Saturday, 1 March 2014

GETTING HOME SAFELY : 12 TIPS FOR GIRLS WALKING ALONE

Some of us live in what is considered a safe area, where crime rates are relatively low and a trip to the shops or to and from school isn’t given much thought while some of us live in “high risk” areas where walking anywhere can be dangerous but unfortunately necessary.
This article aims to make you more street smart and help you decrease your chances of becoming a target and increase your knowledge of how to decrease your chances of being attacked, robbed or abducted while walking alone whether during the day or night.

Always walk in groups when possible and avoid going out at night alone but if you must walk somewhere on your own use these powerful tips to protect yourself and please share them with your family and friends!

Remember that our best assets are knowledge, instinct and common sense!

1. DON'T ACCEPT LIFTS FROM ANYONE
Don’t get into anyone’s vehicle even if they seem harmless or you have seen them before. Many girls have been abducted while walking home by people they knew from their communities such as teachers, shop owners, family friends and acquaintances, do not take a lift from anyone! If you feel embarrassed to refuse (which is the main reasons why most girls don’t), give them a short reason why you can’t accept, things such as that you spoke to a friend that is meeting you somewhere along your route and they’d be upset if you missed them or that you’re going to a friend’s house just around the corner to drop off a borrowed book. Whatever you choose to say make sure that you recite this many times so that if the need arises its right there in the back of your head waiting to be used.

Do not approach a car to give directions, give them from a distance or avoid this completely and just walk on – rather offend a person that will surely get over it than risk your own life in the name of not offending someone.

2. BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS
Wherever you may be walking, be aware of what is going on around you, do not start daydreaming. Constantly scan your surroundings and look for “ways out” should something happen. Be aware of anyone walking in your vicinity and pay special attention to individuals who change their behavior upon spotting you. For example, if someone ahead of you decreases their walking pace and keeps glancing back or if someone behind you has increased their pace or changed their course to intentionally merge with yours.


3. USE BUSY, WELL LIT AREAS
You should choose to walk in the most populated areas as it’s much safer than secluded areas because people are less likely to do you harm with many people around that could jump in to help you or be unwanted witnesses. Use the more populated streets and areas, even if this means you have to walk for longer periods of time without using shortcuts. Walking in secluded areas increases your chances of being attacked because it reduces the chance that your attackers will be seen or heard. Stay where there are other people and traffic whenever possible. Although you must avoid walking around at night if this is necessary always choose well-lit up routes.


4. AVOID AREAS WITH DENSE BUSH, TREES OR LONG GRASS
Dense bushes, trees and long grass can not only give attackers a good place to hide and ambush you but should you be attacked the chances of someone seeing you are diminished. Walk around the field of long grass rather than through it unless there are at least 2 people close by (that don’t appear to know one another).


5. CONCEAL VALUABLES
This may seem the most obvious of them all but don’t wear or show any valuables, things such as earrings, necklaces, watches, cell phones, mp3 players etc. Also if you have money on you always conceal it, do not walk with it in your hand. Having a watch visible may give someone a reason to approach you to ask for the time, rather don’t wear a watch and make sure your wrists are visible to deter people from engaging you for this reason.


6. DON'T KILL YOUR BEST ALERT SYSTEM
Do not under any circumstances wear headphones and listen to music while you walking, not only is this a display of your valuables dangerous but it completely removes one of your most valuable senses – hearing. Not only do you remove you ability to hear someone walking or driving up behind you but you increase your chances of being hit by a car or attacked by surprise. Music will distract you and you need to be aware and plugged in at all times.

Avoid answering or talking on your cell phone while walking, you are both displaying your valuables and being distracted. That being said I must tell you that I sometime wear headphones while walking (not plugged into anything) as a tactic to deter people from trying to call out to me or strike up unwanted conversations. Only use this if you are walking in a populated area where the biggest threat is unwanted advances.


7. CHANGE YOUR ROUTE AND TIME
Do not walk the same route everyday at the same time as this makes you a very easy target. People may begin to notice your routine and plan an attack. Change your route and vary the times at which you walk even if only by 20 or 30 minutes sooner or later than the norm.

8. LOOK CONFIDENT
Many people greatly underestimate the power of looking confident. While walking alone you should keep a strong posture and avoid looking at the ground. Don’t look like an easy target by seeming distracted, afraid and unsure because this is the first thing a potential attacker will see and use to decide if they should attack you.

9. BE COMFORTABLE AND UNRESTRICTED
If possible don’t carry things that are awkward and difficult to hold, like plastic grocery bags, shoulder bags, books or sacks. Carry everything in a backpack, not only can you walk faster but if you need to run or defend yourself, you can do so unrestricted. You may be thinking that if you need to run you’ll just drop everything but you’ll be surprised that most people don’t drop their belongings in this situation until they are being pursued aggressively.

Wear comfortable shoes and clothing. I always suggest takkies (sneakers) as sandals, slippers and other “open” shoes can not only make walking harder but it can make running very difficult and cause you slip or trip. If you live in a place where wearing pants is permissible it’s the best option too as long dresses and skirts can be very restricting.

10. AVOID PARKED CARS AND SUSPICIOUS PEOPLE
If possible keep your distance from any person/people who you feel may be dangerous. A parked car in a field or corner should be avoided. Rather than walking directly past a group of men loitering on a corner, spot them early and change your route to avoid them – trust your gut instincts. If you have no choice but to pass in front of them be confident and don’t stop.

11. DON'T DRAW ATTENTION TO YOURSELF
Don’t wear clothing that is overly revealing or attracts negative attention. You don’t have to look like a nun but wearing modest clothing will not only deter unwanted attention from predators but it will show people that you respect yourself. Plain jeans, long pants, modest shirts that are elbow or mid-upper arm in length with modest necklines or collar shirts are good choices. This is quite a controversial tip as people will argue that you should be able to dress as you want and not be attacked, which is true but the world can be a cruel place and safety comes first. Again people, we are talking about “high risk” areas. I personally also avoid wearing overly bright colours like red, pink, yellow, orange and lime during the day. Instead I opt for black, grey, brown, dark blue and green. A lot of joggers in my area wear safety vests so that they can be seen clearly by motorists (which is a must) but I think it depends on your situation, area and whether its day or night.

Also if you have long hair - tie it up, this can not only increase you peripheral line of sight but long hair can get in your face while you’re running away.


12. GET YOUR KEYS OUT EARLY
When nearing your home have your keys ready in your hand so that you can enter as quickly as possible. Do not stop walking to take your keys out, rather have a specific compartment where you keep them and practice taking them out without stopping or looking for them. You must learn to do this quickly and swiftly while on the move. Furthermore your keys can be used as a weapon during an attack; stabbing and hitting the face (especially eyes)of an attacker can give you a chance to escape.

13. READ THE LOCAL NEWSPAPERS
Your local newspaper will report on the most recent types of crimes and the tactics being used to perform them. Some may even have a sketch of a known criminal that is at large in the area or a description of a vehicle known to be lurking about harassing and stalking girls. Criminals change their tactics and the areas they target often to avoid being caught by local authorities so you must stay updated on where and what these are so you can keep an eye out and spot the danger very quickly. Warn your family and friends of these dangers too.

14. CARRY A SELF-DEFENSE WEAPON  (CAUTION!!!)
This is a very difficult topic as carrying a self defense tactic can sometimes do more harm than good. So I will make suggestions and let you decide for yourself.

Firstly make sure that it is legal for you to carry the self defense weapon on you (check with your local authorities) and make sure that you know exactly how to use it, most sales clerks will be happy to give you a tutorial and also read the manual or check online for tips on proper usage.

If you have the weapon with you make sure that its available and ready if need be, use a jacket pocket or even slide it up a loose-fitting long-sleeve shirt. Attacks happen so quickly you’ll never have the opportunity to search for it in your bag, don’t make this mistake. Practice removing and using the weapon several times and never allow the weapon to be visible or “obvious”.

Now for the most CRITICAL point, a self defense weapon is most successfully used on only one or two attackers, and usually simply producing the weapon and issuing a warning will make an attacker back off but if not then taser or pepper (mace) spray them and run away while shouting “help me” or any phrase or term to signal alarm.


 That being said, in many cases using the weapon on a large group will lead to them becoming more aggressive and possibly turning it on you. So use common sense and instinct to guide you, producing a taser to a group of six armed men will get you hurt.


This post was written by our SFG Virtual Volunteer Alexandra from South Africa. We appreciate her for the contribution in creating more content girls can use to be safer.

To be a virtual volunteer, contact us: safetyfirstforgirls@aol.com

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