Many women across packed cities, small towns and sprawling suburbs adopt daily behaviours to “be careful”, “practice caution”, “watch their back” and “stay safe” from potential harm. These small taken-for-granted behavioural changes lead to situations where their mobility is dictated by concerns for their safety and well-being.
On International Women’s Day, we list such daily habits and behaviours. For many, the actions listed below are often formed by negative experiences: They are not a guarantee of safety, but followed as the first line of defence. Few would say these are the things a woman should do to prevent an assault. Many more will say they are the things she should have done to avoid it.
Below are just 25 things women do to stay safe(r):
1. Walk with keys in hand, in case one needs to use them as a weapon.
2. If followed by someone on foot, stop and pretend to make a call or otherwise occupy oneself to allow them to pass.
3. Walk past the destination, particularly if it’s home, if someone’s been trailing.
4. Scope out potential safe havens if someone appears to be following.
6. Change direction if a car appears to be following, while on foot.
7. Run outdoors with only one earbud in and keep the other one on to check on the surroundings.
8. Pretend to listen to music, while walking by men who attempt to engage.
9. Take alternative routes to avoid areas where one knows she is likely to face harassment.
11. Cross the street when one sees men who look like they might be drunk.
12. Avoid eye contact with men trying to get attention.
13. Avoid entering elevators occupied by only one other person, who is a stranger.
14. Text a friend or family member before going out for a run or on a date with a stranger.
16. Decide not to open Facebook messages from unknown men, who could see it has been “read” and become hostile and harassing.
17. Never open the door for someone one who is not expected.
18. Buy pepper spray: For the purse, for the car and one for home.
19. Make sure one is not the only woman on a bus.
21. Making sure there is enough cellphone battery before leaving a place, so that it lasts until reaching another.
22. Wear a hoodie when driving late at night to appear male to other drivers.
23. Check for an official city medallion number when entering a taxi.
24. Never leaving a drink unattended at a party.