By Heather Listhartke
Although we may try to avoid it, there are a lot of instances in which we might find ourselves walking alone outside in the dark, or in unlit, low-populated places. We try our best to avoid these situations, but it’s not completely avoidable. As a teacher and student on a busy college campus, I often have late classes that require me to be on campus until 9 o’clock at night when most people have left. One of the things that we, especially women, tend to think about is how to make ourselves inconspicuous. The best way to keep yourself safe and secure is to practice Situational Awareness – be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to handle the situation if something does happen.
Always be aware and have a way out
If you are at work, an event, or even walking on a campus after classes, the best way to prevent being a target is to leave with someone else. Having another person means it’s that much harder to control the situation, and it makes you a bad target. If you do have to be alone, do your best to stick to well-lit, well-populated areas. Constantly watch your surroundings and make sure that someone knows where you are. You want to keep your head up and make casual eye contact with the people that are around you. You always want to have an escape route in mind no matter what situation you’re in. When out, you’ll also want to keep your keys in hand for easy access into your car or house. When in a building, be aware of the exits.
Stay off your phone
Even though it might seem like a good idea to have someone on the phone or make it look like you’re talking to someone, this actually reduces your awareness of your situation, as well as, makes you an easier target rather than a harder one. You want to keep a steady, confident pace, and being on the phone, often makes us stop to concentrate on what we’re doing rather than continuing on to our destination.
Keep your Valuables Safe
While you want to keep yourself safe, you’ll also want to keep your possessions safe. Ideally, you won’t carry something like a purse, briefcase, or a backpack, but if you do, try to keep things like money, cards, and any valuables on your person. If you are carrying a larger item, like a backpack, put it on before your jacket (it might look weird, but it’s safer.) For a purse, you want it over your shoulder, tucked in between your arm and side, while for a backpack, you want to be wearing both straps.
Go Against the Grain
When walking in town or along a sidewalk, we often think we should be walking with the traffic, but this makes you an easy target for someone coming up behind you in their vehicle. You actually want to walk against the traffic wherever possible. It reduces people from coming up behind you and actually allows you to be more aware of your situation.
Don’t use a weapon unless you’re familiar with it
If you’re not familiar with weapons, they can often be used against you. Even things like guns can make you more vulnerable, rather than less. Furthermore, many weapons are illegal or require permits. Make sure you’re following your local rules, but if you’re not familiar with some kind of weapon, take safety classes and get familiar, especially if you are out alone a lot.
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