A list of crime safety tips for women, “written by a cop,” circulated around Facebook a while back, and after reading it I realized just how hopelessly unprepared I am should I become a victim of a crime. I would be an easy target, especially considering my slow reaction time. So I shared the list of safety tips, but since then, I’ve done some digging, and it turns out that some of the advice isn’t completely accurate or valid, according to snopes.com.
I consider it my civil obligation as a writer to report accurate and quality advice and clear whatever confusion there may be about how to react should you become a target. The only weapon you can count on to have constant access to is common sense, so arm yourself with knowledge now, before it’s too late.
RETURNING TO YOUR VEHICLE ALONE
Not to say that this is only true of women, but it’s certainly typical of women to take some time to settle in their car before driving away. We’ve all done it at some point: take a moment to plug in our phones and iPods, pick a song, touch up our make up in the mirror, make a call or send a text. A harmless habit, you might think, but you’d be wrong. If you absolutely have to rummage through your purse and settle in, make sure the first thing you do is lock your doors.
This is especially true in large garages and deserted parking lots. Someone could easily watch you from their vehicle, unseen by you or anybody else, and follow you to your car, unnoticed. Next thing you know, somebody’s letting themselves in the passenger side and there’s a pistol to your head. So lock your doors, or better yet, just drive away. Your mascara touch-up and text message can wait.
Another effective habit to develop when returning to your car, unaccompanied, is to study your surroundings. Keep your head up and your eyes alert, looking for trouble. Know how many people are around you and how close. Glance in the backseat of your vehicle before getting inside, in case of any uninvited guests that may be waiting for you there. This isn’t likely, but having your head up and your eyes on full alert will also make you less of an easy target. Predators seek out victims who appear distracted or otherwise preoccupied because they aren’t as perceptive to their surroundings, and therefore won’t expect to be attacked.
STRANGER DANGER – EN ROUTE
Similarly, if you’re traveling alone, be on full alert should you pull into a rest stop late at night when nature calls, or anywhere at night when you’re alone. If you’re road tripping through the middle of nowhere and need to stop and there’s a town or city up ahead, wait to stop until you get there. Use the most public and populated facilities as possible. As Snopes puts it, “Anywhere other people aren’t is a good place for you not to be either.” Surround yourself with witnesses.
Obviously, don’t pick up hitchhikers. Even attractive ones.
If you’re walking alone or on your way to your car, do not accept help from strangers, and likewise don’t offer it. Should someone come up to you and ask you to help load something into their car, don’t do it! We’ve all seen Silence of the Lambs, and that lady got lucky! Trust me, if it weren’t for Clarice, she would not have made it out in one whole piece.
If someone asks you for directions, keep your distance. Even if they look inconspicuous, leave enough space between you that they can’t get ahold of you. And if they ask you to drive them somewhere, don’t. Even if they claim to have a baby waiting in their car, or their wife is pregnant and supposedly needs help. Offer to call someone to help them, such as the police or ambulance, and be on your merry way.
STRANGER DANGER – HOME ALONE
If you’re at home alone and somebody arrives at your door claiming to have been sent by the superintendent, the city or electric company, or any other potentially legitimate source and you’re not expecting them, make sure to call whatever entity the service person claims to have been sent by to confirm that they are who they say they are.
Should someone arrive at your door in the throes of an emergency, be cautious. They may ask to use your phone to report an emergency or call a towing company, in which case you should always offer to make the call yourself. Should they continue looking for excuses to come in, don’t let them. Only offer any help that you can give them through closed doors. Don’t let them in, and do not follow them outside.
Being along makes anyone more vulnerable, but being alert and aware of your surroundings makes you less tempting of a target. Keep your head up and eyes peeled for anything suspicious. Common sense: it may just save your life.