True Safety for Women and Men

Make a Safety Plan to Reduce Worrying and Be Prepared

Written by Irene van der Zande, Kidpower Founder and Executive Director

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In making decisions about how to create true safety in your life, we encourage you to keep the following points in mind:

  • The Internet and other media are full of misleading or inaccurate messages about personal safety. Especially women are given a confusing combination of upsetting stories, a couple of good ideas, and some fear-based suggestions that are often so rigid that they are at best impractical and at worst dangerous.
  • Personal security does not come from a list of measures or any specific self-defense techniques or weapons. Easy answers provide false reassurance instead of true safety.
  • Being worried or afraid does not make you safer – it just makes you unhappy.
  • Personal security comes from making a safety plan that includes realistic risk assessment of potential safety problems, tools for avoiding most trouble before it starts, skills for dealing with a dangerous situation, and knowing how to get help everywhere you go.
  • You deserve to have joy and freedom in your life. True safety comes from inside yourself. Practicing what to do will help build your confidence and your skills.

Below are the steps we recommend to both women and men in making decisions about how to protect your personal security:

1. Make a Safety Plan

Only one or two minutes of thought a day can prepare you to keep yourself safe from most dangers most of the time. Having a safety plan is NOT being paranoid; it’s being mentally prepared so you can relax and enjoy yourself.

Your safety plan includes knowing when to change your plan to move out of reach of trouble. You also need to know where “Safety ” is so that you can get help. Most of the time, ‘Safety’ is likely to be where people gather, like a store, office building, movie theater, or fire station. Remember that a mobile phone, while a useful tool for getting help, doesn’t always work and is not the same as being with people who are in the same place that you are.

Knowledge is power. Think about what the potential safety problems are in every place you go and learn how to prevent them. Know who to ask and how to persist in getting help.

Do the simple things like locking your doors and putting a smoke detector in your home. Instead of worrying, practice what to do so that you are prepared. Take classes in first aid and self-defense.

2. Pay Attention

Use your awareness to notice what is happening around you. That way you can avoid walking in front of cars, provoking animals, tripping over obstacles, getting caught in a snowstorm, or confronting difficult or dangerous people.

Increase your alertness when you notice a “pocket of isolation”  on a normally busy street or path.  In many places, you are less safe when there are less people around.

3. Assess Realistically by Thinking First

It’s normal to wish that a potential problem will just disappear if you ignore it, but most safety problems don’t go away by themselves. Judge people by their behavior rather than by their superficial appearance. Look at the environment, not just the problem. Think about what all of your choices are.

When the unexpected happens, assess the possibility of a dangerous person trying to trick you to get you to stop, especially if you are alone.  In an isolated place, instead of automatically helping someone, stopping to clean something thrown at your car or you, or pulling over for anyone, assess the situation first. Can you really see what is happening? If there seems to be an emergency, get help by calling 911 in the US, 112 in the EU, or another emergency number. If a police car is trying to get you to pull over in an isolated place, you can call to let a police dispatcher know that you are driving to a safer place and will pull over there.

4. Take Preventative Action

Depending on the specific situation, you can leave rather than confronting someone, set clear boundaries to stop someone from bothering you, and advocate for the well-being of yourself and others. Be both powerful and respectful in whatever action you take.

5. Get Away to Safety

If you cannot just leave, know how to use both your voice and body forcefully to escape from a person or other danger.  Just one strong move like yelling, pulling away, or hitting someone can stop most attacks long enough for you to get away and to get to safety.

6. Get Help

No problem is over until you are with people who can help you. People are sometimes distracted or don’t want to get involved. Keep asking until you get the support you need. If one person doesn’t listen, find another. Reporting a problem can also help protect others.

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About the Author

Irene van der Zande, Kidpower Founder and Executive Director
Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe, the Kidpower Safety Comics series, the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults, and The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People.
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