Safety Out-and-About

Criminals are opportunists; they gravitate to the easiest target. Knowing this, and taking some simple steps to reduce risk, can keep you safer. Follow these action steps when you're out and about:

1. Maintain a heightened level of awareness when out in public. Keep a 5ft buffer (safe space) from people you do not know, pay attention to the people around you, especially those who seem to be paying attention to you.

2. Don't focus on what might happen and fail to notice what's actually happening. Example: As you walk to your vehicle in the parking lot, don't get so caught up in thinking about the possible attacker who is hiding in the back seat that you fail to notice the person who has followed you out of the store.

3. Stranger attackers will often approach you with a non-threatening question or request for help. Be very guarded about this; do not approach someone in a vehicle who is asking for help, and do not let someone on foot get inside your safe space. Use strong verbal commands to keep them at a safe distance, and if they don't listen when you tell them to stop moving, RUN.

4. It's also possible that an attacker may offer help. If you decline an offer of help and the person is persistent, this could signal a potential attacker. Remember that your safety trumps politeness and do not hesitate to be very firm with your tone and your body language to let the person know that they should leave you alone. Yell or scream to draw attention if necessary. Remember "No" is a complete sentence!

5. When you go out, make sure someone (preferably a parent or guardian) knows where you are going and when you'll return; if something happens, this will give authorities a starting point for a search.

6. If you're out shopping and you're concerned about your safety in the store parking lot, ask customer service to give you an escort. Retailers do not want crimes to happen on their property, they are happy to help keep their shoppers feeling safe!

7. If exercising outdoors, avoid being alone. Your risk of an attack by a stranger is cut in half if you are with just one other person. If you don't have a friend to join you, take a dog.

8. Choose your exercise routes carefully, avoid isolated paths in the woods, avoid outdoor exercise in the dark. Make sure that someone is aware of your route and expected return.

9. Vary your routes so that you are not always in the same place at the same time every day (an opportunist criminal could plan for this).

10. Ponytails make great "handles" for an attacker. Put your hair in a hat or a bun, or wear your ponytail low on the base of your neck.

11. If you decide to carry a personal weapon when you're out in public, you must be an expert user. An attack situation is not the right time to figure out how to get the safety cap unlatched on your pepper spray. Practice regularly so that the use of the weapon is second nature for you and you don't have to think about it. If you don't, you may find that your weapon is being used on you by your attacker.

Finally, trust your instinct in all encounters. If a person or situation feels threatening, even if you can't logically figure out why, get out. Your body senses danger that your brain can't logically process, trust the gift of your instinct in all situations.

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