I have good news! Crime rates are dropping across the country. Women are less likely to be victims of crime and the numbers of reported rapes are decreasing. However, women report feeling higher levels of fear of crime than men do, even though young men are more likely to be victims of crime than women are.
Women who perceive themselves as more vulnerable are the most fearful. Much of this fear is the result of how the media depicts crime against women. News reports, viral but false Facebook stories, and prime-time crime drama shows have created a culture of victimization in women, making us feel more scared than ever. In fact, in my inbox today I received a news story with the headline, “Serial Rapist on the Loose…” However, what will become of us women if we chose to sit at home because we are fearful to go out? Liz Reedy from Australia’s Safe Women Project says, “Staying home to avoid risky situations disempowers women, it denies them equality and does nothing to reduce their vulnerability to violence… Fear of crime affects the quality of women’s lives and what they can achieve.” I agree with Ms. Reedy. I have never been one to sit at home just because something might happen while I’m out.
We women know not to go looking for trouble. We do not keep our doors unlocked, we know not to open the door to a stranger or jog in a public park alone at night. From the time we were children we learned “stranger danger” and have carried that into adulthood and rightly so. The United States Department of Justice reports that 73 percent of women fall victim of a violent crime in their lifetime; 99 percent will experience personal theft. However, I do not think this means we should treat every person we encounter on a daily basis as a potential threat. There is a difference between caution and paranoia.
A little over 10 years ago, I chose to arm myself and became proactive in taking care of my own safety—not because I am afraid or feel threatened, but because I am not in denial. Owning and carrying a gun for self-defense has given me independence, empowerment, confidence, strength, and control over my life. What it hasn’t given me is a false sense of security. Bad things do happen and there is nothing saying I am immune.
A huge part of carrying a firearm is avoiding any situation in which you would be forced to use it. As an armed woman, situational awareness is your first line of defense. These six tips are some of the ways in which I go a step above basic situational awareness to make sure I do not become a victim.
1. Get your keys out before walking to your car.
If you are anything like me, your purse is a bottomless pit. Fumbling for keys makes you distracted, flustered, and certainly vulnerable. With your hands and eyes deep in your purse, you are not paying attention to who is around. Further, a key can double as a last resort self-defense weapon.
2. Check your ‘six’ before getting out of the car.
I always look around to see who or what is behind me when I park my car, even in my driveway. I check my six before turning the car off, unlocking the door and getting out. That way, I can quickly leave if something looks sketchy.
3. Carry a purse with a shoulder strap.
When shopping for purses, I check to see if the purse has an optional or removable shoulder strap. That way I can carry the purse around my chest, messenger-style so both of my arms and hands are completely free. If you’re a purse girl and worried about finding a bag that will convert to messenger-style carry, my current daily carry purse is by Coach. I’ve also seen designer Michael Kors and Kate Spade bags with the same removable long shoulder strap.
4. Take note of cars pulling out after you.
Since it is known where I work and my photo and name are on the Internet, I always notice when a car, that is not another employee’s car, pulls out directly behind me when I leave work. I take note of the make, model, and color. I stay aware of any car following me until it turns off, goes ahead, or I have lost sight of it. I do this after shopping at the mall or grocery store and after a night out on the town with the girls. If you believe someone is following you, do not go home. Call the police or drive to the nearest police station.
5. Watch shadows.
While I am walking anywhere outside, I pay attention to the shadows of the people behind me. You will be able to tell if they are speeding up. In a crowded commuter area, this is not as alarming as walking to your car by yourself in a densely populated area, walking the dog, or jogging in the park. Do not be embarrassed to turn around and look the person walking behind you straight in the eye.
6. Always walk with a purpose.
Many criminals attack their prey because they perceive them to be vulnerable. Confidence can scare off a would-be attacker. Keep your head up and walk with a sense of intention and determination. You should always know what your destination is and exactly how to get there.
Conclusion: Safety Tips
I opened this article with good news — crime appears to be dropping, and then countered it with the statement of a statistic from the U.S. Department of Justice stating that 99 percent of women will experience personal theft in their lifetime. I have not been lucky enough to be a part of the one percent who will not be the victim of a crime. I have had my locker broken into, my car broken into (several times), and my cell phone stolen — all at different times in my life. Was my life threatened during any of those times? Not at all. I wasn’t even around when the theft occurred.
My point is not to fearmonger. I am sharing my own personal safety tips in hopes of being more aware of your surroundings and being cautious in your actions will help you feel less fearful of crime. Knowledge, awareness, and confidence give you power. Don’t let the media or some violent jackass take that away from you.
What precautions do you take? Share your safety tips with us in the comment section.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April of 2014. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and clarity.