Capitol Thoughts
Capitol Thoughts Archive

Don’t Become the Prey

Oct 28, 2011

By Janaye Ingram

You hear about it every day. Women being attacked – in Dallas, Chicago, New York, Boston, Lansing, Des Moines, from small towns to big cities and everywhere in between. Whether the attacks are sexually motivated or focused on robbing women who seem to be easy prey, women across the country face the same potential hazard. A story in Dallas recently has been splayed all over the media as women who are members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority have been the target of attacks. An interesting fact about the women being attacked is that the attacker knows personal information about them, and it’s more than just what sorority they are in. I have a friend on Twitter who posts his every location. I always joke with him that if I were a stalker, I’d know exactly how to find him. But in all seriousness, we have become a society that share entirely too much about our personal lives and in mediums that are all too public. Women especially need to be cautious about what information we share on our public profiles. On my Facebook page, I have people who I’ve never met requesting to be my friend and they are quickly declined. But there are many people who add friends as if they are badges. However, those very same “friends” that you’ve never met could possibly be a perpetrator in waiting. To protect ourselves, we must take precautions when it comes to our public profiles. It doesn’t mean deleting your Facebook or Twitter accounts, but it does mean learning about the privacy settings and knowing how to make sure that your personal information is still personal. Facebook is especially tricky with the ever-changing settings, but if you pay enough attention to your page, you will figure out that there are ways to limit what people see on your page and how much information is public when you are searched using a search engine.

When I lived in New York, I always tried to be aware of my surroundings. Even though there were normally police who were out during some of my late night trips home, I still tried to stay alert. One night, I was going out with a friend and I went to her house to get ready. I switched purses and inadvertently left my keys in her apartment. As the night went along, I was ready to hop in a cab and go home, but since I was keyless, I had to wait for her. One hour led to the next and the before I knew it, it was 4:00 AM when we finally arrived at her house. I grabbed my keys and rushed out of the apartment to go catch a cab to go back to the other side of town where I lived. Her normally trafficked street was desolate at 4:00 AM and it forced me to walk to one of the more bustling streets to find a cab. As I was walking, I noticed a man walking toward me. I paid close attention to him – he needed to know that I was aware. As he got about 10 feet in front of me, he started walking directly toward me, departing from his original path that would have taken him past me. He got three steps closer to me and I started screaming at him at the top of my lungs. My heart was pounding, my thoughts were racing and here I was alone in the middle of Harlem at 4:00 AM with a man walking toward me. The

second I started yelling at him, his face changed. He was taken aback and quickly moved away. I continued to yell at him until he was another 10 feet away from me in the opposite direction and I continued to watch him until he was far enough away from me that I felt comfortable that he couldn’t run up on me without my knowing. I can’t say with certainty that the man was going to attack me, but I did not leave it to chance. From my days in college, I remember the campus police always telling young women that we needed to be alert and that women are less likely to be attacked when they are looking at the perpetrator in the face and when they show signs that they are more likely to put up a fight. After reliving that situation over and over, there is no doubt in my mind that the fact that I was paying attention and the fact that I began yelling helped me out.

As a woman, there is no more important thing to know than how to protect yourself if you are ever being attacked. I have taken various self-defense courses and it’s something that I continually try to refresh myself on. There is no guarantee that even if you do everything right as it pertains to personal safety that you won’t still find yourself in the grasps of an attacker. And this goes for single and married women. I know many who women think that they are less at risk if they have a husband or live with a man, but the reality is an attack can happen anywhere. I have a cousin who was attacked in a grocery store parking lot, buying food for her husband and children who were at home, so the risk is the same and always there. One of the best things a woman can do is take a self-defense course. They are offered at low or no cost at many community centers, police departments, gyms and fitness centers, and churches. Once you have armed yourself with the proper techniques to ward off or injure a potential attacker, the next step is to safeguard your home. Make sure you lock all the doors and window, especially at night when you are asleep. If you don’t have a garage, be sure to have your keys out and ready before you get out of the car and always be aware of your surroundings. Every woman, regardless of age, race or socio-economic status should know how to defend herself.

I know it’s nice to feel safe in your communities or at home, but an attack can and has happened in the nicest of places. Women should be empowered to take their safety in their own hands – we shouldn’t wait for an attack to happen in our area to start focusing on how we can better prepare ourselves in the event of an attack. There’s a saying, “better to be safe than sorry,” and that’s the idea. If we arm ourselves with the knowledge of what to do before something happens, we can lessen the chances that something will happen.