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Before You Walk Alone in the Dark

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There is evil in the world. As children we are taught to fear the "boogeyman" and be weary of human strangers. We are given images of danger that are intangible and unrealistic. The sad fact is that the creatures we have to fear the most are not imaginary beasts but real life people. How can one stay safe in a world of invisible threats? Having some basic street smarts is a good place to start!

There is safety in numbers.

It is always better to go out in a group of trusted friends than it is to walk alone. Whenever possible have at least one other person to walk with. If it is just not possible to have a "buddy" then stick to well populated, busy areas. Avoid hidden trails, short cuts through secluded areas or lanes that are not well travelled. Stay in well lit areas where there is traffic and other people on foot.

Walk with the light.

Stay in well lit areas. Do not walk in dark parking lots, dark alleys, dark lanes, dark trails, or dark anything. A well lit path in a well populated area is your safest route to any destination, even if it takes a bit longer. Afterall, is your personal safety worth risking for a few saved minutes?

Keep your head up and look confident.

Your posture can make all the difference in how you are percieved by a potential attacker. If you are looking down, seem distracted or look afraid you are more likely to become a target. Why? Simple, an attacker makes you as an easy mark when your body language tells him/her that you are fearful. Keep your head up, be aware of what is going on around you and keep your gaze fixed at nose level.

Do not shut yourself off from the rest of the world.

A long walk can be very boring and it is very tempting to ease the yawn factor by wearing a headset and listening to music, but this is just not a good idea. Headphones cut you off from your surroundings and make it very easy for an attacker to sneak up on you. When walking alone keep your headset off - save the tunes for when you are safely on well populated public transportation.

Give accurate details on where you're going and when you'll be back.

While many teens do not like to tell their parents where they are going for fear of being forbidden to do so, keeping your whereabouts a secret could put you at risk. For your safety you must always tell your parents where you are going to be, the route you plan to take in getting there, and when you expect to be home. If there is any deviation from the plan you must tell your folks ASAP.

Carry a personal safety device.

Get a personal safety device like a personal alarm or heavy duty flashlight. It may be a pain to carry around but in the event of an attack you will be glad you have it. In jurisdictions where it is legal you may want to consider carrying pepper spray (this is not legal everywhere, check with your local police). Warning: if you pull it out be prepared to use it or it could be used against you.

Know basic self defense.

You don't need to know how to beat an attacker, only how to buy yourself enough time to get away. A few seconds is all it takes to get a safe distance between you and an attacker. Know basic evasive moves like stomping on a foot, slamming your head back into the face or gouging at eyes (with keys if you have to) in order to buy you those precious get-away-to-safety seconds.

CALL 911! Know what to yell if you are under attack.

While it is natural to want to yell "help!" when you are being atacked this is not the best thing to say. Since teens joking around often yell these words many people are not quick to act on them when they hear them. Instead yell "call 911 a girl/guy is being attacked by [briefly describe the attacker; male, female, number of people, race, size, clothing]." Keep yelling the same thing over and over. Yell as loud as you can. Scream. Be noisy. This alone may spook off the attacker.
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