Awareness and Avoidance. At our Women’s Self Protection program on Wednesday, March 9, this was the message Pat Collins stressed to the group of women, of all ages, sitting in front of him. Collins, a retired Chicago Police officer and founder of Stay Safe Tactics and Fitness, explained that if you’re aware of certain things, you are more likely to be able to avoid getting caught up in bad situations, and that’s the key.
So what exactly should you be aware of? Collins touched on three key areas where you can take extra safety precautions: home security, vehicle safety, and personal safety.
With home security, there are very basic things you can do, such as locking your doors and windows, that are important to preventing something from happening. Other home security tips include installing an alarm system and/or additional lighting, getting a dog, and establishing a safe room in your house. If you are home alone, avoid answering the door for someone you don’t know.
How often do you check inside your parked car before getting in? Once again, Collins explained, this is a really basic thing you can do to prevent something before it happens. Besides looking in your car, have your keys in your hand when you approach, and look around the car as well. Know your route and location while driving and always keep your doors locked, especially if you’re sitting in your parked car.
There are many different tactics you can use to stay safe when you’re walking alone. Most of us learn to walk in the direction of traffic, but Collins recommends facing traffic to prevent someone from grabbing you and pulling you inside their car, which is much easier to do when you have your back to them. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t get distracted with a cell phone, iPod, or book. Walk with a purpose, but avoid stairwells, alleys, parked cars, and other places where people can hide. If you are in an elevator alone, stand by the buttons. If you are in a dangerous situation, scream “fire” instead of “help” because people are more likely to respond. Carry a personal safety device and learn self defense so you are able to attack back, if necessary.
Examples of personal safety devices include:
- Personal Alarms
- Stun Guns
- Pepper Spray
Other resources Collins recommends are the book Girls Fight Back, as well as his handout on “What You Should Do to Prevent Sexual Assault,” which you can download here. Besides taking all of the necessary precautions to be aware and avoid dangerous situations, the most important thing you can do is trust your instincts. “If you’re wrong,” said Collins, “so what.”