As a woman, there are things that I find myself doing that I know my male counterparts do not need to worry about. I am careful to walk to the parking garage at night with a coworker, I share my location with my friends when I get in an uber, and I never exercise after dark.
Unfortunately, too many of us think 'it wouldn't happen to me'. But it does. It happens to us over and over again. And frequently, we are not prepared for the worst when it comes at us.
Too often, women who are attacked are not prepared and do not know how to react to the situation. Below are four simple tips to help you keep yourself safe.
1. Be Smart
This seems obvious, right? Well unfortunately, it isn't. The amount of times my roommate goes for a run after dark without her phone, or that a friend walks a couple of blocks home from the bar alone is truly scary when you think about what could happen.
Avoid going out alone at night. If you need to, use Apple's "Share My Location" feature, or better yet, download an app like Companion to ensure that your time alone can be tracked.
Make sure you have someone who knows your plans. This seems a little over paranoid, but if your roommate knows you are supposed to be home by 8 PM and you aren't, they are a lot more likely to check on you than if they just assumed 'everything is fine'.
Most importantly, have a plan. Do your best to avoid unfamiliar areas after dark, and make sure you know well lit routes to travel through. Think ahead to protect yourself later.
2. Be Prepared
Being prepared doesn't just mean planning ahead for the short term - it means being physically and mentally prepared for any situation. If you haven't ever signed up for a self-defense class, I highly recommend you do so immediately.
The fact of the matter is, no matter how many times you've seen someone throw a punch on television, when it comes to the heat of the moment, the more your body's muscle memory is prepared to react, the stronger your fight will be.
Being prepared also means having safety devices up your sleeve (or in your purse). Whether that might be an accessory that doubles as a secret weapon, pepper spray, or even a taser, you should look into your local laws and consider investing in something that you feel confident will keep you safe.
Whatever self-defense moves or weapons you feel most comfortable with, makes sure you practice with them. When I took karate as a kid, my instructor always said that "practice doesn't make perfect, but practice makes performance." If you are attacked suddenly, do you want to fumble your way through your defense, or have your body already reacting in a swift and powerful way?
Do your research and practice often, that way in the case of the unthinkable, you will be ready.
3. Be Vigilant
No matter where you are, regardless of what time of day it is, it is always so important to stay alert. Stop looking down at your phone and take your headphones out. You never know when you might get attacked, and you want to be prepared for it.
When I was in college, if ever I found myself walking alone at night, before I stepped outside I would map out in my head the path I would be taking and what I would do if I were to get attacked along the way. I would think through my closest safe spaces that I could take shelter at, either open classroom buildings, public areas, or friends' places.
I would hide my phone in a secret pocket, so if I were to get mugged, I'd still have it. I would consider what self-defense moves my body felt comfortable performing that day, depending on what I was wearing and what I was carrying.
Thankfully, I was never attacked in college. And honestly, my friends gave me a hard time for being so paranoid. But you know what? I don't regret it at all.
To this day, after moving from a small Minnesota town to the big city of L.A., I feel safer at night because I have trained my brain to practice being aware and being prepared.
4. Be Powerful
Finally, if something DOES ever feel unsafe to you, trust your instincts. If you see a man walking up to you at night in the dark, don't be too embarrassed to walk to the other side of the road - it could save your life.
Too often as women we are so concerned about hurting someone's feelings or offending someone that we do not keep ourselves safe. It is not your responsibility to keep the other people on the street happy. It IS your responsibility to keep yourself out of harm's way.
There was a time in college when I was walking home from the bar alone at night (which you should never do to begin with, if we're being honest). I started to see a figure approaching me in the dark on a back road, and I felt uncomfortable. Because I had gone through self-defense training, my brain started working in overdrive. Before I knew it, I immediately had grabbed my taser from my purse, and held it out.
As the man approached closer and closer I had a decision to make - would I run in the opposite direction? Would I shout at him to stay back? Or would I be more concerned about embarrassing myself and quietly allow him to approach me, potentially putting myself in an extremely unsafe situation?
That night, I chose safety over comfort. I shouted at him: "You are making me feel unsafe. I have a taser, so stay away from me!"
Guess what happened? It turned out to be a friend of mine. He shouted back "Talia, it's me. You shouldn't be out alone at night, I'm coming to walk you home."
Now, it's one of his favorite stories to tell. We laugh about it. But you know what? I'll never be embarrassed that I was being cautious. If it had been someone who intended on hurting me, I was not going to be their victim. And neither should you.
Don't be a meek victim. Be a powerful fighter.
Do whatever you have to do - be loud, be aggressive, be unapologetic. Attackers are looking for people to quietly go along with them. Do not be that person.
Be smart. Be prepared. Be vigilant. Be powerful. Be safe.
SHARE this article with your loved ones, you never know when they might need it.