Tummy talk....gut....internal alarms....uh-oh feeling....these and many other terms describe instinct, the primal "sixth sense" that allows us to feel danger. Your body knows danger, and your body will give you that scared/nervous feeling when it senses danger, often before your brain begins to process it.
Your two best tools for safety are awareness and instinct. As you get older, you begin to develop a tendency to ignore your internal alarms. You allow your brain to talk you out of the feeling that you're in danger. Victims of violent attacks and sexual assaults that we've spoken with overwhelmingly tell us that their body signaled danger before the attack took place, and they ignored it. Ignoring your feeling can put you in danger!
An example of instinct in an encounter with a stranger: You're about to get on an elevator and when the doors open, there is a well-dressed man inside. You get a little flash of a feeling, your instinct telling you "don't get in." Almost all of us will ignore it and get on the elevator….we wouldn't want this person to think we're rude! That's how we ignore instinct and put ourselves into potential danger. In situations where a stranger is making you feel uncomfortable, scared or threatened, just RUN! You don't owe them any explanation, you especially don't owe them politeness, just get away as quickly as possible; never second guess the signal your body is giving you that there is danger present.
What if it's someone you know who is saying or doing something that's setting off your internal alarms? It's very important that you trust the feeling. Do not allow your brain to chime in with "I know this person….I trust this person….I don't know why I'm so creeped out by this situation….I have nothing to fear" Your brain will work really hard to make you ignore your instinct, but your instinct is always right. Your safest choice in that moment is to get away from the person immediately and go somewhere that there are other people. Do not sacrifice your safety because you want to spare this person's feelings!
Remember, when it comes to your personal safety:
- Always trust your instinct
- RUN if you feel threatened or scared (go to other people)
- Never put politeness before your safety
- Never consider your relationship with a person when you're assessing whether or not the person is safe to you…almost always when a teen is attacked, they know their attacker.
Learn more about our training programs for teens at this link.