As the autumn leaves begin to fall, cities across the globe are buzzing with renewed energy. Offices are filling up, and the nightlife is coming back to life. While this seasonal shift brings joy and excitement for many, it also reignites concerns about personal safety, particularly for women.
The unfortunate reality is that women often face heightened risks in urban environments, from harassment to assault. The United Nations estimates that one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence, with 120 million girls around the world having been forced into sex acts.
Metropolitan areas can be especially dangerous for women. A whopping 97 % of women in the UK aged 18-24, have complained of sexual harassment in public spaces, while in Ireland more than half of women surveyed said they feel unsafe on public transportation after dark. So, it makes sense that many women in urban areas are constantly concerned about risks to their well-being. A recent trend shows young women turning to TikTok to share tips and tools for staying safe in cities.
In that spirit, we have gathered some of the top tips for women navigating life in the city this fall.
1. Always have a plan: Whether going on a date or just running an errand, let a friend or relative know your whereabouts. If you plan to meet someone you do not know, such as a person from a dating app, make sure to let a friend know the meeting place and any other locations you might move to throughout the evening.
Technology can greatly assist with this since many smartphones allow users to ping their location to anyone in their contact list. Tell a friend or family member to expect a text message from you when you return home from a night out.
2. Use your intuition: Train yourself to pay attention to your surroundings (even more than you undoubtedly already do). If you feel uncomfortable, trust your internal alarm, and immediately leave the situation. Enhance your intuition by using your peripheral vision as you are walking. While you are walking, turn your head slightly to one side then the other to see if someone is following you.
Whether alone or with a group of friends, if you ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe with someone’s attention toward you, do not be afraid to put distance between yourself and the individual. There is nothing rude about protecting yourself in a potentially unsafe situation. Your safety trumps politeness. At the end of the day, always follow your gut!
3. Consider carrying tools for personal protection. While some women feel uncomfortable carrying personal protection, having pepper spray, a whistle, a Taser, a knife, a flashlight, or a firearm can offer peace of mind. If you are going to be walking alone on a city street and you need to make a call, always use earbuds, so you can also hold pepper spray or another defense item.
Use just one earbud or use ‘transparency’ mode so that you can still hear what’s going on around you. For women who live alone and are having a night in, there are other critical tech tools. Smart doorbells, security cameras and motion detectors can help you feel safer at home.
4. Stay safe on ride share services: When using rideshare services such as Uber or Lyft, do not accept a ride from anyone that you do not know or did not call. Many predators pretend to be rideshare drivers. When they see a woman alone, they will often exploit the situation.
We have all read about assaults when people make the mistake of agreeing to accept a ride they did not call, just because it seems convenient.
5. You always have the power to say no: Being polite is generally a good idea, but being excessively polite is not a power move. Overly polite women can become victims of predators. For example, if someone is trying to persuade you to open your car window or house door, do not go with the flow. If a stranger calls out “Excuse me,” or “One minute, please,” just keep walking.
If a date or a stranger comes to chat with you and makes you feel uncomfortable, you can just leave. No explanation is needed. You always have the power to say no! Many predators know that polite people (especially women) try to be accommodating and they will use that to hurt you.
Navigating the complexities of Metropolitan life while prioritizing personal safety is a challenge that no one should have to face alone. While the tips provided here are a starting point, it is crucial to remember that the onus should not solely be on women to protect themselves. Society at large must take collective action to create safer, more inclusive spaces for everyone. From implementing better security measures in public transportation to fostering a culture that condemns harassment and assault, we all have a role to play. Until that day comes, sharing information and strategies for personal safety remains vital. Let us continue to empower each other, using every tool at our disposal, to make city living safer for women everywhere.