Safety First

Females modify their behaviors to avoid potential threats


Photo by Margaret Debenport

Photo illustration by Margaret Debenport. A young woman clutches her keys in a parking lot.

Story by Staff

There is no arguing that changes in society have created an atmosphere of worry and danger. An atmosphere in which young women alter the way they complete certain tasks in order to ensure their own safety from potential threats. For most, these behaviors are instinctive and go unnoticed, but this subliminal silence speaks volumes.

I don’t open the door when I’m home alone – Anna Grace Jones
For as long as I can remember, I have been a worst-case-scenario thinker. I seem to always imagine the sequence of events that will result in my demise. This may be rooted in the fear of abduction my mother instilled in me or one episode too many of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.” Either way, it has impacted the way I respond to common interactions. Specifically, I don’t answer the door when I am home alone. Whether it is someone delivering mail, a family friend dropping off something for my mother or a random solicitor, I refuse to place myself in this state of vulnerability if I’m not expecting a visitor. My fear, one that some fail to understand, is that I will answer the door and the person standing opposite to me will notice my lack of company and force their way into my home, putting me at risk. This potentially traumatic or fatal scene can be avoided, I hope, by simply ignoring the knocks and ringing of the doorbell. After all, a package can be returned later, but my life cannot. 

I carry my keys as a weapon- Mikayla Zverina
After the uncomfortable stares from random men and the few times they’ve followed me, I began strategically carrying my keys for protection. As soon as I get out and lock my door, it becomes instinctual to quickly slip a key through two fingers and stay on high alert. It offers a small reassurance that maybe they won’t mess with me this time, but if that’s not the case, I’m prepared for the worst. 

I’m uncomfortable when I’m complimented by an adult male- Peyton Sims
I keep my head low, making sure to not make eye contact with the adult male that’s sending inappropriate comments in my direction. My stomach turns in knots, should I say thank you? I silently walk away from the grinning man who’s anticipating a reply. Whenever a teenage girl goes somewhere, it’s alarming how often they get catcalled. I have learned to cancel out the vile comments that I might hear while walking down the street and go on with life. 

I check my back seat every time I get into my car – Addison Cross
Every time I walk to my car, I walk up from behind and look in the trunk and back seat to make sure no one is in there. I’ve heard way too many horror stories about men hopping in a woman’s trunk while she’s putting up the grocery cart and attacking her, and I will not allow that to happen to me. Stalkers, murderers, rapists, kidnappers. Too many incidences related to cars. If I have to walk a few more feet to ensure my safety, so be it. 

I remove my student parking tag when I am not at school – Molly Kyles
Late at night, far from the safety of the school parking lot, I make sure to take off my student parking tag. It’s a silent beacon to potential predators that tells them I’m a high school student, and automatically makes my car more of a target. If someone spotted my car sitting in a parking lot and realized I was a teenage girl, they could camp out by my car and wait for me to come back. It may seem like paranoia, but countless news headlines have proved that paranoia is safer than carelessness. 

I keep my doors locked while I’m sitting in my car – Bailey Hawkins
I live in a neighborhood where suspicious people constantly walk the streets, so the second I sit in my car, I turn on the engine and make sure the doors are locked. I also try to avoid idling in parking lots and check my phone because it is so easy for someone to run up to my car while I sit defenseless inside. I guess the countless hours I’ve spent watching the Investigation Discovery Channel has created worry in the back of my mind that I will be the next victim. At the end of the day, I’d rather be paranoid and safe than clueless and an abductee. 

I feel more comfortable when I am with a man – Sydney Rowe
Sometimes when I go places alone, especially at night, I feel like an easier target than when I’m with my dad or my brother-in-law. I’ve had older men follow me into a store more than once, and it’s very unnerving because I don’t know what their intentions may be. It puts me on edge, and I’m sure to be extra aware of my surroundings. However, when I go places with a man, I feel like no one would attempt to try to mess with a man, so by association they would also leave me alone. It feels as though because they are men, they are automatically seen as intimidating or just as someone that would put up a bigger fight than a woman, so it’s not worth the struggle to even try.

I pretend to be on the phone to avoid being approached – Ruth Heinemann
Parking lots are a scary place. They make me feel defenseless and nervous, especially when I’m on my own. I often become paranoid because there is a possibility of someone following me. In cases like that, I like to pretend to be on the phone. Even though I’m not actually talking to someone, it gives me the assurance that it would keep possible predators away. In my hometown in Germany, it is normal to walk around the streets after the sun has set. Although small towns like that are pretty safe, I prefer to actually call someone as soon as I see another person walking in my direction. I don’t always do that because I know most of the people there, but I think it’s a good habit for situations in other towns or neighborhoods that are not as safe and familiar. 

I start dialing 911 when I feel unsafe – Stephanie Jumper
In situations where I sense even the slightest possibility of danger, my hands are always the first to take action. When confronted with pitch black parking lots or suspiciously silent gas stations, I grab my phone and dial two digits: nine and one. These are the first two numbers to ensure my safety. The third and final character of the sequence, however, I only dial during a surefire emergency. Pressing the first two numbers in advance supposedly saves time, like my mortality is dictated by the speed of my thumb moving from one side of the iPhone screen to the other. Like those two extra seconds I gain from this precaution are a matter of life or death. My thumb hovers over the one as I inspect my surroundings for any imaginable threats. As always, no source of my paranoia is to be found, but that will never stop me from clutching onto the mobile keypad as if my life depends on it.