10 Ways To Be A Safer Woman

It’s infuriating, upsetting, and scary to hear the one in six American women have been the victim of sexual assault. While this is something no woman should ever have to deal with and I hope society somehow wipes it out for good one day, it’s important to fight the good fight while ensuring our own safety.

  1. Set clear boundaries and enforce them. Don’t wait for something to happen. If someone next to you on the bus is making you feel uncomfortable, move. If you’re being catcalled, cross the street. It’s not on us to change the behavior of men, but we should do everything we can to protect ourselves. Move away from an uncomfortable situation and make it clear that you aren’t interested in participating. Women are raised to be polite, but when it comes to personal safety, who cares if a stranger thinks you’re rude?
  2. Be aware of your surroundings. I love listening to Drake on the subway as much as the next woman, but when it’s dark out or I’m on my own in a more isolated place, I know I need to enhance my sense of sound. As much as don’t like shutting down Spotify, I feel so much better knowing I’m aware of my surroundings and am prepared to assess any potential threat.
  3. Don’t assume anything. As children, we’re taught that monsters look like monsters and that should the Boogie Man approach, we’ll spot him instantly and know to run. The sad truth is that predators come in all shapes and sizes and even serial killers have been loving husbands, grandparents, and friends. Just because you’re in a traditionally nice area, it’s not OK to assume that danger is impossible.
  4. Realize what makes you vulnerable. It’s important to understand what makes you a target. Just as listening to headphones while walking home at night can make you vulnerable, so can a variety of other factors you may have never thought about. For example, if you’re lost, don’t make it obvious by staring closely at a map. Someone may try to take advantage of the fact that you don’t know your surroundings. That’s just one example, but you get the gist.
  5. Be loud, confident, and everything women are expected NOT to be. Walk with a purpose and act like you own wherever you are. It’s not that confident, strong women can’t victims of assault, but if you give off a vibe of strength, you’re less likely to attract those willing to do harm.
  6. Remember that the buddy system is key. Before a night out with your friends, talk to each other. Decide that you will stick together and watch out for one another. Sometimes when we’re out having a fun night, we have to be our friends’ common sense. While we can’t really control anyone’s decisions, if your friend is reaching blackout levels, do everything you can to ensure she doesn’t leave or go home with someone, especially if she doesn’t know them. The chances are she will thank you in the morning, but be ahead of the game and have these conversations beforehand, so nobody feels guilty of being the “mom friend.”
  7. Know what to do should an emergency situation present itself. I recently learned that if someone has gotten into your car (like in a parking garage or lot late at night) and is threatening you with danger, you should do everything you can to get to a public place and get yourself into a small accident. Obviously, nothing to put anyone in danger, but a fender bender just bad enough that it draws attention to the public. This increases the likelihood that the person threatening you will just try to take off. Similarly, if someone tries to grab you in public, take their arm, twist it, and yell as loud as you can GET OFF. Again, drawing in the public is often your best bet for avoiding a potentially unsafe situation. There are a variety of tips like these that you can learn online and from self-defense resources.
  8. Learn self-defense and don’t be afraid to use it. Depending on where you live, there are a variety of free or low-cost self-defense classes. If you’re in college, it’s likely your campus police offer something similar. Grab a friend or two and take a class. It’s actually kind of a fun thing to do and you’ll actually learn something you (hopefully won’t but) may need to use one day. There are also a number of online resources including videos designed to help you learn defense techniques on your own. You have a right to defend yourself—learn how.
  9. Only carry a weapon if you’re trained and comfortable using it. For a number of women, carrying a weapon, whether it be pepper spray or a firearm, is a comfort when it comes to personal safety. Make sure you’re trained in how to use your weapon and take the necessary classes associated. Carrying something you’re not comfortable using in a pinch can put you in more in danger than if you carried nothing at all.
  10. Know what to do if you become the victim of a crime. Survivors of sexual assault often choose not to report. Reasons range from fear of humiliation and retaliation to not believing their assault was in-fact an assault. If something feels off or like you were a victim of assault, you probably were. If you don’t consent to something, it should not happen. Period. Tell someone you trust right away, whether it’s law enforcement or a friend. Let someone know what has happened and let them help you assess and act. Crisis lines such as the National Sexual Assault hotline (1-800-656-4673), are available as a safe resource 24/7. Every situation is different and there’s no telling how you might feel should something of this magnitude happen, but no matter what, you are not alone.