The night is cold as you hunch down, trying to appear smaller. Your heart beats frantically as you walk quickly, looking back every few seconds. Clutching your phone to your chest, you silently pray that you get home safely. Unfortunately, this is the sad reality of women across the world.
A startling study from the UN Entity for Gender Equality reports that nine out of ten women feel unsafe venturing into public spaces by themselves. A reasonable number considering that a study from the Washington Post found that 65% of women in the U.S. and 66% of women in the U.K. have experienced some form of street harassment.
The case of London resident Sarah Everad is one example. March 3, 2021, the 33-year-old marketing executive was walking home when she was kidnapped, raped and later killed by Metropolitan police officer Wayne Couzens. Everad’s case has been highly publicized and cited as an example of the risks women face daily.
In reality, it is highly likely for a woman to be attacked. Fortunately, here are a few tips to help avoid it.
- Avoid venturing outside alone: Walking with someone automatically makes you a less desirable target since there is someone to defend you if an attack occurs. Even when traveling for short distances like walking a few blocks to the local Starbucks, it is always better to walk with a friend or family member.
- If you are alone, keep your cell phone close by: This particular tip can be useful only if practiced correctly. Holding your phone in your hand provides an extra layer of safety against imminent danger since it is easily accessible in the case of an emergency. However, make sure to be actively looking up instead of scrolling through your phone. If you are distracted by your device, attackers may take advantage of that.
- Don’t wear headphones: When outside, it is important to remain aware of your surroundings. Headphones allow an attacker to easily sneak up on you while you are engrossed in whatever you are listening to.
- If you are walking at night, stay near well lit places: Just avoid walking around in dark deserted alleys; trust me, there are way too many horror movies to confirm that it will not end well. Try to stick to walking on well-lit sidewalks with street lamps. This can help prevent an attacker from using the advantage of surprise.
- If possible, park close to your destination: Hopefully, this tip can also prevent you from walking around aimlessly, attempting to find your car. Overall, the less time you spend outside of a safe space like your car, the better.
- Carry pepper spray: Every girl and woman should have this staple weapon handy. Pepper spray does not cause permanent damage, but it does temporarily cause severe irritation to the eyes and skin. The effects can last anywhere from 15-45 minutes, giving time for you to escape an attacker in the worst case scenario. Here are numerous pepper sprays sold on sites like Amazon that you can easily purchase.
- Learn some basic self defense: You do not have to become a martial arts master, but having some basic self defense moves in your toolbelt can help you feel safer when venturing out by yourself. There are numerous YouTube videos that demonstrate simple defensive tactics. My personal favorite is a tutorial from lifestyle blogger Aja Dang that instructs viewers on how to escape from a chokehold.
While we cannot entirely rule out the possible dangers of an attack occurring, we can definitely take important steps to protect ourselves.