You answer your front door to find a stranger staring back at you. You walk alone to your car in a parking garage, then fumble to find your keys. You place your purse in the top of the grocery cart, frequently turning your back to it as you shop. These are but a few common behaviors that can put women at risk.
Thousands of women are victims of violent crimes each year. Not walking on a dark street alone at night may seem like common sense. Yet, when we grow comfortable with our daily routines, we tend to let our guards down. The following safety tips are good reminders for every woman¬ —every daughter, sister and friend.
• Don’t walk or jog early in the morning or late at night when the streets are deserted.
• Don’t be afraid to use your voice and yell for help if you need it.
• If you are a walker or jogger, carry mace or pepper spray.
• Remember, distractions like texting and listening to headphones can make you less aware of your surroundings.
• When out at night, have a friend walk with you to your car. If your friend is also alone, drive your friend to her car, and wait until she is safely inside it.
• Don’t display your cash or any other inviting targets such as pagers, cell phones, hand-held electronic games, or expensive jewelry and clothing.
• If you think someone is following you, switch directions or cross the street. If the person continues to follow you, move quickly toward an open store or restaurant or a lighted house.
• Try to park in well-lighted areas with good visibility and close to walkways, stores, and people.
• Make sure you have your key out as you approach your car door or house/apartment door.
• Always lock your car, even if it’s in your own driveway.
• Lock your home, even when you are home during the day.
• Use extreme caution when meeting with someone you don’t know well; arrange to meet him/her only in a location where other people will be present.
• Above all, trust your instincts. If it feels unsafe, it probably is.
• Consider taking a self defense class.
(Adapted from a list provided by the National Crime Prevention Council, www.ncpc.org)
### Erika Weisensee, a writer and native Oregonian, lives in Milwaukie and teaches journalism and communication courses at the University of Portland.