Personal safety is a critical issue for all women. Despite the efforts of numerous advocacy groups and the occasional outburst of public attention, instances of violent crime, assault and rape statistics remain high. Because October is National Crime Prevention Month and Halloween and other seasonal holidays are fast approaching, it’s a good time to brush up on important personal safety strategies.
By just “going with the flow” you can get yourself into trouble. It’s important to remain aware of your surroundings and the people you’re with. Trust your gut. If you feel uneasy in a social situation, leave immediately making whatever excuses are necessary. Never feel obligated to talk to someone or accept a drink if you sense that something feels off.
When walking outside, especially at night, it’s key to observe everything with eagle eyes. Become familiar with the streets, parks and other public places in your neighborhood. Most criminals focus their energies on those who appear to be out of their element. By moving briskly and confidently you reduce your chances of receiving unwanted attention. If there’s someone who looks dangerous ahead of you consider crossing the street – better safe than sorry. If you think someone is following you, stop with your back against the wall of a building and observe that person’s reaction. In the majority of cases the unknown individual will continue on his or her course, but if not you’ll know to be on your guard.
It’s also necessary to exercise due caution if you’ll be traveling by car. Whenever you park your vehicle be sure to lock all the doors. Resist the temptation to leave the doors unlocked even if you’re just running into the corner store. The minute of your time you may save isn’t worth the risk of having your ride stolen or worse. When you take a cab or an Uber ride, be on alert. You can always demand to exit the vehicle at any point without feeling like you owe the driver an explanation.
Most likely you already carry a powerful tool for keeping yourself safe: your smartphone. A number of popular personal safety apps can instantly send a pre-written text message to contacts in your phone for help. Other intruder alarms allow you to remotely view surveillance camera footage and see who’s at the door. Some GPS apps allow select friends and family members to keep tabs on your location.
And of course, remember that there’s strength in numbers. It’s a good idea to go to unfamiliar places in the company of a group of friends rather than alone. If that isn’t possible, you can arrange to message or call friends regularly while you’re away. They’ll know that if they don’t hear from you there might be something wrong.
If you see someone who might be in trouble, take action whenever possible. This doesn’t mean that you should necessarily intervene physically, but you can do your best to deescalate the situation and then call the proper authorities. Don’t be a bystander: you’ll be helping to create a greater culture of anti-violence which will keep us all safer.
Finally, despite all your efforts, you might not be able to escape every precarious scenario you encounter. Self-defense courses aim to maximize your ability to get out of threatening settings as quickly as possible. These can be instrumental in avoiding injury or even worse. It might be wise to equip yourself with pepper spray or even a Taser for times when all else fails.
You can prevent a lot of personal danger just by listening to your instincts. Trust yourself and communicate with your friends, family and loved ones if you are in danger. Remember you aren’t alone – stay in touch, stay aware and stay safe!