How to Keep Yourself Safe as a Woman

A woman walking alone in a parking garage
Photo by Alexis B from Pexels

It’s upsetting that I even have to write this. It shouldn’t be any harder or more dangerous to be a woman in today’s society. It’s 2021, for goodness sake! I shouldn’t feel concerned leaving my house by myself, ordering food for just myself, or just running errands at night.

But I am. And I’m not alone.

Being a woman in today’s society is scary, and not something that’s talked about a lot. If you’re looking for the best ways to keep yourself safe – whether you’re chronically single, casually dating, or in a long term relationship – I’ve got you covered. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill, don’t wear headphones while you’re outside type of tips. Instead, here are some things you might not have thought of… but could save your life.

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Don’t order for just yourself

I read a story this week that got me thinking about just how hard it is as a woman. This single woman, living alone, ordered a burger, fries, and a milkshake for herself through a delivery company. She marked no contact delivery like most of us do (look, man, I don’t need you judging my unwashed hair and sweatpants), and heard the driver knock on the door.

She peeked out the window and gave a thumbs up, then watched him retreat. After a moment, she opened her door to get her food.

And there he was, standing in the stairwell just outside of her vision. He proceeded to berate her about her directions to her apartment building, effectively scolding this adult woman. He knew she was home alone; she ordered her food with a female name, after all, and there was only one meal.

This isn’t just a one-off situation. Countless women chimed in, sharing their own scary delivery stories. Even one man noted he used traditionally feminine products for his skin and hair, and once he got a delivery of those products, with some fresh veggies. The delivery man, after dropping the products off, was waiting on his porch just outside of view.

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So how do you stay safe in delivery situations?

If you’re getting food delivered for just yourself, consider adding a second entree–maybe something you can easily reheat for dinner tomorrow, or for lunch at work the next day. At the very least, get two drinks so it looks like you’re splitting something with someone else.

Another user suggested always ordering under a masculine name, something I had never thought about but makes total sense! Even if you’re a woman calling, if you place your order under John or Paul or Frank, the delivery driver will assume a man is the one receiving the food.

For further safety, if you’ve got the space or the ability, consider getting a video doorbell to record and monitor your front door or porch area. This will help you see where people are in your space, and help keep you safe. Even if you can’t, consider getting a sticker saying you have one of these things and put it in your front window.

Always lock your car doors

One of the scariest stranger encounters I’ve ever had was in my car. I was in my early 20s and driving my very first vehicle, an old Pontiac. When you turned off the engine, the radio kept playing but the doors unlocked. It had no AC, so my windows were rolled down. I sat in my car and responded to a text message in the parking lot of my favorite thrift store.

A guy who had seen me drive by walked up to my window, leaned down, and started hitting on me. He was at least 50, I wasn’t even 21, and I was so uncomfortable. My windows were open, my doors were unlocked, and I felt absolutely trapped.

I managed to send a text message to a friend, who called me, and I aggressively walked away from him while “chatting” on the phone after trying to remove myself from the situation for several minutes. I was so scared to leave the store, thinking he would be waiting by my car, that I wandered there for at least an hour.

Always lock your car doors when you’re inside your car, and try not to linger in your car too long. Even when you’re driving, your doors need to be locked. Modern cars are better about this, but pay attention to your vehicle.

locking your car doors
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Keep your windows rolled up when possible, and your car running for an easy getaway. If you don’t need them on, don’t keep your child safety locks on your back doors. Worst case scenario, you might need to leave through the back.

Let someone know where you are

Going out on a date? Maybe headed out for the night with friends? It might seem like overkill, but you should always let someone know where you are and who you’ll be with.

You could have a group chat with numerous friends, all with the same purpose – having a record of who you’re with and where you are – or you could have a parent, sibling, aunt, whoever be your check-in person.

If something were to happen to you, they will be able to alert authorities of who you were with and where you were immediately, instead of having to search for that data and waste precious time. Even if something as innocent as a flat tire when your phone is dead or a missed bus happens, you could be found immediately with this information.

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At the very least, keep a physical record somewhere easily accessible and let someone know where it is. Always write down dates and information in a notebook by your bed, for example, or a notepad by the door. If something were to happen to you, then friends, family, or the police could reference this immediately and know where to start looking.

Other things to consider

When you’re getting your car serviced and you need to hand the attendant the key, do not give them your full key ring! Many dealerships or repair shops have key replicators, and can easily make a copy of your front door key. Remember, it’s likely they have your address on file. Instead, just remove your vehicle key and hold on to the rest of your keys.

If you’re pulled over by the police in the dark, put your blinkers on, slow down, but continue to drive until you can pull into a well-lit parking lot or under a street lamp. If it is an unmarked vehicle, consider dialing 911 or a non-emergency line and ask to verify that the person behind you is a real cop. If you’re still on hold confirming, roll your window down just enough to let the officer know what you’re doing.

In that vein, never turn off your car during a stop! Turn off your music and put your car in park, but leave your keys in the ignition. You need to be able to leave if something happens.

Remember to not judge a book by its cover. Just because the man in the parking lot getting out of his car is clean cut doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of a crime. Use your instinct and listen to your gut, don’t just rely on looks. Crime doesn’t judge based on age, gender, race, or religion.

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If you return to your vehicle and it has a note on the windshield or a flat tire, stop and turn around. Walk calmly back into the business you were at and assess the situation. This is a very common tactic used by criminals. You can call AAA, ask an employee to go out with you to check it out, or call the non-emergency police line to request an officer to check it out. If someone approaches you when you notice your vehicle is having issues and offers help, decline. You don’t know them. Help from a stranger could be just that: help. But it could be a lot worse.

It can be terrifying being a woman, and it seems so unfair we have to follow these rules when men can often just live their lives. But by being careful and diligent, you can stay safe.

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