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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Dec 2014

How women can stay safe when out at night

  December 30, 2012
First Published: 16:47 IST(30/12/2012) | Last Updated: 01:27 IST(31/12/2012)
If you are going out tonight, remember to keep these tips in mind for your safety.

Don't look like a victim
When a predator is looking for his next victim, he will assess every situation to look for the one with the biggest payoff. In other words, he wants the least hassle with the most reward (money,jewellery, your body). Looking confident will be a disadvantage in his book. Women who look unafraid are more likely to have taken self-defence courses and are more likely to put up a fight. Keep your eyes up instead of looking at the ground or continuously looking around you in fear. When you’re confident, you also look like you have somewhere to be — that is, people are expecting you and may immediately come looking for you if you are late. It’s an instant put-off for an attacker.

Always guard your drink
Women need to be extra cautious when partying out at night. Don’t have the stranger who just offered to buy the drink hold on to it. Take the drink to the bathroom with you if need be. Put it on top of the toilet paper holder or the top of the toilet lid. Leaving a drink unattended, even for a few seconds, gives anyone untrustworthy enough time to slip something in it. If you want to hit the dance floor for a while, have a close and trustworthy friend — preferably female — guard your drink. If at all for some reason you do end up leaving your drink unattended, let it go and get another one — it may cost you more, but will save you from life-threatening danger.

Stay with your pals
This doesn’t mean being attached at the hip, but have cellphones handy (on vibrate mode since it might be too loud to hear the ringer), if someone decides to separate (i.e. go to the bathroom, etc.). Communication is key; the group should tell each other where they’ll be, should they decide to separate for a few moments. If one of the group members is a smoker and everyone else isn’t, the smoker should either be told where to meet with everyone inside or make sure everyone knows their location outside and not stray from that spot. If you feel like going out for fresh air or a puff, make sure at least one male member accompanies you out.

Drink responsibly
It’s alright to get high and have a good time, but you don’t want to pass out drunk and become an easy victim to predators who’re looking for a vulnerable, unconscious woman to rape. No one knows better than you how many drinks you can hold, so don’t overdo it or drink ‘a little more’ on someone else’s insistence, even a friend’s. The only time you can afford to let go, if you must, is when you’re with your spouse, a trustworthy family member or your best friend.

Watch your surroundings
The most important way to protect yourself is to be aware of your surroundings. Don’t wear your mp3 player or chat on your cellphone when you’re walking from office to the parking lot. This distracts you from being aware, which gives anyone the perfect opportunity to easily drag you out of sight. Have both your eyes and ears open to suspicious behaviour. By having your keys in one hand (in a fist) and cell phone in the other, you will be ready to take action if necessary. Attach a mace or pepper spray key ring and whistle to your keys, in case someone tries to attack you. Also, it will be easier to make an emergency call with your phone handy.

Drive off quickly
Don’t dilly-dally in the parking lot; drive off swiftly and confidently. While on the road, make sure you don’t make eye-contact with any other driver or stranger and give them way if they’re trying to overtake or act smart. Drive in your lane — zig-zagging on the road attracts unnecessary attention. Tell someone when you start and when you’ll be back so they can check from time to time. Know your roads well and avoid deserted routes even if they are shorter.

If you're followed
If you’re driving alone and feel like you’re being followed, don’t go straight home. Check your rear view mirror consistently, turn away into another busy road if possible. Go to a public, crowded, well-lit parking lot, like at a mall or restaurant. Park by a police car if you can, or head towards the closest police station (this requires you to do your homework before it’s too late). Call a police helpline immediately; tell them where exactly you are and where you’re headed. Do not switch off the ignition at traffic stops; pass them carefully without stopping if you can. It also pays to install a safety alarm in your car for such emergencies. The sound will scare off the attackers.

Be noisy
If you are attacked, don’t “shut up” even if your attacker tells you to do so. Scream, throw things, rustle branches, blow a whistle and do anything else it takes to make as much noise as possible. Also, instead of yelling “help,” try “Call the police!” instead as loudly as possible. People who hear that will be less likely to ignore you. Also,they will dial for help immediately instead of investigating what is going on, so the authorities will arrive more quickly. Your screaming will make the predator think twice and possibly abort his attack. Your whole goal, if you are attacked, is to prevent someone from taking you to another place, where it will be easier to harm you.

Let your folks know
When you are out at night, let someone among family or friends know when you are leaving, where you are leaving and what time you expect to arrive at your destination (or checkpoints for longer journeys) and check in with your trusted person every hour. Agree that at check-ins you will give your exact location and if you miss a check-in, your trusted person will notify the police of your last whereabouts and intended destination in case you are unreachable. Make sure your trusted person has written identification details such as the make, model and year of your car, your license plate number, and a physical description of you including what clothing you have on.

Safety in the cab
As far as possible, use your office cab and insist on being accompanied by a security guard in the wake of the recent rape cases. Make sure you’re not the last one to be dropped. If you must take a private cab, opt for a trusted radio cab service that has GPS installed, and keep an eye on the driver’s behaviour and the route he takes. Sit confidently, keep a sharp object handy and don’t let the driver slow down or stop midway. Take the cab right till the doorstep, and ask him to keep the headlights on and hang on till you enter your house.

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