I was thinking this might be a good time to discuss safety - specifically personal safety. I am aware that we live in a small community, where we tend to know most people we see in the grocery store, gas station, or movie theatre. But of course we do not actually know everyone, nor should we let our guard down. In order to more effectively ensure our personal safety, I prepared a few tips, below. These are very short and to the point, but I think it gives us a starting point:
You – physically walk tall. Keep your head up, walk like you have somewhere to be. Look around you as you move. Let someone know where you are going, how long you expect to be, and make a plan for contact and follow up measures if you do not return as expected. Exercise to feel stronger and more confident in your ability to avoid unsafe situations and protect yourself. Mentally prepare a safety plan for “what-ifs” or worst case scenarios.Environmental Awareness
Situation – area/neighborhood, isolation, time of day, lighting or lack of lighting, traffic. People – pay attention to who is around you, what they are doing.
Space – We all have personal space – the area around our bodies that we need as a buffer between us and others in order to feel safe. Studies have shown our required personal space size is comparable to our comfort level in an environment. For example- among friends, we typically need less space to feel comfortable and safe than we do among strangers. Our need for space further increases when you add in factors like dark, empty streets or strangers, etc. Maintain your space and be aware of things in it that make you uncomfortable.
Vehicle – Lock your vehicle. Park in well-lit areas, or areas NOT against bushes, trees, or other visual blocks. Be aware of other vehicles in the area of yours, and if there is anyone in them. It is best to be able to see around your vehicle while approaching it. Look in the back seat before you get in. If there is a note on the windshield, DO NOT get back out to retrieve it. This is a common ruse used by criminals.
Identification – Identify potential threats or oddities; whether it’s someone pacing you as you walk, or someone stalking you in the grocery store. Mentally note the person’s characteristics – clothing, hair color, height, body type (thin, heavy), etc. If vehicle, note make, model, type of vehicle. Even if it’s vague, any information is better than none.
Act– None of us want to be over-reactive, cry wolf, or feel like an idiot when we’re uncomfortable- especially when we are not sure why we feel that way. The fear that we are overreacting can lead us to do nothing when sometimes we can take simple steps to feel safer without making a fuss.
Re-set your personal space. When outside, this can be as simple as walking more quickly or slowing down significantly, changing sides of the street, or ducking into a business. If the person you are concerned about shadows your movements, you are probably justified in your concern. Get to a public place, meet a friend or call someone on the phone.
If in a social situation and you wish to remain polite; step or move away; visit the bathroom, or make some other excuse to create physical space. The last thing you should do is disappear inside your head in order to feel more comfortable in your environment, or convince yourself you’re making it up. There is a reason you feel uncomfortable, and that reason is usually that you are picking up subconscious cues that make you feel unsafe.
Report or document - I advocate documentation of all odd events. At the minimum, keep track of them for yourself. This will keep your observation skills sharp and help you remain situation-ally aware. If you have concerns about your safety, contact law enforcement immediately. I guarantee our cops would much rather document something that may be nothing, than file a missing person, assault or sexual assault report on your behalf.
Bottom line, pay attention to details. If you get a weird feeling, listen to it.
Don’t walk or run at night in an isolated area by yourself. Take safety precautions.