar gonna happen. Everything.

Did anything happen that you handled differently than you assumed you would?

I was thinking a lot about that, and whatever I am gonna say it could be wrong. You get into situations that you can not imagine so there was no way to predict what to do. I saw hard man break and weak man be strong. Many people who showed off strength to the outside world before things got really hard were those who broke first. I think they build up a mask to hide their inner weakness.

I broke too but people still relied on me so I had to do my part. I kept myself together but the whole situation left big scars inside of me.

There were quiet and normal people like you [Selco] who managed to come out of all this stronger and who got used to situation faster and without much suffering. Maybe you were born for that I still do not understand people like you.

Were you concerned about hygiene and feminine body issues or would you say the lack of food water etc caused this not to be a concern?

How could lack of water etc not to be a concern? It was the opposite.

But over the time we learned that hygiene is not most important thing on the world, as dirty as that sounds. Other things occupied my mind, like with what to feed my kids, or how to make any kind of meal from very few things.

What did you notice that women did differently to handle the situation, if anything?

I know for myself that special way of thinking helped me. I just close my self in my own world, I mean with my thinking and worryng, and it helped me. When my husband was worrying about when everything would come to end, and what are the chances for that, or trying to find some useful information about that, my biggest concern was how to make dinner, or to warm kids.

It was not about “men in the house” thing, that he thinks about the big issues and I do not.

I am educated person, but worrying about small, everyday things I think helped me trough all of that, without going crazy maybe. My concern was for example when kid asked me “can you make pancake?” how to answer him and make something that only looked like pancake, and tell him something like “those are special pancakes”. Those were the little missions that kept me from completely losing myself like others did.

Did anything at all go the way you would have expected?

Nothing went as expected, actually I did not know what to expect. You can not expect too much when you find yourself in a completely new situation, deadly situation.

I lived day by day without too much hope or expectation, at some point you stop caring. I survived, my family survived, and that’s it. I do not know what happens next time everything goes to hell again but I’m ready now to accept whatever comes. I easily could not be here anymore like many people I know. This stays with me for life so I appreciate every day.

Did you have a source of spiritual strength?

I changed all phases, from completely not believing to completely believing and hoping that God will do something. I lost and gained faith many many times in that period. But yes, I think my kids and care for my kids gave me some will and strength to survive and live somehow normally. I think point of taking care for someone is really important in all this.


I currently work on translating second, much longer interview I did with a woman who survived in a group of only women. Things were harder for them. I will post interview in members section in the coming days.

If you have more woman specific questions or thoughts share what you think in the comments. What do you worry most about as woman thinking about SHTF?

31 responses to “Survival of women during SHTF”

  1. PD says:

    What did you use for monthly cycle? Birth Control? Diapers? How did you keep clean? Would you learn how to use a gun, or did you, before the shtf? Or after? How long did you live in crisis? Did you seek God?

    • nina says:

      If you are worried about these things you can get a copper IUD (good for ten years; can take it out anytime) and menstrual cup (good for many years too). If you have a bit of water you can do a “whore bath” (wash armpits and face) and use dry shampoo, corn starch, or baby powder to get oil out of your hair (stores well for several years).

  2. Marcos Ronald Roman Gonçalves says:

    Excellent interview, brother. Keep up!

  3. Jim says:

    I think the hardest thing is for people here in U.S. coming to the understanding that, yes, it can happen here, too. Preparing in whatever way you can is only a start, and after reading this account, I know that many, many people have really no idea what may really happen. Just to be able to survive day to day is a major achievement. These accounts are a shot of realism that will start to open eyes and minds….

  4. Daniel says:

    Thank you again Selco. This is extremely important and I look forward to reading the second interview. You really have helped me a great deal and I know you have touched many others. God bless you!

  5. sunflower says:

    I worry about defending myself as only woman with disabled man. My family, with many labor skills, plan to come to my state if things get too bad (if they can travel that is). With over 1400 miles between us – family – I need other plan. I live in small rural area. Most people related to someone. My husband and I are not. I am new to community (10 years).

    I get supplies for two for longterm incase prices get too high, or transportation is impacted. Security however is not something I could handle. Yes I have big dog (Great Pyrenese-160 pounds). Very big dog, very serious dog – dog take friends to ground and holds them if they come without notice. I have a good dog. During bad times, my dog would get taken out because he is a threat.

    Yes, I have lots of guns, AR15s, other type rifles, and ammo, but I am one person. Maybe I would use my supplies to move inside country further with neighbor without much supplies to hide. I have a temp hiding place in pasture. I have supplies in shop. Prairie fires, tornados, and wind storms can be problem where I am, so I stagger a few supplies else where on property. Husband in wheelchair, can’t quietly push him through pasture, creek, etc. I too have physical limitations – past stroke and head injury.

    So my biggest worry question is how women alone survive. Were there any women that were prepared with food prior that decided to stay? Did it help? Sounds like security was very big issue, more than food?

    I am looking forward to next interview with only women. I use to think I was strong. I survived bad things in past. Recently, found husband down in pool of blood. I fainted. Husband broke nose and had head injury. He was ok after stay in hospital. This make me realize that I am not so strong. I became very emotional over husband injuries.

    When women did have break down, what did they do or say to self to get straightened out.? did other women ever have to restain others when the other went crazy? Anyone in group ever turn on another? I could see this happening under stress in my family. How did non-medical women handle blood and bad injuries? how did they handle death? How did they handle shooting and killing another? Did their intuition get better during SHTF or after SHTF? What is best approach to deal with a person in group that is too emotional and puts group in danger?? How to handle bad judgment? did groups have formal meetings in beginning or later? Was there respect? Rank?


    • td says:

      If you haven’t joined a local church do so. Attend all community meetings. These are the ways that you build friendships and develop people that will help you now and in the future.

      Where there are differences between those that live in the community, only take sides when it is imperative to your beliefs and well being. Most times it is best to sit on the sidelines and listen and learn to determine those that can be depended on in hard times….

      • Blackwater says:

        Actually I think that is a great idea. Get involved with a community of people who are trying to do for others. I work in a helping hands ministry through my church. It is a group of men who help out widows, single mom’s and the elderly primarily. We don’t solicit because we don’t want to offend anyone who may be proud but we live for helping out others with moving, car repairs, home repairs and most anything else we can do. Find others like this, they will feel blessed that you are allowing them to help you. We all need community, you may feel like you are getting old and helpless but when you get with others you will find that the wisdom you carry inside your head is far more valuable than just pure brawn. As Selco described in his section of the course, the elderly brought value to the group in what they know. I know for me personally I seek out the elderly in the church now because of how much they have to teach me now that I have realized just how much I don’t know. It takes all of your community working together to survive. The Hollywood image of the lone Rambo’s is pure fantasy. They will likely be among first to perish or go crazy. We were designed to need others.

    • Freda roby says:

      Letter from td; Good questions. Some of the same questions that I have. Except> as a 68 year old woman with diabetes and living alone, What would I do when SHTF ??? I have no guns, but I have enough food that I could survive for about a month and that’s It. I have no real friends that I could go to or that would help me. So now what??

  6. Zulu Cowboy says:

    Quote: “I have food in my house for several months, weapons and I am ready to leave everything at the first sign that something similar gonna happen. Everything…”

    That was the most interesting response in the entire interview! Having gone through such deprivation and hardship. She now stores several months worth of food, plus weapons and is ready to get the hell out of dodge, at the drop of a hat!

    Don’t think that something like this can’t happen right here in your neck of the woods…it most certainly can. I would take her advice to heart on the food/water and guns. As for being willing to drop everything and bug out…and leave all of my supplies?? I would have a really hard time doing that. I’m more inclined to sit tight…(especially if I have a good supply of stuff stocked up). Becoming a refugee, with no resources…and only having what you can carry with you…isn’t exactly my idea of fun. But I suppose it depends on the situation…

    • Jay says:

      I think this is really important as well and Selco has stressed this point again and again in our interviews as well.

      Unfortunately I think many preppers will just stay and go down with their preps even in cases when it might make sense to bug out and leave things behind.

      Pretty hard to get the timing right and another reason why I believe it is so important to learn as many details as possible about these real SHTF situations that happened in the past.

    • Bosko says:

      You would not run if a enemy army comes to you and your own army is on the way back…?

      The only thing for sure is that you do not die hungry….

    • grower says:

      I agree that this was the most interesting comment in the interview. We might put up months of food supplies, plant a garden, put out fruit trees, raise livestock, have rain barrels and solar panels . . . but we also need to be ready and able to leave ALL THAT behind, in a heartbeat, if the situation becomes dangerous to stay. Preparing is important, but mental preparation (in my opinion) is more important.

      • Selco says:

        Yes, may look wrong, but it was very important, and it is still important to recognizance moment and leave everything, just to save your life.
        Even if that mean that you leave everything that you earn and acquire hard. Life is most important.

  7. David says:

    Re getting out of Dodge.
    Location can be such an important factor in survival. I think Selco and the woman in the interview know this so well now.
    Also the “time” factor. If you move early… it can be quite easy.. but you run the risk of moving unnecessarily. I think about people in Hurricane Katrina. Even leaving a few hours late could make the difference of a trip that should take a few hours.. into one that takes a day. And hours after that.. you might be stuck completely… and have to turn back.. as many did.
    So that is the lesson. Have your ear to the ground.. and be prepared to react.

    • HalfKin says:

      Zulu, Jay and David,
      You express my concerns.
      From leave everything and run, (as I would in a fire,) versus being a refuge on the road with other people, possibly being herding towards some others ‘desired’ destination?
      To going down with your preps,
      To the correct timing of the evacuation.
      It is so hard to know until we are in it don’t you think?

      Ears to the ground and eyes to the sky.
      All to the best of our abilities…

  8. JL says:

    That was extremely informative Una and thank you Selco for exploring this angle I truly appreciate it!!

  9. sunflower says:

    Did the country people, from Villiages, get attacked also? Una mentioned other areas were affected. Not sure where she was planning to run to if she could have left before war started. Maybe other place could have been worse.

    Did Una always stay in the home? Travel to market? any place after things got bad? Did she believe war was really over when time came?

    How would she describe the warning signs of another potential SHTF situation in her city?

  10. Tan says:

    Selco I have to thank you for the work you are doing. A person can read 1000 survival manuals but it doesnt compare to the real world experience you bring us.

  11. Francesca says:

    What would have happened to her and her children if her husband had been killed? I have three children, two of them preschool aged. I live in rural area. I think this will make things easier to survive. I can hunt, fish, and farm to live. But other people who live here could be threat. There are many many people with guns here. How could you know who was a friend or enemy? Would you shoot strangers on sight?

    • Blackwater says:

      Sounds like you need to get to work getting to know your neighbors so you can get a feel for how they will react. My family is soon moving out to country next to National Forest and mountain. Our first plan once we move in is to take baked goods to neighbors and invite them over for coffee, tea and cookies. We think we need to make friends quickly if possible and also learn who to be watchful of when SHTF. I just sold my house of 15 years in suburbs, I have this gnawing feeling we don’t have a lot of time left.

  12. Bobbie says:

    I have at least a year or more of food supplies. I have about the same in water and water disinfectant. I have a shot gun and a semi auto pistol.

    I am in a mobile home park 55 years old and more only.

    There are many elderly here. We are right off the freeway and near many large stores.

    Most of us have no where to go and are alone. I am in acceptance that I will have to stay put because there is no where else to go. If I am attacked or burned out God will protect me or call me home.

    I’m not afraid to die. I will not give in to evil. God promises in His word that he will never leave me or forsake me. To die is to be with God.

    • Blackwater says:

      I understand where you are coming from but I pray all of your elders families come together and take care of you so you can at least pass away with loved ones around you. I had an old friend who was just recently beaten to death by number of youths unknown for probably not much more than the $20-50 he had on him. Beaten to the point that he slowly died laying in a pool of his own blood in a parking lot. I pray they find the savages that would do this to an old weak gentle man.

      And the anarchy is just beginning, soon, the strong will prey on the weak without concern for Rule Of Law. We must unite in communities to protect the weaker ones we love. We already are at a point that we cannot depend on Law Enforcement to protect us.

      I am not demeaning Law Enforcement, my son is a cop, he would freely admit that police respond 99% of the time after the assault or murder has already happened. They cannot possibly be there when you need them.

  13. SurvivAll Expert says:

    Build a Network of likeminded people. Learn essential knowledge, develop key skills, develop a plan of action and be aware. Being Prepared is a mindset that can appear terrifying or exciting depending on how you look at it… see it as a challenge you must meet and it’ll be exciting.

  14. JL says:
    To any ladies this is what I use and it is a perfect period solution instead of trying to think of how to stockpile feminine products. You only need one. 🙂

    • sara says:

      I too use a soft brand feminine cup and reusable cloth. We have cloth diapered our daughter too. There are so many wonderful alternatives to disposable products if people look. Asking older relatives what they did or what their parents did is a great opportunity to learn too.

  15. Sandy Taylor says:

    I just wanted to belatedly add that I just finished reading The Pianist ( and it just rung so true with this interview.

    They knew the war was coming to Warsaw… it was right at their doorstep. The army was there, the battlefront was on the other side of town. But everyone thought, oh no, it surely can’t get this far. Not OUR city. The soldiers will protect us. They stayed home.

    But despite the soldier’s efforts, they lost. And in moved the enemy.

    And even then, they thought it would be OK. They’ll be defeated. And pretty soon the people are getting shut into gettos, and still thinking that any moment, it will be OK..

    The author, Wladyslaw Szpilman, reflects on the mentality of it, and the hope that everything will soon return to normal. And how it just kept getting worse, and worse, even when you think it can’t anymore. It does.

    If you were as intrigued by Una’s interview as I was, give the Pianist a read. It really brought into sharp focus what the times were like, and the changes in mentality that are needed.

    And, an important sidenote… it really clarified for me that in the end, it always comes down to food. Without food, there’s no survival. Una’s interview strongly reflects this as well.

    It gave me the kick in the butt I needed to start my long-term food storage. Not just a full pantry or 3 months of food.. but the long term food. I visited an LDS cannery last weekend for the first time. Actually, I took pictures ( If you need that extra little motivation to get started, let this be it for you.

    And I too found Una’s comments that now, even though she has food, she’s ready to leave it all to get out of the area quickly, to be a ray of golden truth. Sounds sappy, but really.. think about it. If you aren’t already in your final retreat location, somewhere safe(er), if TSHTF, are you going to be able to transport your supplies there? What if you have no where else to go? Some serious things to think about, as I’m sure we all do.

    I’m already planning to return to the Cannery, and send half of my new purchases up North to our final retreat location (we’ll be moving within a year or two, or sooner). If we have to go quickly, at least half of it will already be there. And if we don’t make it there, our family & close friends can make use of it.

    I hope we never have need of our preps. But I suspect we will.

    Thank you Selco for your real-world insight. It’s invaluable.

    ~ Sandy Taylor

  16. Steve says:

    Just a note on comments following your articles. Initially the comments appear to be hidden by various graphics. On a hunch, I clicked on an exposed area towards the end, and did a “select all.” I then pasted it into MS Word. Now all of the comments are visible, and the graphics appear almost like dropcaps. Not sure why you would want to hide comments (members only?), but they are readable.

    BTW, great articles.

    • bigislegal says:

      Steve :Just a note on comments following your articles. Initially the comments appear to be hidden by various graphics. On a hunch, I clicked on an exposed area towards the end, and did a “select all.”

      Thanks a bunch for your “hunch”. I’ve been wondering why the “margins got blown” all of a sudden then remained like that for MONTHS!.

      Thought I got squeezed out because I cannot afford the $$ to join “the club”.


  17. Re. feminine hygiene: Take a bandanna and fold it up, just wear that as a pad. Or any similar cotton scrap of fabric, about a quarter of a yard (18×18″). You can wash it and hang it up to dry and re-use it again and again. If you don’t want it to “migrate” then safety pin it to your underwear. You might want to sew a strip of fabric to your underwear to reinforce where you pin it or even a soft “strap” in front and back to stick it under, out of old T shirt fabric. You only have to do this with a couple or 3 pairs of underwear and just keep hand washing them during your period and alternate them. (this assumes you can get water enough to do this).

    Save your commercial feminine napkins for wound dressings when the SHTF. Tampons are also good for plugging bullet wounds until you can treat them for real.

  18. Paula Schmidt says:

    I found this phrase most interesting: “I broke too but people still relied on me so I had to do my part.” As a single mom–things are different. I have spent 18 years without a man and having those kids rely on me so yeah, sometimes you have a good cry, but then you buck up and get shit done. If you’re looking for a strong woman to join your group you cant go wrong with a successful single mom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *