Avoiding rape — or worse! (part 1) – be a deterrent

Hopefully you have read my previous articles on personal safety and will not ever find yourself confronted by a scary attacker. If you haven’t yet, please, for your own sake, do so, so you can stay safe.

This post has vital information to ward off an assailant. I am addressing this article to women in the event of an encounter with a male aggressor. I don’t mean to leave the fellas out, as 10 percent of rapes per year happen to males. So, everyone, be careful out there!

Of course, this is not a pleasant subject, but given that every 98 seconds – basically a minute and a half – someone in America gets sexually assaulted, it’s important. Ladies, here are some statistics that can help you avoid being a victim:

The U.S. Department of Justice reports the most common time that rapists attack women is between 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. So be careful if you work late or go out after work. And strive to get your shopping done earlier during the day, like on your lunch breaks or weekends. Another time of day it’s said that rapists attack often is between 5:00 – 8:30 a.m. So be careful going to work too! In fact, whenever you are out, especially if you’re in a remote location or a more vulnerable setting, always be on your guard!

Women are more likely to be jumped and abducted from parking lots than any other locale, especially grocery store parking lots. Large indoor garages are the second most dangerous place for women to be alone. The third spot is public restrooms. Sometimes you need to be in these potentially perilous places. Be hyper-alert, listen to your intuition, be smart: use the buddy system, and if something seems suspicious, enlist the help of a security guard.

If you are the last one to leave your place of business and close it up, you could be targeted. A woman should not accept this duty if there’s a man who could do it instead. Of course, in some retail professions, it may be unavoidable. Be ultra-aware if you are in this position.

Rapists behind bars were interviewed and many similarities were found as to who they approach and how. Here’s what to watch out for:

Long-haired females are far more likely than their short-haired counterparts to grab their attention. It’s not just about a feminine appearance; it’s about the vulnerable aspect of the hair itself: Hair can be grabbed, especially in a ponytail or braid. Tuck in your hair if you’re in a high-risk situation.

Women who are dressed for easy-access make easier targets. Unfortunately, this includes skirts and dresses with no hose. Yes, that seems so unfair – we should be able to be as feminine as we want to be, especially on a hot summer day – but dress wisely. Clothing that’s easy to rip open is also something would-be creeps will notice.

Women who are otherwise preoccupied, like on the phone, digging through a purse or otherwise engaged in something distracting are all-too-easy to catch off guard and overpower.

When you walk, walk tall and with an aura of confidence: Mind your posture, hold your head up, swing your arms purposefully. Use eye contact to someone who is menacing; make it the evil eye.

Here’s something my father, Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., author of “Be Safe, Girl,” recommended: If you suspect someone is following you or even if they get way too close, be bold. Muster up your courage to face them dead-on and speak — not in a soft, small voice, but with a loud, clear tone. In fact, be mad; use a manly voice. Look directly at this person, ask a question (like the time) or  blurt out a comment about the weather – that’s a trick that could confound and throw a would-be rapist off kilter. He knows you’ve seen his face and could identify him in a line-up. This also humanizes you; you’re not just prey anymore, you’re a fellow human being. This tactic could cause him to go hunt down someone more susceptible and/or even deter him from attacking anyone.

Have your cell phone handy and always know your location; the very second you sense you may be in danger, immediately call 9-1-1 and loudly give the police your exact location! Even after an undesirable person saunters off, call 9-1-1 immediately and get to a safe place.

Walk safely, part 4 – night owls

 

I hate to say it, because Chicago is a great city offering many fun events, but recently, crime has increased in Chicago. This is likely a result of the meteorological theory  known as CLASH, with the recent spike in temperatures from moderate (in the 70’s, Fahrenheit) to really hot (in the 90’s) temperatures. When night falls, especially since it’s still early summer, the temperatures fall back to comfortable again. The temptation is to be out at night when it’s pleasant, but that’s also when more criminals are out, as it’s easier to do wrong hidden in the shroud of darkness.

Fortunately we’re at the time of year when daylight lingers. And yet, there are also more homeless people out in the summertime. After dark, if they don’t have to place to retreat indoors, they are still out roaming the streets. Not that the indigent are generally dangerous, but if you are a “have” and they are a “have not,” best to avoid crossing paths with them – or any stranger – on a lonely street.

Downtown State Street used to feel perfectly safe, even late. But now it changes as darkness falls. It transforms from a crowded, touristy mecca to one that becomes inhabited with the types of people who walk down the street shouting (God forbid they would turn their hostility toward you), groups of rowdy college students spewing obscenities and acting tough (as if they expect others to move aside when they barrel along) and dudes who look and behave like thugs. It’s a real shame.

The park on State and VanBuren is especially seedy as evening approaches. A couple other downtown areas that don’t feel safe are by Clark and VanBuren and over by Wabash and Harrison as well as any area that is practically deserted and not well-lit where you need to walk by an alley or beneath el tracks. Trust your intuition.

Don’t procrastinate; get out to run errands while it is still light out (even though many stores stay open later); it’s simply safer. Bear in mind also that in the city, between tall buildings, it seems darker earlier; the sun may be shining elsewhere, but if it’s not shining on your path, you are walking after dark.

What to do if you are out at night to stay safe?

Practice the tips in my previous articles on walking safely including:

  • safety in numbers,
  • stay alert,
  • project confidence,
  • keep a safe distance from others,
  • have safety devices handy — a flashlight, for instance; there are small ones good even for tiny purses.

Avoid dark districts; walk in the middle of the street until you get to a well-illuminated area.

Note moving shadows; use your peripheral vision.

Protective coloration can work to your advantage, like wearing all black at night to help you remain less visible to predators (though it’s a traffic safety hazard).

On a desolate street very late at night, it might even be wise to stay out of sight of passing cars or intimidating pedestrians, including bands of loud, rambunctious roaming groups, by ducking behind something and hiding; in this case, darkness is your friend if it can conceal you. Yes, there are for-real bullies in this world, and you needn’t be their latest plaything.

Avoid walking after midnight; this is when most violent crimes happen on the street.

If you’ve been drinking, forget walking! Yes, even if you feel you should walk awhile to sober up. Man or woman, you’re an easy target whether you think so or not! Don’t be fool-hearty; get a ride from a friend, contact Uber or hail a cab safely homeward.

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Your personal security is vitally important, and so is that of your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and fellow students. Pass what you are learning in this series of crime prevention articles along to those you care about.

To be aware of safety doesn’t mean being fearful or stifled, but rather, self-assured that you can avoid danger. “Be confident and go unafraid in the world!” (Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., “Be Safe Girl,” p. 29)

Walk safely, part 3 – possessions and props

Here are more good ideas (see my two previous posts) for safety while walking. Get used to these ideas, remember them, practice them, now and always. It really is true that “you can’t be too safe.”

Possessions

  • Don’t carry large sums of money.
  • Don’t wear flashy jewelry in bad neighborhoods, whether on the street, on public transportation or even in your own vehicle:
    • Turn rings around so the gemstones are concealed underneath;
    • Tuck fine jewelry into your shirt and expensive watches and bracelets under long sleeves. Or if you’re not wearing long sleeves, leave off your nicer pieces while commuting and put them on once you reach your destination.
  •  How to carry your purse or man satchel:
    • Don’t dangle your purse by the straps.
    • Clutch it like you’re carrying a football: On your front side, close to body, hold onto the straps too,
    • fastened tight so no one can reach in from behind;
    • with the clasp on the inside;
    • hold your bag on the inside (toward buildings, especially when approaching a subway entrance) rather on the street side to make it hard for someone to snatch and run,
    • and possibly even under your coat;
    • You may think your bag is more secure if you wear it crosswise across your body, but bear in mind if someone does try to grab it and run, you could be choked this way.
    • And “don’t put it down, not even for a moment!” (Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., “Be Safe Girl,” p. 14) This includes when you’re out dancing. Trust me on this: Stupid me, I learned this the hard way.
  • Be alert to anyone following you after you leave a bank, ATM, or currency exchange.
  • If at all possible, don’t use an ATM in a remote location. And look it over first to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with; it might contain spyware.
  • Do not walk out of a store or step out of a cab with your money or wallet still in hand. Put it away before hitting the street. Someone could grab it out of your hand so easily.
  • Be guarded and low-key when paying for something.
  • Do not spread your belongings out on the store countertop.
  • Do not give personal information aloud, like your phone number, if asked by a store clerk, especially within earshot of others.
  • Make sure you get your change and credit cards back and stashed safely before walking away.
  • If approached by someone asking for money, decline politely and walk on rapidly; check to make sure they’re not following. (Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., “Be Safe Girl,” p. 12)

Props

  • You are an easier target to a thief if you are on your cell phone because you’re distracted and cannot hear as well what’s happening around you.
  • Avoid wearing headphones, or if you must, leave one ear plugged in but not the other so you can still hear what’s going on around you.
  • Always carry a flashlight; never leave home without it! This can be invaluable to see in the dark, shine in the eyes of a pest, or even use as a weapon.
  • In a dangerous locale, hold an alarm device in-hand or a police whistle up to your lips and ready to use if needed. Being able to scream is always good, but have you ever been too scared to scream? Or what if you have a sore throat or laryngitis? That’s why safety gadgets that will work infallibly to make a loud noise to ward off an attacker and draw attention to your situation are important.
  • In a questionable neighborhood or anywhere after dark, walk with your cell phone in hand and 9-1-1 already dialed so that all you would have to do is push the button to reach the police — and know your exact location, nearest street names and nearby buildings or landmarks, at all times.

By remembering the tips from this post and my two previous posts in this series on personal security, you stand less chance of becoming a victim of crime. Pass these posts along to those you care about, especially the young people in your life  — like your offspring who may be away at college, especially if they’re in a big city — who may not know any better, so they won’t have to learn the hard way. Because having your stuff stolen hurts.

Stop by my blog again for more insider information on staying safe on the streets…Follow my blog to get this information even quicker. Here’s to your safety and that of your loved ones!

School Girl
Photo credit: Jim Goodpasture

 

 

Walk safely, part 2 – on the move

No doubt about it: The world has become less safe. Unfortunately this has even altered downtown Chicago where people go about their days expecting that crime will not touch their lives. Yet there’s an alertness in the air, and in these times, it’s necessary.

If you read part 1 in this series, you know my father, Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., authored “Be Safe, Girl.” He was vigilant about keeping his three teenage daughters safe. By default, I memorized and put into practice loads of safety tips from him.

Basics:

  • Tune in to your intuition; this is “your secret guardian.” (Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., “Be Safe Girl,” 4)
  • Stay aware and alert at all times; here’s where daydreaming can be dangerous.
  • “Do not look lost or afraid; walk with a sure confidence that proclaims you know exactly where you are going.” (Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., “Be Safe Girl,” 12)
  • Try to keep at least one hand free.
  • Especially in the city, including on public transportation, avoid eye contact with just about everybody — but especially people who seem odd or aggressive. Don’t stare or react to them; if they speak to you, ignore and hurry on your way. An exception would be if someone gets threateningly close to you, then give them a crazy glare that will scare them off.
  • Try to keep enough distance (out of arm’s length) from anyone who could reach out and grab you or your possessions.
  • Don’t loiter; if you window shop, remain alert.
  • Beware loiterers, especially in certain areas (around liquor stores, pawn shops and transient hotels); in fact, try to avoid such districts.
  • Take heavily trafficked main streets rather than lonely side streets.
  • Try to stay where people could hear you should you need to call for help.
  • Change your route as needed to avoid a dark doorway or other iffy spots.
  • If someone is coming toward you on a desolate street, cross the street; if necessary, change direction.

Walking smart:

  • Walk in the middle of the sidewalk, neither too close to buildings or parked vehicles.
  • When walking under el trains in the city, there’s not as much visibility plus if you had to call for help, you may not be heard; best take a different route.
  • As a woman, I’ve been warned not to take walks in the parks nor along the lakefront alone at night. This may be equally true for a man.
  • Walk at a distance from:
    • alleys,
    • garage doors,
    • subway entrances,
    • dark doorways,
    • tall, dense shrubbery,
    • parked vehicles, especially vans.
  • Don’t be tempted to take potentially dangerous shortcuts — it’s important to avoid being in places where no one can see or hear you (Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., “Be Safe Girl,” 3) — but if there’s no other route, move quickly through:
    • alleyways,
    • narrow walkways between buildings,
    • unlit passageways,
    • vacant lots,
    • parking lots,
    • construction sites,
    • empty stores,
    • unoccupied buildings,
    • deserted areas,
    • parks, unless they’re teeming with people,
    • tunnels: often two bandits work a tunnel; one follows you in, and another waits at the other end.

Possible safe havens in case you feel threatened:

  • The nearest occupied building, especially if there’s a security guard
  • Heavily-occupied areas where you can lose yourself in the crowd and ask for help
  • 24-hour hour convenience stores
  • Gas stations
  • Banking facilities (they’re loaded with cameras, especially the drive-throughs and ATMs in banks)

What is more important than your personal security? Come back again for my continuing series on walking safely – or better yet, don’t miss a beat: Follow my blog; sign up today.

Downtown Chicago Street
Beautiful Downtown Chicago

Walk safely, part 1 – preparation

In my previous post, I tiptoed around the topic of Chicago crime. Whether or not you decide to visit this awesome city – and certainly if you live here — it’s always smart to play it safe. In fact, whether you live in a big dangerous city, quiet suburbia or a peaceful remote location, personal safety should play a part in your daily life.

My father, Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., was very security-conscious, especially of his three daughters, and wrote a book called “Be Safe, Girl” that contains self-protection advice for girls, women and anybody. Not simply because I am his daughter, but because the book is very practical – and potentially life-saving — I feel it should be in every household, especially one with young ladies.

In this post, the first in a series on walking safely, are some of the lessons I learned, mostly from my father, to stay safe or, if necessary, escape harm. Chicago is a great city for walking, so whether you live here or come for a visit, read on and walk smart. It starts before you even venture out to walk:

  • Obviously, it’s best to be out in daylight rather than after dark.
  • Plan your route – and vary it, as well as your schedule — even for routine journeys such as to and from work.
  • Tell a friend or family member where you’re going, your itinerary, expected time of arrival; keep numbers handy so you can keep them updated, and make sure they have your number.
  • Do not go off with someone mysterious; make sure someone knows whom you’re with, including the full name and as much data as possible, (phone #, city of residence, place of work, etc). If you’re with a newcomer in your life, a relative stranger, let that person know that others know whom you’re with and when you’re expected to resurface.
  • Even better, travel with a pal when feasible. “There is safety in numbers.” (Ralph E. Clarke, Jr., “Be Safe Girl,” p. 3)
  • Wear colors that repel being approached on the street. Black and yellow is the best color combination for this purpose, just as in nature where most critters that are black and yellow are dangerous. Also, warning signs are often black and yellow. You might, for example, wear a black coat with yellow accessories.
  • Wear shoes in which you can walk comfortably or run if necessary, and make sure your footgear is weather appropriate for stealth get-aways.
  • Consider investing in props that can protect you:
    • A flashlight can not only help you see in the dark, it can be used as a self-defense tool. If you don’t already carry one, you probably should. Latest models come small and compact and can double as a self-defense tool by blinding an attacker and more.
    • An air horn makes a really loud noise that would surprise and hopefully shoo off an attacker and will definitely attract attention from others in the vicinity who could help. There are air horn apps for your device in lieu of carrying an air horn.
    • Consider wearing a police-quality whistle; these are loud enough to be heard for blocks. When utilized, a thug will hopefully run away as you draw attention from people nearby.
    • Pepper spray, mace and even concealed weapons might be a good idea – or not: Realize anything you can use on an attacker can be turned against you; if the attacker gets the better of you, you could be the victim of your own devices; consider this cautiously.
  • Use the toilet before you depart so you can avoid using public facilities, especially at night.

Walk with a Pal

If you walk often, and especially if you walk at night or in questionable neighborhoods, learn some self-defense tactics or even take a self-defense class. More about this in an upcoming post.

Be smart: Walk wisely,
so you can walk through life with the confidence that you can go out in the world and be safe.

Experience summer in Chicago

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Are you afraid to come to Chicago? Chicago has gotten a lot of bad press lately that makes headlines around the world and makes Chicago sound really terrifying. Yes, it’s a big city and big cities can be intimidating. Yes, there are gangs and they have guns — but it’s extremely rare they would be in the tourist districts. (What happened this past weekend, when it was very hot and crime rates shot up in the city was unprecedented; and since then, the Chicago Police Department and security operations have really beefed up security!)

Chicago is actually nowhere near as dangerous as several smaller U.S. cities. It may surprise you (it surprised me) to learn St. Louis is the murder capital of the country and has held that distinction for years.

No doubt many potential visitors shy away from Chicago and thus miss out on so much. Yet Chicago should be on everyone’s to-do list, especially in the summer. Don’t worry: When violence goes up, the Chicago Police force gets beefed up. Downtown and especially touristy areas, like along the Mag Mile and in the parks, cops are everywhere: Patrolling the streets on foot, in their vehicles and even on horseback.

Downtown Chicago and its adjacent neighborhoods have loads to offer, literally something for everyone! Here is just a snapshot of what’s on offer:

The Chicago Loop (right downtown): Fancy hotels, restaurants and bars; popular theater productions; State Street shopping; Willis Tower; walking and bus tours; famous landmarks.

Grant Park: Taste of Chicago, SummerDance, Lollapalooza, beautiful parks bursting with lovely gardens and enchanting fountains including of course the spectacular Buckingham Fountain.

Millennium Park: Free concerts (including Chicago Blues Festival and Chicago Jazz Festival), shows, events and movies under the stars almost every night; the eye-catching Cloud Gate; fountains in which one can play (very popular especially with children); unusual gardens; food and drink including a beer garden.

Michigan Avenue/the “Mag Mile”: The Art Institute of Chicago, shopping galore (everything from high-end designer to Chicago sports team tee-shirts), The John Hancock Center, movie theaters, art galleries, eclectic restaurants.

Lake Michigan’s lakefront: Maggie Daley Park (fun for the whole family), beautiful beaches, scenic harbors, boat rides, bike rentals, segway lessons, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, The Field Museum, Museum of Science & Industry, Huntington Bank Pavilion, Northerly Island, lakefront festivities including the Chicago Air and Water Show, dining, cocktails, the incomparable Chicago skyline.

Navy Pier: Shops, sights, live music, 3-D movies, theater, carnival rides, interactive art installations, yoga and fitness classes, dinner and sightseeing cruises, regular fireworks displays.

Chicago River: Lush hotels, architectural boat tours, kayaking, water taxis all the way to Chinatown, the Chicago Riverwalk lined with charming restaurants, bars, live entertainment and breath-taking architecture.

All of the above is merely in the central area! Working one’s way out from downtown, one could spend a lifetime exploring all that Chicago has on offer, including many neighborhood festivals in the outskirts of Chicago and as far away as the remote suburbs. There truly is no place like Chicago in the summertime! And summer is coming up fast. Warm – even hot – weather is already here. It’s time to make plans to visit Chicago!

Want to learn more about how you can have fun in Chicago, enjoy outstanding restaurants, great entertainment and exciting events? Get email alerts when I post something new: Follow my blog.

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Red Nose Day in the USA

20170503_171353Red Nose Day is back! It first came to America in 2015. Riding public transportation to work in Chicago, passengers saw billboards mentioning Red Nose Day with a picture of someone wearing a red clown nose. I remember thinking it was a joke or possibly a movie poster. Then I discovered, at Walgreens of all places, that Red Nose Day was in fact a day denoting a serious charitable cause — while sporting a red nose, if you please — to help raise money for homeless and hungry children here and abroad, champion human rights and provide disaster relief.

Red Nose Day has been going on for decades (since 1988) in the UK, starting  as a TV fundraiser on the BBC, and has been huge ever since. Leave it to the UK, home of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and countless other hilarious shows born of British humor, to come up with “a good laugh for a good cause” and “do something funny for money.” The orchestrator of Red Nose Day is the charitable organization Comic Relief which has an incredible, lengthy history of helping the helpless.

Mark your calendars! Red Nose Day in the USA falls this year on Thursday, May 25, at which time NBC will host a special TV event. In the meantime, you can make a donation; it’s super easy online.

If you’ve been to Walgreens lately, you can’t miss it. At the registers, customers are invited to purchase a red nose. You may be thinking: “Who would wear a red clown nose for a day? It’s not going to be me!” But hold onto your hats; celebrities have been doing it for decades. If you still couldn’t see yourself doing that – I imagine most people would feel really silly commuting and showing up in class or at the board meeting in a red clown nose – there are alternative ways to show your support. A less conspicuous option is to take a selfie in a red nose and post it online like many are doing. Walgreens also sells Red Nose Day pens, wristbands and buttons.

Red Nose DayRed Nose Day is everywhere including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; and this will intensify over the next couple of weeks. Check out all the creative ideas on Pinterest. I see Red Nose Day as something that will continue to grow and grow – like Pinocchio’s nose – throughout the years.

If you’re bold, wear your red nose proudly on May 25 — and catch the NBC special. Let’s have some silly fun while doing some good in this world!