I could write an entire book about the glass ceiling, the ever-inescapable male gaze or the unfair expectations and stereotypes placed on women since the dawn of time. Today, however, I’m talking about one of the most prevalent issues that women face today: staying safe in a society that perpetuates rape culture and male entitlement.
Many of us ladies have been catcalled by men on the streets since hitting puberty. It not only makes us feel extremely uncomfortable, but oftentimes, unsafe.
We’ve seen the headlines of what can happen when you reject hungry, determined men (as recent as Mollie Tibbett’s story from late July). These horrific stories make it difficult to feel comfortable going out at night as a woman—especially when alone or walking in a place not inhabited by many people.
When this is the case, your general instincts kick in: you clutch onto your bag a little tighter, your street senses become a little bit stronger and, sometimes, you even go through a subconscious laundry list of ways you can escape a dangerous situation if someone comes onto you.
Males reading this article: You may not know what this feel like. You may never worry about walking down a street alone or worry about a friend who doesn’t pick up her phone during one of her long nights out.
I just want to feel safe while enjoying the nightlife my college town has to offer.
Empower yourself with these 10 tips to make you feel safer when out on the town.
1. Travel with a buddy (or two)
There is safety in numbers. Even if nothing happens, you’ll feel safer while walking with someone who makes you feel comfortable.
2. Come up with a code system
A conversation with a cute guy at the bar may go down the creepy route. You want to leave, but you also want to make a sly exit with your friends. Here’s where a code system come in handy. I personally go with the discreet route. My friends and I made up an “imaginary friend” to use as an excuse to leave a situation. “Sorry, I can’t stay for another drink right now, my friend Kate called and she needs my help…” Peace out, creepy bar guy.
3. Wear sensible shoes
Opt for flats or sandals over stilettos or wedges. In case you encountered a situation where you would need to run away from someone, your chances would look much better to making it out safe with more comfortable shoes than ones you can barely walk in around your apartment.
4. Carry Pepper Spray
This tip goes without saying. It’s always better to be safe than sorry…
5. Track your friends on social media
Some use the FindMyFriends app. Others prefer to use the Snapchat tracking feature. If you live in Columbia, Missouri like I do, consider downloading the Rave Guardian app. This secure tracking system comes with built-in emergency contacts and resources.
6. Avoid leaving friends behind
Would you get upset if a friend left you in an unfamiliar bar or party? Probably. Don’t do the same to them, especially if they don’t know or trust anyone else there. Decide on a general timeframe of how long you want to stay out before you call the Uber. That way, it makes the end of the night less questionable, and your friend group will actually stick together.
7. Avoid public transportation after midnight
Avoid riding on public transportation like busses or metros during odd hours. If you can, ask a sober friend for a ride or an Uber as a last result. That is generally the safer move. Some schools do offer a sober ride service (thank you, Mizzou!). That way you can ensure a save ride home—and save some pocket money while you’re at it.
8. Keep a tight grip on your phone at all times
Never lose sight of your phone when you go out. You never know who might try to reach you on your cell. Or you might need it to make an emergency call while you walk around downtown.
9. Keep your phone charged
You would never want your phone to die mid-party or right before you make your trek back home. Portable chargers come in handy if you are crunched on time, too.
10. Stay in well-lit areas
If you must to choose between a long hike home in a well-lit area or a shorter walk home down streets with no streetlights, always pick the well-lit walk. By picking the shorter route, you make it easier for a potential predator to approach you.
Find out what other college women do to stay safe on night rendezvous.
“We all stick together, buddy system I guess! We make sure no one gets lost in the club and are regularly checking that everyone is with us or with someone we know.” – Julia Peters, University of Edinburgh, junior
“Pepper spray, brass knuckles, sometimes I’ll have 911 pre-dialed on my phone if I’m super paranoid or I’ll call someone and have them talk to me while I walk from place to place.” – Tatum Pugh, University of Missouri, senior
“Always a buddy system those are so important!! Also, if one person has to go to the bathroom, we all go to the bathroom and we all hold hands on the way there so no one gets lost. Also, we always make sure to charge our phones before going out just in case one of us does get lost.” – Natalie Sopyla, University of Missouri, junior
“Sometimes if it’s really creepy, this isn’t ever for campus for me [because] I always feel safe at [George Mason], but like in the city, if no one picks up, I just pretend I’m on my phone anyways if I’m being followed or something and will talk loudly about how I’m meeting someone (like “see you in five minutes!!”) to give them the impression that someone’s waiting for you … so they’re FAR less likely to try something.” – Grace Venes-Escaffi, George Mason University, junior
“I have my key out to gouge someone’s eye out and my phone ready to dial.” – Leena Raza, Marymount University, junior
“Pepper spray is useful, it’s what I use when I walk between classes in Atlanta at night. Also Tasers are very, very good to have! You don’t have to specifically aim for the eyes or anything so it’s easier to use. Also, I always call someone and talk to them while I walk to my car at night.” – Alison McCondichie, Georgia State University, sophomore
It’s unfortunate that we as women must remember and use these methods of caution. But it’s always better to keep your guard up and know what to do in a dangerous situation.
We can’t change everything in our society in 2018. But we can change the way we feel about going out at night as women.