I’ve never felt safer than I do in the town I live in now. The rural community I grew up in was too secluded, and I had way too many bad things happen to feel safe on my college’s campus. Where I live now, I walk most everywhere. I live downtown, and there are 216 steps between my apartment and my office. I never thought anything of walking home alone from the office at night, until I found out that someone I knew had been assaulted in a crowded area during rush hour. This situation was definitely a wake up call to me. My dad works in safety, so I’ve compiled a list of tips that he’s given me over the years.
1. Be alert. It seems so common sense, but we’ve all been guilty at one time or another. Keep an eye on where you are and who’s around you. Walk with confidence. Check your backseat as you get into your car. Sometimes when there’s a large SUV or van with super tinted windows parked next to my driver’s seat, I enter my car through the passenger side. It may be a little bit of an inconvenience, but it’s better to be slightly inconvenienced and alive.
2. Be prepared. I lose everything. Because of this, I always dig things that I’ll need out of my purse before going out to my car. I like to have my car keys in one hand and cell phone in the other. For Christmas, my mom bought me a portable car battery jumper. I can’t tell you how much safer I feel knowing that I have that in my car.
3. Trust your gut. I read an article once about a lady who was, like many of us, determined to get all of the groceries into her second story apartment in one trip. A can of cat food fell out of the bag, and a man picked it up for her and insisted on carrying it into her apartment for her since her hands were full. She said that she knew she shouldn’t have let him in, but she didn’t want to be impolite. He ended up raping her, then told her that he was going to get a drink of water on the way out and leave. Something about the fact that he shut the window made her feel like he actually wasn’t leaving, so she waited until he was getting water and sprinted out of her apartment in the nude to a neighbor’s apartment that usually kept the doors unlocked. Long story short, we have those instincts for a reason. If you feel like something is wrong, it probably is. If you feel uncomfortable around someone, there’s probably a good reason for it. It’s better to be safe and deemed impolite then to find yourself in a scary situation.
4. Make some noise. I’m pretty sure this one is my dad’s favorite. One of the best ways to deter someone is by drawing attention to the situation. Whenever I’m walking to my car, I keep my finger on the car alarm button. I also keep my keys by my nightstand so that if someone breaks in, I can start my car alarm. I think that my next step will be to get a whistle for my key chain. I know that “rape whistles” sound kind of silly, but what would you do if someone blew a whistle in your face?!
5. Use the buddy system. Whenever possible, travel in groups. If you got a great parking spot but your friend had to park in the garage a block away, why not take her to her car? I always hated walking through a specific breezeway downtown in college, but I felt a little safer walking through there at night when I was with a group.
6. Make a phone call. My mom taught me this trick once when we were in Vegas and a cab driver took us off route and made us very uncomfortable. She called my stepdad, who was back home in East Tennessee, and started talking to him like he was at the hotel waiting for us. She told him that she was sorry we were taking longer than usual, but that the cab driver was taking a weird route and that we should be home in the next five minutes. My stepdad was immediately keyed off that something was wrong, he knew who we were with, and he knew how long it should be until he heard from us again. The cab driver also knew that someone was waiting on us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve utilized this little trick when I’ve felt like I was being followed.
7. Be social media savvy. Not everyone has good intentions. Because of this, I try to avoid posting anything about my whereabouts on social media until I’ve already left the location.
8. Makeshift may save your life. I freaked out flying after 9/11, and my dad gave me some cool tips about makeshift “weapons.” If you can get a heavy object like a book, a full water bottle, or a full soda can to the back of an attacker’s head or neck (or genitals) you may be able to buy yourself a little time to run. Like I mentioned earlier, I use my car alarm as a makeshift alarm system.
I hope that none of you will ever be in a situation where you need to use these tips, but I hope knowing them makes you feel a little bit safer. I also highly recommend the book “The Gift of Fear.”
If you have any safety tips for me, I would love to hear them!