Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Safety and Awareness Go Hand in Hand

There is no such thing as complete and total safety.  As living beings, it is up to us to assess risk for ourselves on a constant basis.  Most of this is unconscious and purely habitual.  We learn these behaviors from our parents and our societies.  For example, any time you start you car, you are approaching a potentially fatal situation.  You accept the risk and take precautionary measures such as checking your mirrors, buckling your seat belt, checking your brakes, using your signals, and driving defensively.  Basically, someone is likely to dies in a car crash eventually soon.  You don't want it to be you.  It may still be you, but there are certain things you can do to minimize your risk.

All of that said, I've noticed that people are often extremely careless about their personal safety in relation to other people.  At the risk of quoting myself, I would like to submit this little exerpt from the Break the Cycle of Dating Users article:
I think it's important to know what a predator looks for. People like to do what requires the least effort and gives the most benefit, period. Predatory people are no different. This article was put together from the idea that all predators have a list of desired traits. To avoid predators, the best thing to do is to not possess those traits. Here's a story to help illustrate my point:
Two guys are hiking in the forest until they come across a ferocious bear. One guy starts running. The other guy follows, yelling, "What are your doing? You'll never outrun the bear!" The second guy yells over his shoulder, "I don't have to outrun the bear. I only have to outrun you..."

So true. Although nothing will guarantee your safety, it's best to make sure that you are not the prime target in a roomful of people. Predators are not typically looking for a challenge. They usually are looking for the zebra with the broken leg, if you know what I mean. That said, if you show some assertiveness, show that you know what you want and deserve to get it, and show that have your eyes open for red flags, most predators will simply move on to the next target. If they see that you fit the profile of what they're looking for, they will start to focus their resources on luring you in and trapping you. Don't be that person.
Perhaps living in a college town has shown me an unusually high concentration of sheltered, naive, intoxicated, careless people who lack a healthy sense of vulnerability.  Regardless, I feel this topic needs to be addressed.

First and foremost, ask yourself if you ever feel vulnerable.  Do you?  The answer should be yes.  There are certain situations that can make you notice your vulnerability, but you should be able to make yourself aware of it on your own.  For example, if I am walking in the parking lot at night and there are only two cars there right next to eachother, who owns that other car?  I know one is mine.  I look around and don't see anybody.  Does that mean the car is empty?  No.  That just means that nobody who can help me is watching.  If the windows are tinted, I should be paying a little more attention.  That's not because bad people tint their windows, it's because I can't see inside them at night and have no idea who or how many people are in their.  Am I paranoid.  This may surprise you, but no.  I'm just a little suspicious.  I like to ask questions.  I like to pay attention.  I've avoided a lot of pain and suffering in my life by keeping my eyes open and looking around.  I'm not paranoid for putting my seatbelt on before I drive.

I'm going to pull a few examples from my own life in hopes of opening the minds of some of my readers.  Hopefully, you all will be able to see the patterns and maybe pick out some examples in your own lives in which you could change the way you do something to cover your bases a little better.

Walking to My Car

If it is day time, I look around as I walk to my car to make sure that no other cars are coming to run me over.  A lot of people don't pay attention to pedestrians while they're looking for a parking place so I don't just assume they will stop if I'm crossing the street.  Next, I make sure my keys are in my hand.  I hate the idea of fumbling for my keys in front of my car.  I generally keep my keys clipped to my pants because I find it useful.  If you wear a purse, you should fish those keys out before you leave the building.  Keys are also a great thing for slashing at the eyes of an attacker.  I've never had to do this, but if the time one day came, I would be glad I had my keys in my hand.

I'm a huge fan of keyless entry.  I like having my car door ready to open when I walk up.  This is useful if I'm carrying groceries.  It also cuts down on the amount of time I'm just standing there in front of my car.  The best thing about keyless entry is that when I push that little button, it turns on the light inside my car.  If it's dark, this makes me really happy.  Just think, I can see the inside of my car before I get too close to it.  If there were someone inside or even next to it, it would be a lot easier to see them before I got too close to do anything about it.  There has never been anyone inside my car when I got there (thankfully), but who knows?  I've been rear-ended on the freeway and I'm really glad I had my seatbelt on that day.

As I approach my car, I look around.  I look at the face of anyone near my car and smile at them if they look back.  If there is anyone, I give them a quick sizing up.  I just like to see if they look like they're noticing me, as someone looking for trouble would be.  I open my car door, look around once more, enter immediately, check my mirrors and over my shoulder, and start driving.  If someone is standing really close to my car, I give them the courtesy of letting them get into their car before I get into mine.  I'm just being polite.  I'm also clearing out anyone with whom I would share a tight situation between cars.  If it is dark or I am in an unfamiliar neighborhood, I lock my door as soon as I enter.  It's safe to say that I don't feel scared when I walk to my car.  I just like to look around and pay attention.

Going Clubbing

When I go out with friends on a Saturday night, I like to follow certain guidelines to make sure everyone is safe and accounted for.  First and foremost, my friends and I always know who's driving.  Second, whoever shows up in a car gets a ride home in that same car.  Everyone has their phone in case we lose someone.  If one person for some reason wanted to seek alternative transportation to go home early, they are required to alert someone in the group or they will not be coming out with us again.  Period.  It's terrible to be looking around for someone at 2am who isn't there.  We don't go out with people who need to be babysat.  If someone has a habit of getting too drunk or out of control, or too stupid when they drink (doing dangerous things) they will not be given a second invitation either.  It's selfish and brings down the whole group.

Once we're out, we keep an eye out for creepers and problem starters.  If we are a group of only females, chances are that we will attract the date rape types more than any other type.  As soon as they bother us, we get rid of them in no uncertain terms.  We're not afraid to be rude because they are clearly not just "nice guys".  Nice guys take no for an answer.  Being very clear and firm is a good way of telling a predatory person that you're not their type.  More than likely, they will move on and look for someone that is an easier target.  You're never 100% safe from these people.  However, you can last a pretty long time by simply not being at the top of the list.  You're best off being at the lower 50% of the list.  Remember, you just have to outrun the stupid ones.  Just by paying attention, you are already typically below the top 20-30%, sadly enough.  If you're really drunk or stumbling, you start moving back up the list.  If you are alone, you move up the list.  Remember to look over your shoulder a few times as you're leaving the establishment to make sure that no one is following you to wherever you're going.  People have really stupid ideas when they're desperate/intoxicated.

If you are a guy, your risks are very different.  You are much more likely to have problems with other guys who just want to start a fight.  There are certain things you should keep in mind to avoid this.  First, try not to step on anyone's toes.  Both figuratively and literally, this is all the trigger needed for someone who is intoxicated and looking for trouble.  If you do, apologize immediately.  If you have girls in your group, notice if they're being bothered by a guy who looks like trouble.  If she turns him down and then he sees her with you later, he may get territorial and/or jealous and try to start problems with you.  There isn't much you can do to prevent this, but it's best to see it coming.

As was explained to me by a bouncer friend, there is a magical time of the night when most of the guys at the club realize they are going home by themselves.  They each react to this in different ways.  Some guys just have one last beer and catch a ride.  Some guys get upset.  Some guys try desperately to molest any and all females walking out the door.  And some guys get really bitter about any other guy that looks like he's going home with someone, especially if that someone was someone he was interested in.  That time of night is really when all the trouble starts.  It's right around close when people are pretty well liquored up and making their last, desperate attempts to get whatever they wanted out of the night.  That's when the bouncers go on alert.  You should too.  If you're out with only other guys, it's a good idea to be friendly with whoever you meet.  This cuts down on the amount you threaten other groups of guys who are more likely to see your "team" and their "team" as an us against them situation.  After a few drinks, it is difficult to get a group of guys to back down.  Your best bet is to just get out of there as soon as possible of problems do arise.

Remember that there are bouncers at every bar and night club.  It's a good idea to make friends with the ones who work the places you frequent.  They are often really nice people, and they are there to look out for you.  They have no problem putting someone outside if they are causing problems.  They have plenty of experience with drunk and difficult people and they know exactly how to deal with them.

Inside Your Home

Just because you're home, it doesn't mean the world stops.  Home is a great place to relax and kick your shoes off, but make sure you keep it that way.  I always lock my door when I'm inside.  I have a very large dog that lives in the house.  She is a big puppy at heart, but she has an extremely intimidating bark and a set of teeth that isn't to be trifled with either.  As soon as it gets dark, I close all the blinds.  It drives me crazy when it's dark outside and the lights are on inside and the blinds are open.  Why?  Try this.  Turn the lights on inside the house once it's dark and open the blinds.  Have a friend stand outside the window.  How close do they have to be before you can see them?  On the flipside, anyone can see you and your every move from pretty far away.  This is a great way to get attention from stalkers.

Running Outdoors

Speaking of stalkers, it's a good idea to mix up your running schedule.  If you consistently run the same path at the same time, every day, you are more than likely to get noticed by someone eventually.  This will likely be a normal person that has a similar schedule.  It may also be someone who is not so normal that you would prefer not notice you.  Break up your schedule a little bit.  While you're at it, run with a buddy.  The more people in your group, the more you move down that list I mentioned.  Just make sure you know the people in your group or you may find yourself moving up one of their lists.  For those of you who listen to the ipod while you run, try listening in only one ear if you're running through a less populated area.  There have been cases of people being attacked near where I live because they had both headphones in and couldn't hear their attacker approaching.  That moved them up the list.

Blind Dating

Online dating counts as blind dating because you really only know what you've been told.  Any time you are going to meet up with someone new, let someone intelligent know where you're going, who you're meeting up with, and when.  Send them a text to let them know that things are going well a little while into it.  This goes for men as well.  There are some crazy people out there.  Most likely nothing will ever happen to you.  On the other hand, it doesn't hurt to let someone know what you're up to.  You don't have to tell them in a paranoid sounding way.  Just say that you're going to meet up with a new date and you'll drop them a text if you need rescuing.  Any good wing man (that includes females) will have your back.  Do not get in this person's car until you know them.  Do not let them into yours.  Do not go to their house or have them at yours.  Save it for after you've had time to reflect on what you've learned about them.  If you must, take note of your surroundings, like what's in the car, how it smells, etc.  All these things will give you subtle clues about who you're hanging out with.  Some people do this naturally and without noticing it.  Others have to learn.

Awesome Tip of the Day:  While we're on that subject, consider the possibility that the things this person tells you may not be true.  A predatory person will say and do things to get your trust.  These things are often things that will gain sympathy, like telling you that they are too trusting.  They may also manipulate you into giving up your skepticism if they notice it.  Many predators call out their victims on their distrust.  Once the victim's distrust is exposed, they often feel embarrassed into ignoring their instincts.  Don't let this happen to you.  This works on men, too, in case you are one.


Just remember that all situations have little precautions available to the aware and creative that are little or no extra effort but that go a long way in preserving your safety, even though that safety is subjective.

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