Don’t let ignorance put you in dangerous situations. Here’s your complete guide to survival.
I pulled my green Jeep into the big parking garage of the hospital and parked in a space near the elevator. I was there to visit my aunt and uncle, who underwent kidney transplant surgery the day before. As I got out of the car, I had a strange feeling. The parking garage seemed really creepy. There were many cars parked, but no people around. It was dimly lit and very quiet. I walked toward the elevator, scanning the garage for other people. Still, there was no sign of anyone. I got into the elevator and as the doors began to close, a man got in—he seemed to come out of nowhere! He looked really suspicious and when he entered the elevator, he looked me up and down. He said nothing. I had a really bad feeling. I thought about exiting the elevator, but I thought I would look silly, so I stayed put and hoped this guy wasn’t some psycho. As the elevator doors closed, I got really nervous. All of a sudden, thoughts raced through my mind about how stupid I was being and about all the things this man could do if he wanted to. What if he tries to attack me? We were the only people in the elevator and all he had to do was hit the stop button. My heart was pounding and it seemed like forever before I made it safely to my floor. So—nothing happened to me. The man didn’t try to attack me, but that fear I felt in the elevator was totally unnecessary and the whole situation could have been avoided. I should have listened to my gut and gotten out the moment I felt uncomfortable.
After visiting with my aunt and uncle for a while, the nurse asked me where I parked. When she heard that it was in the parking garage, she told me to make sure I have someone walk me to my car, because a lot of sketchy people hang out in the garage. That immediately confirmed my notion that I should have been more careful and gotten out when the man got in. It’s much better to be safe than sorry!
Women are the biggest targets for violent crimes these days because they are considered to be weaker. Many women live their lives thinking nothing will happen to them. According to Deputy Joe Campoy of the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department, women are big targets simply because they are generally easier to overtake. “Even with all of the information available, many women are not prepared for any kind of attack. There are also many more angles for a male attacker to use when looking to victimize a female. Most of the time, it will be based on physical stature. An attacker is not going to target someone who might be able to fight him off. The attacker will pick out a smaller and generally weaker victim. Criminals do not generally attack someone thinking they might lose the fight. Most of the time, they go after someone they know can be overcome,” he says.
Women take risks when it comes to their safety everyday. Many of these risks are unnecessary and somewhat avoidable. So does this mean you need to go out and buy a gun or pepper spray or join a gym to get buff? No. It just means that you need to take a few extra precautions and be aware of what’s going on around you.
Here are six tips to help you avoid potentially dangerous situations:
1. Don’t jog alone or at night.
So you want to go jogging, but the only time you can do it is at night. Does that mean that you have to skip your exercise because you’re afraid? No; you just need to be smart. Find a jogging partner! It could be a neighbor, a family member, a friend, or even someone from work. Exercising with a partner helps keep you motivated, as well as safe. So grab a partner and kill two birds with one stone. If you can’t find a partner, take the dog. No dog? Ever thought about investing in a treadmill?
“There is a safety in numbers. It’s always harder for a predator to victimize two people, as opposed to one. Most of the time, when a predator finds himself outnumbered, he will move on to a victim he knows he can overtake. It is much more difficult to victimize a woman when her friend is helping to defend her against the attacker,” explains Campoy.
Another issue that joggers must consider is music. Do you really need music to jog? A lot of joggers say that music is the only thing that keeps them going. I have to say, this is true for me. If I don’t have my iPod, I can’t concentrate while jogging. I start thinking about how bored I am and my jogging becomes a huge mental problem. “It’s dangerous to jog with an iPod, simply because it takes away your ability to hear what’s going on around you. You won’t be able to hear someone running up behind you until it is too late. Any kind of distraction that can take away from your sense of awareness makes you more open to attack,” says Campoy. If you’re like me and really have to listen to music while jogging, keep the volume down so you can still hear sounds around you and be more alert. When I’m jogging with my iPod, I turn around a lot to make sure no one is sneaking up behind me. “If you must jog alone, jog during daylight hours. Let someone know your jogging route/path. Stick to high foot traffic areas, if possible. And try to keep a cell phone. Cell phones these days are often small enough to not get in the way,” says Campo.
2. Beware of parking lots and garages.
If you’re parked in a dark or unsafe lot or garage, don’t walk to your car alone. It might sound silly, but something bad can happen in a split second. “Parking lots and garages offer plenty of places for an attacker to hide and wait. A woman can be an easy target because she can be found searching her purse for keys, carrying bags, talking on a cell phone, etc. Oftentimes, parking lots and garages are poorly lit as well. If you must go into a parking lot or garage, make sure you have your keys in hand before exiting a building. When carrying your keys, hold them between your fingers, as if you were wearing brass knuckles. This way, if you have to swing a punch, it has a little something extra behind it. Carry your purse over your shoulder to keep your hands free. Don’t talk on a cellular phone at all, if possible. If you are on a cell phone, tell the person who you’re talking to where you are. Most parking garages have security guards who may be willing to escort you to your car if you feel uncomfortable. Also, whenever possible, park as close as you can to a lighted area. Predators lurk in the dark. The less darkness there is for them to hide in, the better. Keep your eyes moving. Know where your car is and walk straight to it. But don’t become so focused on it that you lose your sense of awareness,” says Campoy. It’s best to just avoid parking in undesirable locations. Try to keep this in mind next time you’re looking for a place to park. If you must park somewhere questionable, have a plan in mind about getting back to your car.
3. Be careful in public restrooms.
Women’s restrooms have become prime locations for crimes against women. Who would think you have to worry about someone attacking you while you’re just trying to use the restroom? According to Paul Henry Danylewich, personal safety expert and author of Fearless: The Complete Personal Safety Guide For Women, a public restroom is called a fringe area. “This means that it borders a busy area, but it’s fairly isolated. This is a common place where street crimes occur,” he says. You shouldn’t have to be afraid to go to the restroom, but you need to be aware that it is an area where a crime can take place. The restroom is normally thought of as a safe area. Sometimes that type of thinking is what predators rely on to get their victims. They know that there are plenty of unsuspecting women in restrooms.
“Public restrooms can be dangerous because there are plenty of places for an attacker to hide in. Generally for women, it also places them in a position more susceptible to attack, as well. From a seated position or a position with your back turned, it is much harder to fend off an attacker. And with a stall door closed, the attacker has the element of surprise on his side,” says Campoy. Don’t be hesitant to use a public restroom, but pay attention to your surroundings and the people around you.
4. Listen to your inner voice.
We all have that little voice inside our heads that talks to us when we have bad feelings. It’s the voice that tells you to move your car into your garage, even when you’re too tired to do it. It’s the voice that tells you to drive a few miles further to get gas when the station by your house has a party going on in the parking lot. That little voice seems to speak to us when it has to do with something important. The best thing to do when your gut tells you something is LISTEN!
“We all have instincts. Unfortunately, many victims that are targeted do not listen to what their instincts are telling them. Our research suggests that most victims did not act on their instinct because they were afraid to overreact and cause an embarrassing situation for themselves. Using your instinct is a key element in self protection,” says Danylewich.
“Officers get calls all the time because someone heard a bump in the night. Oftentimes, it’s nothing, but there are times when that gut instinct has helped us catch the bad guy. If you’re in a situation in which you feel uneasy, you should get out of it. It’s always better to be safe than sorry,” says Campoy. If your gut is telling you something, listen and act accordingly. You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can avoid certain situations by taking action if you feel something’s wrong.
5. Be careful when you drink.
Margaritas after work or on girls’ night at the newest club are great ways to unwind, but danger lurks where alcohol is involved. As a woman, you’re a target for violent crimes. As a woman under the influence of alcohol, you’re an even bigger target. “We all know that alcohol consumption lowers our level of awareness and reaction time. Criminals most definitely target women who are drinking. The best advice I can give is not to drink. If you’re going to drink, don’t get so intoxicated that you can’t stand. It’s best to drink with friends and have a designated driver. This way, you will have someone to help watch you and your actions,” says Campoy. Also, be aware of the growing danger of women’s drinks being spiked with the date rape drug. Jeremy Ayala, a thirty-year-old sound engineer, works in various nightclubs and says that the nightclub scene is a scary place for the ladies. “I work in nightclubs running sound all the time and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen girls get their drink spiked because they set it down somewhere ‘for just a second’—those are the girls who wind up being victims of sexual assault. If a lady has a beverage and it’s been out of her sight at all, she should dump it and get another. Safety is totally worth the price of a fresh cocktail,” he says. Campoy agrees. “Order your own drinks. Don’t let a stranger buy you a drink and bring it to you. If you’re drinking beer, order it bottled, not in a glass. It’s much easier for a predator to drug a glass of beer than a bottle of beer.”
6. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
As a woman, it’s important that you know what’s happening around you at all times. When you’re driving, you’re aware of the drivers and pedestrians around you, right? Well, you need to start paying the same attention to everything around you at all times. I’m not saying that you should become paranoid and think everyone is out to get you, but it’s beneficial to start focusing on things you might not have thought were important before. This means when you’re walking to your car, scanning everything around you for suspicious people or activity. It means not talking on your cell phone while walking to your car in the dark. It means having your keys in your hand when you approach your car instead of digging through your purse when you get to the car, giving someone the chance to attack you while you’re busy. Being aware of your surroundings simply means being alert and using common sense. Don’t let the fear of being attacked keep you from doing anything you normally do, though. Just be smart and make yourself aware. Knowledge is power!