Stay Safe

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Something horrible happened near my house on Saturday night. I live in a nice city, in a relatively nice area, but that didn't stop a girl being attacked in the park where I walk my dogs, found by members of the public three hours after she left a group of friends in the city centre. There hasn't been much information, just a call for witnesses and the continuing presence of the police at the scene. And I am terrified.

This the park where I walk my dogs, the park that I nip through to visit friends, the park that I see happy children playing in daily. The man (or men) that did this is still out there, I can only hope that whoever it was is found quickly and brought to justice, but until then, and probably after, I will feel fear when I walk through that park.

Unfortunately I can't stop my life because something horrible happened, I still have to take the dogs on a last walk, I still have to walk along that street if I want to get home in the evening. The best I can do is protect myself the best I can, and keep as safe as possible when I am out at night. So, as a reminder to myself, and to everyone else, here's some good advice I've collected.

Here are some of, what I think, are some of the key points to remember, along with some useful hints. 

Lack of awareness: Always know where you are going, and what is going on around you. Never leave anywhere at night without knowing your exact route home, and always take the safest, shortest route possible. Be aware of your surroundings too, watch out for other people and vehicles. If I'm walking somewhere quiet or where I feel nervous I try and walk near a group with women in it. Although there are bad people out there most of them are still decent, and being near a group will hopefully put off any lone weirdos. 

Body language: Keep your head up, walk with purpose. When you're walking at night walk in the middle of the pavement and walk at a strong, steady pace. Keep your head up (this can also helps you be more aware of your surroundings!) and keep at least one hand out of your pockets. When I'm nervous I like to have my phone to hand so I can call the police if needs be, but keep one arm free so you can fight someone off if you need to.
I hate giving this piece of advice, because I hate the attitude that the way you dress affects your chances of getting attacked, but if you're planning on wearing an amazing pair of heels out for the night I would definitely suggest taking a pair of flats with you. I always try and wear shoes I would feel comfortable running in late at night, plus it saves your pretty shoes from pesky things like puddles and stepping on someone's discarded takeout. Other than that I don't really think how you dress affects your chances of getting attacked, I've had inappropriate men talk to me when I've been wearing short skirts back from a club and nipping out for a midnight snack in my jogging bottoms. 

Sheer bad luck: Sometimes you are just in the wrong place at the wrong time, but if someone is making you uncomfortable or nervous there are good and bad ways to deal with it. Remember there is no shame in letting someone know, forcefully if needed, that they are making you uncomfortable. This can be done in lots of ways, it can be as simple as crossing the street to avoid a group of rowdy guys, and can go as far as pushing someone away from you and yelling. Whatever you have to do, just remember to do it forcefully, telling someone quietly to leave you alone is nothing on loudly stating that they get lost (or whatever colourful language you want to use). If you aren't sure you have the guts to tell someone to go away then you can always carry a rape alarm, it has a similar affect.    

What you can carry to protect yourself: In the UK it is illegal to carry any type of weapon on your person, obviously that includes knives, but it also includes pepper spray, tasers or anything else that could be considered a dangerous to another person. You are however allowed to use anything that comes to hand, as long as you are aiming to defend yourself, not kill or maim. I know some people who like to have their hands on their keys, another who carries a fork (she lives in a very rough area) and another who carries ordinary pepper with a flip off lid to throw in an attackers face. If you're forced to use your own body for defence then it is much more effective to use your elbow than your fist.

Know the numbers: I've felt a lot safer since I programmed the numbers of all of Edinburgh's police stations into my phone. I was taught from an early age that 999 is only for emergencies, and in my 24 years I have only needed to call it once. Having a local police number means that if I am feeling uncomfortable in any way I have the ability to call and ask for assistance, whether that's just explaining what is making me uncomfortable, or asking if a police car can drive by. 

I know you guys are savvy, you're independent women who know how to look after yourself, but it can be easy to forget safety tips when you are chatting on your mobile with your best friend, or walking back after a drink too many. Sometimes it takes something horrible to remind of us things we already know. 

Stay safe out there. 

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  1. I'm so sorry to hear someone was attacked! How scary, and definitely a wake-up call and reminder to be alert.

  2. This is good advice. I'm always looking around. That reminds me, I really need to get something to protect myself, thank you!

  3. Very good reminder. It's always scary when things like this happen because we often take for granted how safe we are or aren't!


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