Health

What Your Mother Should Have Taught You About Staying Safe

By Melody Rose··  13 min read
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While we want to believe the best in people, give them the benefit of the doubt, and keep the peace to the best of our ability, it just doesn’t serve our safety in a variety of scenarios. Ultimately, the priority is your own protection, not pleasing someone else.

Women especially find themselves in a multitude of uncomfortable and unfortunately dangerous situations. It’s important to know how to be proactive in these cases instead of waiting until it’s too late. At the end of the day, you’d much rather have assumed the worst than let a situation get beyond your control.

1. Trust Your Intuition

We’ve heard it time and time again that women have heightened intuitions...but is it true? 

I’ve noticed many times throughout my own life how dialed-in mine has been. While it wasn’t always right, it certainly left threads of truth and gave me plenty of time to prepare, question, and of course, make moves accordingly. Furthermore, I noticed my female friends had more, similar proactive impulses in comparison to my male friends. 

After digging into the subject a bit deeper, I saw it reported in Psychology Today that it is in fact true that women have stronger intuitions. Through studies, it was proven that women were better at reading facial expressions of emotion than men. As a result, women are more likely to pick up on the subtle emotional signals sent by others, therefore detecting unspoken intentions. This research pointed to evolutionary elements and social hierarchies throughout history as contributors to the polishing of a woman’s enhanced intuition.

One instance where I'm glad I listened to my intuition was on a date. I personally am super selective as to who I’m going to meet up with. There was one guy I was talking to rather regularly through a dating app. This particular app didn’t provide last names, but through conversation I knew quite a bit about him. We talked for a few weeks before he suggested meeting up, to which I agreed. Up to this point, I had received zero red flags. But as I do in anticipation of meeting, I got curious. 

Women are more likely to pick up on subtle emotional signals, therefore detecting unspoken intentions.

Before I meet up with someone, I’ll try to find their social media and browse, or google their name. In this particular instance, I tried finding him on social media with the information he had provided, but couldn’t. Already my intuition was going off that something was wrong. What may seem like a minor thing (I mean some people like to maintain their privacy, right?!) made me more and more hesitant. I couldn’t let it go, to the point everything in me was telling me not to go on this date. So the morning of, I canceled. 

But still, I couldn’t let it go. I didn’t have his last name (ladies, this is your reminder to get the last name!), but I took to Google with the information I did have. What did I find? The profession he said he held was a huge embellishment. Along with that lie was an entire public record of repeated criminal offenses since his high school years. There were multiple DUIs, breaking and entering, harassment of an ex, vandalism, and ultimately a car accident under the influence that resulted in a death, and of course, prison.

My heart literally stopped in my chest. While the last record was reported about 10 years ago, this showed me the type of character I was dealing with and the potential danger I almost waltzed right into. It highlighted for me the importance of staying on top of safety measures. All to say, if your intuition is telling you something is off, get curious about it and above all, do not ignore it!

2. Use Your Words and Screw Politeness

These rules will be pretty foundational for every rule on this list. You should never feel that being "nice" or "polite" is sufficient to ignore a bad feeling or go into a situation you know is wrong. Predators rely on your politeness in order to get you into situations you wouldn't normally go along with. For example, infamous serial killer Ted Bundy pretended to be injured or otherwise in need of help in order to solicit the help of unsuspecting women, luring them back to his car, where he would kidnap and eventually murder them.

You don't owe politeness to strangers. If someone or something is giving you a bad feeling, trust your instincts. It doesn't make you a bad person to make sure you're safe first before helping someone. In short, screw politeness.

The second side of this coin is learning how to use your words effectively. Don't be afraid to say when something is making you uncomfortable or feel in danger. Predators don’t like assertive victims and certainly don’t expect you to be. This will also give you an indication of whether they will press your boundaries further and the severity of what you’re dealing with. Don’t doubt the power of your words.

We don't owe anyone access to ourselves out of fear of awkwardness or fear of being perceived as rude.

Self-defense classes recommend yelling phrases like “STAY BACK!” or “DON’T COME CLOSER!” because they’re meant to startle the attacker and establish you as more than just an easy victim.

In a less dramatic example, say you're at a party kissing a guy you've met there. He starts touching you inappropriately or pushing you into having sex. Don't waste time giggling or playing coy. Push his hand away and firmly say no. If he doesn't stop, get up and walk away. Remember to first always use clear language and then be ready to follow up your words with action. If you tell him no and he doesn't respect it, get up and walk away. We don't owe anyone access to ourselves out of fear of awkwardness or fear of being perceived as rude.

4. Set Boundaries with Men at Work

As we know from the thousands of #MeToo stories that have been shared over the past several years, women being subjected to inappropriate behavior at work is a tragically common occurrence.

As unfortunate as it may be, we should be keeping basic things in mind, especially when dealing with male coworkers, that reduce the chances for us to be alone and victimized.

For example, say your male superior asks to meet you in his office privately. Not wanting to seem rude, you may feel uncomfortable turning down his directive. Your “polite” conditioning in this moment may have you feeling like, “If I say something it’ll look like I’m defiant. I don’t want to get fired or create an awkward work environment.” 

But here’s the key thing to remember: honoring your truth isn’t rude, it’s necessary.

Be courageous enough to say no to your superior. Choose what you feel comfortable with. You could say, “I’m open to meeting, however, I’d like to meet in ____ (name a location that isn’t as private).” Or perhaps you're comfortable with meeting in his office, but only if the door remains open. These are both reasonable requests, so your superior should have no issue accommodating them.

Stating your boundaries isn’t rude – it’s necessary.

Now before you say we're being paranoid, I invite you to recall the secret button that news personality Matt Lauer kept under his desk that let him lock the door without even having to stand up. This button "allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him.” Multiple female employees accused Lauer of trapping them in his office before initiating sexual advances.

Harvey Weinstein used the same technique, luring naïve actresses up to a private hotel room under the guise of meeting for business purposes. Here's a good rule of thumb: no business is ever so urgent you need to go to a man's hotel room to solve it. These may be extreme examples, but the lessons are same. These men rely on women feeling too awkward to say no, in order to get us into unsafe and compromising situations.

This is why you should live by the policy of "Better safe than sorry." Make it your personal rule that you don't meet privately with men in their offices or other rooms where it would be easy to isolate and harm you. A report to HR will be too late if you've already found yourself victim to the far-too-many sexual predators lurking in corporate offices.

5. Learn Situational Awareness

We’ve all been in situations where we find ourselves alone walking through dim lighting, like in a parking garage or a back alley. 

While it may be tempting to pick up your phone and text a girlfriend to feel less isolated, this isn’t a good idea. Predators look for distracted victims. Make it a point to be extra aware of your surroundings when in this position. Predators also look for fear because a victim who is afraid will typically be submissive, silent, and easy to control. So even if you’re feeling a little frightened, avoid facial expressions of concern or a posture that suggests you're scared. Be deliberate and confident with your movements. 

Parking Garages

One place you may not think to be extra careful (but you should) is in parking lots and parking garages. It's all too easy for someone to sneak up on you in an isolated corner of the lot, especially if you're distracted by texting or looking up directions on your phone.

Avoid the stairs if possible. The stairs are known to be “hangouts” and ideal for lurkers who don’t want an audience. 

Always go directly to your car without distractions. Do not sit in your car to chat on the phone or look up directions, instead immediately turn it on and start driving. You can have your navigation pulled up before you start walking to your car.

Self-Defense

Consider carrying a self-defense tool like pepper spray or a taser. Tools that allow you to deter an attacker without having to get close to him are far superior to handheld tools that require you to be in close contact before using them (think knives or sharp "self-defense" keychains and the like). A last resort, if you're not carrying a deterrent, is to walk with your key wedged between your fingers so it can do some damage with a punch.

Tools that allow you to deter an attacker without having to get close are far superior to handheld tools.

Look into options for learning self-defense techniques or even martial arts. Taking control of your body can help you feel more prepared for unexpected situations and be ready to respond effectively.

Check out this article by Black Belt Magazine for more practical tips to guide you through these situations. I also like to follow Women Empowered Self-Defense on Instagram where they occasionally share self-defense video clips for everyday situations and other valuable content. 

6. Be Careful Meeting Men on the Internet

Transitioning from chatting in an app to meeting up in real life calls for extra prudence. You do have to treat people (even potential romantic interests) as strangers. 

If you’re meeting up with someone, always tell a friend or family member where you’re going, the time, and the information you have about the person. Make your first meetup somewhere public. Be sure to turn on your cell phone location services for extra precaution. 

These tips aren’t just limited to online dating. Even if you’re out and meet someone, you still just don’t truly know them. 

7. You Never Owe Him Sex

This gets back to our "Use Your Words" lesson above. Nothing, we repeat, nothing a man has done or said to you, means that you owe him sex. You don't owe him sex for paying for dinner, you don't owe it to him because you went back to his place, you don't owe it to him even if you've slept with him before.

Unfortunately, predatory men know that women can be too agreeable for our own good. We want him to like us, so we give in and do things that either compromise our values or put us in actual danger, just because we're afraid of saying "no." Too many women have the story, “I slept with him because I didn’t know how to say no.” Don’t let that be your story.

How exactly does this guilt-tripping play out in real life? Here are a few example scenarios that you've probably already experienced.

"I paid for dinner. You owe me."

Nothing breaks my heart more than hearing the horrific dating stories of expectation, specifically the expectation of a man paying for dinner in exchange for sex.

This is another situation where politeness can certainly be a huge disservice. Too often women are intimidated by the thought of saying “no.” And some men know this and will use it to their advantage. The whole point of a man offering to pay is to show chivalry. If he's using it as leverage to guilt you into getting intimate, he's not the one.

You don’t owe anyone anything; it’s okay to be on guard and allow them to earn your trust. 

"You're already here, we should just have sex."

In 2018, actor and comedian Aziz Ansari made headlines after a woman complained that he had assaulted her. In her account, they had gone out to dinner and then gone back to his place to fool around. She didn't really want to do anything, but she felt bad saying no, so she ended up getting sexual with him.

Unfortunately, her story doesn't read so much as an assault as it does a painfully awkward date followed by an equally awkward hookup. Although she claims she used "verbal and non-verbal cues" to say she wasn't interested in getting sexual, she ended up going along with what he asked for.

This is another case in which aligning your words – "No, I'm not interested in having sex" – and your actions – walking away, leaving his apartment, stopping sexual contact – will serve you much better than hoping that this guy can read your mind.

We don't know what Ansari's real intentions were, but it isn't hard to see where he might have gotten confused over his date's mixed messages. If you want to avoid being pressured into sexual activity you don't want or aren't ready for, you must be prepared to use your words and follow them with actions that show you're serious. It doesn't matter what his intentions are if you refuse to give in to his guilt-tripping.

Closing Thoughts

I know these situations are much easier to write about than to navigate in reality. It really can present some complicated scenarios and uncomfortable moments that require split-second reactions. From the bottom of my heart, I hope none of these situations find you. However, if they ever do, I hope that between this article and the presented resources, you’ll walk away feeling as prepared and empowered to honor your “no” and protect yourself as much as possible. Simply because you deserve to. 

And if you ever have the opportunity, attend a self-defense class. As difficult as a moment of defense may be, it will pass and heal. There’s a lot more damage to sift through if you allow situations to go too far. So trust yourself on this one!

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