4 Safety Tips for Single Girls

I learned about personal safety the hard way. In November 1982, a former high school acquaintance began harassing me with threatening phone calls. Over the years, his threats escalated and culminated with an attempted kidnapping and an 11-hour standoff with police. After years of living like a hunted animal, I learned trial-by-fire safety skills that saved my life. My goal is to share my story with other women in the hopes that they could learn from my past -- and prevent themselves from ever becoming a victim of a crime.

My story proves that no woman should ever take her personal safety for granted. In fact, if you are single, live alone or travel for business, there are certain areas of personal safety that make you more vulnerable. Here are some "safety chick" tips that single women should follow to keep safe from crime:

1. Listen to your gut. Intuition is the chill down your spine, the tightening in your stomach, the hair standing up on the back of your neck. Whatever your body is signaling, you'd better pay attention. That's nature's way of telling you that something is amiss. If you take the time to get in tune with your surroundings -- and with your body signals -- nine times out of 10 you can avoid a bad situation before it occurs. Bottom line: Don't ignore those feelings; respond to them.

2. Be a practical party girl. Every year, thousands of emergency room incidents are attributed to women being secretly drugged with substances generally known as "club drugs," like Rohypnol, also known as roofies or the date-rape drug, and Ecstasy, a synthetic drug with mild hallucinogenic properties. The purpose of the drug is to make unsuspecting women uninhibited or even unconscious -- easy targets for rape or other harmful acts. To prevent being drugged, you absolutely must never leave your drink unattended. And only accept a cocktail from someone you don't know if you've actually seen the bartender pour the drink and hand it directly to you.

Above all, avoid compromising situations. Have fun, but always have a buddy with you. A friend is someone who doesn't let her friends drive drunk, go home with a stranger or get dangerously intoxicated. You are smart to trust your pal's intuition as much as your own.

3. Travel wisely. For starters, if you're going away, you should pack a flashlight for power failures and reading road maps, a first-aid kit with essentials like Band-Aids and aspirin, prepaid calling cards, a list of emergency contacts and a photocopy of your passport and driver's license. (Just add these items to your overnight bag. Even if you never use a single piece of this pack, it'll just be one less thing that you have to worry about.) You should also leave a copy of your itinerary with your family at home. When taking taxis, be sure to use an established company and note the driver's name and license number. Never share a cab with a stranger and avoid exiting the taxi in a dark, desolate or poorly lit area. Try to get hotel rooms near elevators and highly trafficked areas, as opposed to near long hallways or stairwells. It's also a good idea to take a look around before you enter your room. If you see something you don't like, return to the front desk and ask to be escorted. If a workman wants access to your room, call the desk again to make sure it's a legitimate request. A savvy safety chick is never afraid to ask for help.

4. Don't give stalkers access. One in 12 women will be stalked at least once in their lives, according to statistics from the Department of Justice. It happened to me. Keeping your personal information private is a valuable safety tool to thwart unwanted visits from a stalker. You should request an unlisted telephone number, remove your home number from directories like those of a church or school, get a post-office box as opposed to having mail sent directly to your home and keep your name off the mailbox and out of databases for subscription services or catalog companies that will spread your contact information all over the western hemisphere.

Remember: It's not about living paranoid; it's about living smart.

You can find more safety tips and advice in Kathleen Baty's book, A Girl's Gotta Do What a Girl's Gotta Do: The Ultimate Guide to Living Safe and Smart.

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