The Dreaded Trek: Getting Home Safely Late at Night

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It’s 2 a.m. and you’re exhausted. You came to this party with your friend, but she went home with some dude and now you’re on your own. Side note: If someone does that to you, she’s kind of a terrible friend. The point is, you’re not about to sleep at a rando’s house—you have to get home. Your phone is dead and you’re a little drunk. You’re afraid to walk home alone, but what other choice do you have? We’ve all been there, or if we haven’t, we can relate. It’s an unfortunate situation, but it happens all the time, so here’s a list of pointers to ensure that you make it home safely.

Charge your phone.

It’s 2015: There’s no excuse for having a dead phone. You can buy a portable battery-powered phone charger for $20. If you get one and carry it in your purse, you’ll always have a lifeline to call a friend or the police. Download the Companion app and you will never walk alone; all you have to do is press “I Feel Nervous,” and the app sends a message to the contacts in your phone you’ve marked as Companions, who can then respond “Are You OK?” If you don’t answer in 15 seconds, your phone notifies the police and emits a loud alarm to scare off any attackers. Or, just call an Uber. As long as you don’t make it a nightly routine, shell out the $10 to get home safely in a car with a driver who has passed a background check.

No headphones, no texting, no distractions

As Professor Moody (or Barty Crouch Jr., rather) would say, “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” If you’re on the phone, listening to music or texting, you’re cutting off entire senses that you could be using to protect yourself. If you’re talking on your phone, you won’t hear the footsteps behind you. If you’re staring at your phone texting, you can’t see the creepy-looking guy approaching you. Keep your eyes and ears open, and give yourself a chance to react quickly in dangerous situations.

Carry a whistle.

I mean this in the literal sense. The whistle in your purse isn’t going to help you if you’re attacked on your way home. When you’re walking, hold it in your hand or keep it on an elastic band on your wrist where it’s accessible. The ability to attract attention is crucial in these situations, but often, just the loudness of the whistle will scare off the attacker.

 Carry pepper spray/mace/pocket knife.

Once I was walking home with a friend and a guy wouldn’t leave us alone. We asked many times, both politely and then impolitely, for him to go away, but he wouldn’t because he was a creep. Then, I took out the switchblade I carry basically everywhere and waved it around in his face. Homeboy was gone faster than my burrito bowl. I didn’t have to hurt him–I just had to make him go away before he hurt me. Usually, the threat of violence gets the job done.

Don’t walk in the dark.

I get it, it’s night-time, but if there’s any possible route home that is better lit, take that route. Better yet, grab a little flashlight (or use the one on your phone if it’s not dead) and use that to light your way. Attackers like seclusion and darkness, so get to places that are populated and bright.

Wear (or bring) sensible shoes.

Heels are great, I’ll give you that, but they’re not fun when you want to get home quickly, and even less fun if you’re trying to run away from someone. Either wear flats, sneakers, sandals or boots, or bring along flats in your purse. Sidekicks makes cute ballet flats which easily fold into a little pouch that’ll fit in your purse. They’re $10 and worth every penny. Even if you’re walking home with friends and there’s no threat to you, it’s just more comfortable to change into comfy shoes once you’re finished with your night.

A final note: It’s not your responsibility to not “get raped” or not “get assaulted.” You should do all you can to diminish your risk of sexual assault, but it’s never your fault if you’re sexually assaulted—the fault lies with the assailant, always. Still, until the assailants stop assailing, it never hurts to be prepared.

Hannah is a junior English and Film Studies major at the University of Maryland College Park. She loves wrapping presents, studying Wumbology, watching Mad Men with her King Charles Spaniel, Belle, collecting foam fingers, and referencing Spongebob mostly to see who notices.

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