“Protect Yourself,” Ensign, Sept. 1987, 67–68
There is a good chance that many women will at some time need to know how to avoid rape, mugging, robbery, or any of numerous other violent crimes. We cannot turn away from facts; these assaults occur regularly in public places and in private homes. A certain amount of preparation, a “healthy paranoia,” might very well save a life.
Here are some specific steps a woman can take to ensure her safety.
At home. Although the alternative may seem attractive, it is important (particularly if you live alone) that the front door of your home be clearly visible to at least two of your neighbors. Alert these neighbors to your regular schedule and ask them to call the police if they see anyone suspicious around your home—whether you are there or not.
On returning home, have your keys laced between your fingers and ready for immediate entrance. But be alert for signs of a break-in. If you find the door ajar or the lights tampered with, or if you feel that things are just not right, do not go inside. Go to a neighbor and ask for assistance or call the police.
When you are inside the house, always lock doors and windows. Use a rubber doorstop to further secure a locked door, and use a piece of sturdy doweling or a broomstick for sliding glass doors. Secure windows by drilling a hole through the frame and sticking a long nail through the hole. This prevents the window from opening farther until you remove the nail. Always draw the shades after dark.
If you have good reason to believe that an intruder is in your home, don’t wait to make sure. Leave by the nearest safe exit and phone the police from a neighbor’s.
Replace the locks when you move to a new home. Previous tenants may have old keys. To prevent house keys from being copied, do not leave them with your car keys when leaving the car for servicing or parking.
Identify callers before you open the door. If it is practical, install a peephole or speaking device. Teach children to use them and to always check with an adult before opening the door. Do not admit strangers. If someone requests the use of your phone, place the call yourself. Ask to see the identification of service people or police before admitting them.
When walking or jogging. Plan your route through well-lighted, populated areas as much as possible. Never walk or jog alone if you can help it. If someone looks suspicious to you, cross to the other side of the street. If anyone comes after you—run! Scream! Run as fast as you can to a lighted area—run to the light!
On the road. Always check the back seat of your car before getting in—even in your own garage. Make sure your car is in good repair and has plenty of gas. Get a good spare tire and know how to change it. If you do have car trouble, park on the road side and stay in the car until police arrive. Carry a sign to display for help: PLEASE CALL POLICE FOR ME.
Always drive with your doors and windows locked, and never stop to help a stranded motorist or pick up a hitchhiker when you’re alone. Report them to the police for help. If you are followed or harassed, drive to the nearest service station or store and phone the police. Write down the license number.
If you are traveling alone and plan to stay at hotels or motels on your trip, carry along a rubber doorstop or some other portable means of securing your room door. Hotels are usually very accommodating to single travelers and will, on request, place you in a room in what they consider to be a safe area in their facility.
Meeting an attack. The circumstances of an attack often determine the best response, but a predetermined and practiced plan may be helpful. Each woman must evaluate her own capabilities before deciding how to act. For example, you might try talking calmly, using persuasion; screaming and running to the nearest source of help; or throwing your purse behind you and running.
If you decide you must fight back, use your keys, purse, feet, or fingernails as weapons to throw the attacker off guard or to get free. Although it sounds cruel, always strike for the eyes and face. The momentary stunning effect of wounds to the face will give you the chance you need to run.
Carrying chemical agents (frequently referred to as Mace or CS or CN gas) has become common among women in large cities, but they pose a number of drawbacks. First, it is illegal to have a chemical agent in your possession in an airport. Second, many women have trouble finding the canister in their purse when they need it. Third, your attacker can take the chemical and use it on you. Fourth, chemical agents are very attractive toys for small children.
Most communities have educational classes and many require licensing before Mace or other kinds of gas may even be purchased. The classes, available through police and sheriff departments, may be important for your own peace of mind.
If we equate our physical safety with the same guidance we have been given for our spiritual safety, we can find great comfort in the passage “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” (D&C 38:30)—Esther R. Tutt, Hamilton, Montana