Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Crime Safety Tips for Singles, Part I

Maybe it's because they're disproportionately young, and young people are more likely to get in trouble or not know how to get out of it. Maybe it's because they have a greater chance of living in poverty, and poverty is correlated with high crime rates. Or maybe it's because they live alone and have no one to check for them at 10pm when everyone else knows where their children are. Whatever the reason, it's a frightening fact that singles are crime victims more often than marrieds are. This holds true for both men and women, though the influence of marital status has a greater positive impact on women's safety than men's.

If you're single, you need to be vigilant because you're the only one looking out for you. Take care of yourself by following these tips:

How to Protect Yourself When You're Out

1. It's an oldie but goodie: Go out with groups as much as possible, especially at night and when in unfamiliar surroundings. If you need to leave the group for any reason, tell them where you're going. If you're going out alone, tell a roommate, family member, or friend where you'll be and when you expect to be back. If you won't be home too late, arrange to call them when you get in and ask them to call you if they don't hear from you.

2. If you're driving, park in a well-lit area as close to your destination as possible. Be aware of this even in the day. You might stay out later than you planned.

3. Keep your wallet or handbag on you at all times. Don't rummage through it in public. Take it with you to the restroom; friends tend to get distracted and won't always keep an eye on it even when they promise to. Be wary of anyone who bumps into you. It's a favorite technique of pickpockets. Keep most of your cash in the wallet, but leave a little in your pocket. That way, if the wallet is stolen, you'll have enough for an emergency phone call or ride home.

4. Never leave a drink unattended. As with a bag, beware of leaving your drink in the company of friends, especially if they're drunk and rowdy. They may have good intentions, but intentions don't deter thieves. Don't drink to excess if you're going home alone, even if you're not driving. You need your wits to be your sharpest weapon when you leave the bar or party.

5. This shouldn't even need to be said, but don't go home with a stranger, especially if you're a woman. Don't even go home with a friend of a friend you just met. Date rape happens and is, in fact, more frequent than rape by a stranger. If he likes you tonight, he'll like you tomorrow, and if he doesn't, it would've been a one-night stand anyway. If you've just met someone who wants to get your number, get his or hers instead. If you must give out your number, make it your cell. In an age in which someone can order up a detailed background check from USSearch as fast as they can order a Happy Meal, anyone can track down your address from a publicly listed land line. Keep your personal info personal and don't reveal your place of business or even your last name until you're beyond the getting-to-know-you stage.

6. When walking alone at night, carry an alarm, a can of mace, pepper spray, an umbrella, or, at the very least, your keys. Don't just tuck them away in your bag and forget about them. Grip them in your palm, on the ready.

7. Get on the phone with someone and stay on until you're safe in the car or at home. While talking on the phone won't prevent a criminal from trying to abduct you, at least you'll be able to alert your loved one on the other end of the line, and cells have the added advantage of GPS tracking to pinpoint your location. Put your police precinct or fire department on speed dial in case you can't fumble for 911 in the dark.

8. If you live in a city and don't drive, don't take the bus or train after about 11:00pm. Always take a cab--a licensed one, not a gypsy cab. When you get out, ask the cab driver to wait till you're inside.

9. If you're leaving an establishment late at night by yourself and the parking lot is deserted, ask security or an employee to walk you to your car. Parking lots are among the most common sites for rape and abduction. Don't worry about looking silly. Embarrassment is fleeting. Death is not.

10. As you approach your car, look under it. Auto thieves may hide under a car and slash the driver's ankles as he or she unlocks the door. Also direct your eyes toward surrounding cars. If a man is sitting alone in a car parked next to yours, return to the building until he leaves or ask an employee to walk you out. If all is clear, glance into the backseat as well before you enter the car. Once inside, lock the doors immediately and drive away. Don't sit in the car making a phone call, fixing your hair, drinking a coffee, or anything else. It's not unheard of for a driver to be assaulted at gunpoint while sitting in his or her own car.

11. If a stranger approaches you on the street to ask a question, especially if you're a woman approached by a man, apologize and keep moving, preferably into the nearest store if he persists. Don't feel bad; if you're in a city or town, he can go into a gas station or diner and ask there. If you're approached in a public place like a store, direct him or her to a manager and make sure you're not followed when you leave. If you're approached as you're leaving or while walking to your car, go back into the building and get an employee to help (yes, that employee is certainly getting his exercise tonight ;)). DO NOT be fooled by strangers who appear to be incapacitated by an injury, cumbersome belongings, or an auto breakdown and ask you to accompany them to the car. Kindly but firmly offer to get a manager and go back into the store. Also DO NOT be fooled by strangers who call after you that you dropped a dollar. Even if you did (and you probably didn't), it's just a dollar. They can keep it instead of you.

12. If someone appears to be following you when you can't duck into a store or other public place, turn around and ask a question or make a generic comment. Many attackers depend on the element of surprise, and few want to be IDed in a lineup. If someone advances toward you, hold up your hands and say "STOP." This is also your cue to point your mace or pepper spray and announce clearly that you have it.

13. If someone grabs you, FIGHT BACK. Attackers are much more likely to give up if you scream bloody murder and defend yourself with all the strength you can muster. Criminals are cowards. They don't want a challenge; they want easy prey. The weakest points on an assailant's body are the eyes, the kneecaps, and the genitals. The strongest, sharpest point on your body is the elbow. Scream "FIRE" rather than "HELP" since studies show that bystanders pay more attention to the former (sadly enough).

14. DO NOT let someone lead you away, even if he has a weapon. Once an abductor gets you in a vehicle, your chance of survival plummets. Throw whatever you have in his face or off to the side and run away screaming. Most muggers will run themselves rather than shoot, and those who shoot will likely miss a moving target.

15. If an assailant manages to force you into a vehicle and demands you drive at gunpoint, crash the car into the nearest stationary object. Your airbag will save your life, but your assailant will be out of luck, if not headfirst out of the car. If your abductor is driving, JUMP OUT even if the vehicle is moving and wave vigorously at oncoming cars. If you're thrown into a trunk, kick out a tail light, stick your hand through, and wave.

So now you know how to avoid a criminal encounter on the street, but how do you protect your home turf? Tune in next time to find out!

Have you or another single you know ever been the victim of a violent crime while you were out and about? Do you have any other tips to help singles stay safe while having fun?

Other Sources
What You Can Do to Avoid Crime
Ten Tips to Avoid Crime
Serious Safety Tips for Women
How to Protect Yourself From Being Attacked
Crime Prevention Tips

Fun Link of the Day


bobbyboy said...

I love to see posts like this, not just as an educational tool, but as a reminder to all of us about our personal safety!

May I also suggest a self defense course (For men and woman)? I am talking about the real time tested courses offered at your local precinct or Y.M.C.A. You don't need to study for many years at a martial arts center. Besides, if you learn even one useful life saving tip, isn't it worth it?

Clever Elsie said...

Bobby: That's a wonderful idea! Thanks for suggesting it. :)

Anonymous said...

The crashing the car while at gunpoint might not be the best idea. What if the impact of the crash causes the assailant's finger to squeeze the trigger?

Clever Elsie said...

Anonymous: Hi, thanks for reading!

That's a good point and one that crossed my mind when I wrote this post, even though this particular tip was endorsed on a lot of safety sites. I guess the rationale is that your probability of death is SO much higher if you let the gunman abduct you that it's better to take a risk that would draw attention and/or incapacitate the assailant than to drive off with him. That's all I've got. :)

BTW, for future reference, the Singletude Guidelines request that all commenters use some form of identification, even if it's just a handle, initials, or whatever you want. While there was nothing at all objectionable in your comment, it's been a problem in the past, so I just ask everyone to take ownership of their comments. Thanks!