CHOOSING A HOTEL
- Smaller is smarter: you want the staff to be familiar with guests and with you. The smaller the lobby, the more noticeable the loiterers.
- Aim for a well-trafficked street (neighborhood restaurants and late-night stores mean traffic, corporate offices mean darkness). Affluent residential areas tend to have more reliable transportation and fewer threatening street people.
- If you’re still concerned about the area, ask a female employee–not one in reservations–whether she walks around at night. (Call the restaurant, for instance.)
- A reception and concierge desk near the entrance, and/or the elevators, is more likely to deter non-guest undesirables.
- There should be privacy for guests checking in: no one should be able to overhear a name, room number, or other personal information.
- Room numbers should be written on the key envelope, not mentioned aloud or inscribed on the key–this way, anyone finding your key won’t have access to your room.
- Look for a parking lot that is well lit and secure. Find out if there’s valet parking . . . and if it will be available when you need it. Use it, even it costs a little bit more.
- Does the hotel gym have an attendant? Being alone and semi-dressed in the basement is not good for your health.
- The hotel should have sufficient staff to walk you to your room late at night. Inquire when you book and you’ll get an idea of how woman-friendly the hotel is.ROOM RULES
- Request one near the elevators and away from any renovation work. Have your key out when you leave the elevator.
- You want to be far from emergency exits (which someone might pry open to avoid using the elevators), and on an upper floor away from catwalks and terraces.
- The door should have double locks–one of which is a dead bolt–and a peephole. Bring along a security doorstop for extra protection.
- The please make up this room sign tells everyone you’re not there. Call housekeeping instead.
- Conversely, the do not disturb sign can make the room seem occupied (especially handy if you leave expensive items inside).
- Put expensive clothing on hangers under other garments. Robbers usually “shop” what they can see.
- Lock valuables in the front-desk safe.
- If your bag is stolen from the hotel, recruit management to search for it. Most hotel robberies are committed by the staff, and many properties, especially overseas, don’t allow employees to leave with packages; thieves take the money and dump the rest.
- Stand near the elevator buttons with your back to the wall; if threatened, push all the buttons at once with your back.STREET SMARTS
- Study a map before going out; once on the street, use a pocket-size guidebook to avoid looking like a tourist. Your hotel’s concierge or a female employee can mark any dangerous areas on your map.
- Dress down.
- Avoid jewelry–even a chain that’s fake gold can be ripped off your neck. Do consider wearing a wedding ring.
- Loop a money belt around your belt loops so that if someone cuts it, it won’t fall from your waist.
- Be wary when getting off a bus or train, or riding stairs and escalators; that’s when pickpockets tend to strike.
- Carry just one credit card and photocopies of important documents. Divide money for small and larger purchases so you don’t have to expose a wad of bills. (When sharing with friends, keep a kitty for common expenses to make digging for cash in public places unnecessary.) Become familiar with foreign currency before you need to use it.
- Have gratuities ready for porters and doormen.
- Use prepaid phone cards instead of carrying your card number.
- Ask the concierge to make any restaurant reservations, and have him or her say, “Please take care of our guest, she’s coming alone and will need a taxi home.”
- Should a car start to follow you, immediately turn and walk the opposite way.
- If you must ask for directions, approach families or women with children. To be extra safe, say, “Where is the –? I’m meeting my husband there.”
- On sidewalks, keep your handbag and other valuables away from the street side (and on escalators, away from the opposite ramp).
- If attacked, run, fight, and yell as loud as possible.TRANSPORTATION SAVVY
- Use covered luggage tags. Instead of your home address, write that of your office.
- Lock all suitcases. If you make a lot of purchases on your trip, and your bag becomes full, secure the bag with strong tape.
- In public rest rooms, use the corner stall.
- On overnight flights, keep an eye on your valuables. A good idea is to put your valuables in a security waist pack (versus leaving it in your stowed carry on) and wear it while sleeping. When you go to the lavatory, take your purse/valuables with you.
- Talk to female passengers and flight attendants on the plane about the safety of your destination.
- In a busy area, if you deposit your belongings on your car’s passenger seat, lock the door before walking around to the driver’s side.
- Don’t exit a taxi until you’re sure you’ve arrived at your destination. Pay while still in the car so that you can be sure you’ve gotten the proper change.
- Stay close to your valuables when passing through airport security.
- If you place your carry-on bag on the floor when sitting in a restaurant or other public area, put your foot through the strap; don’t leave it loose.
- Tear your name and address off magazines before leaving them on the plane. Why announce to the world that you’re away?
- So you won’t get lost when leaving a tricky airport, hire a taxi to lead your rental car to the expressway. Don’t use an unmarked taxi; if necessary, take public transportation to a city center.
- Rent a mobile phone or bring your own. And put the police on speed dial.
- On the road, if someone tries to get your attention or your car is bumped, don’t stop until you arrive at a well-lit and busy area, or lacking that, stay in the car and blow the horn until someone comes to your aid.
- If suspicious about “phony” police, don’t open the window. Instead, hold your license against the glass.
- In your car, keep items out of sight (especially maps and guidebooks). Hatchbacks leave your luggage in plain view.
- When possible, park so you won’t have to back out. It makes for a speedier departure.GENERAL ADVICE
- Don’t just check the weather at your destination; also make a note of when the sun rises and sets.
- Log onto an Internet chat room to obtain safety info about a place you’re planning to visit.
WORDS OF WISDOM FROM A POLICE DETECTIVE ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT
I have to share some things I have learned in my job with you. In my job, I have read hundreds and hundreds of files, and have taken note of some of the mistakes women make. Let me preface this by saying that a woman is NEVER EVER EVER at fault for being raped or attacked, but there are definitely ways to reduce your risk of being a victim.
Here are the most common mistakes women make that could result in them getting kidnapped, attacked, and/or raped:
1. Getting into the attacker’s car when he pulls a gun and orders you to get into his vehicle.
Most attackers don’t want to shoot you … they want you to get into the car so that they can drive you to a deserted place and torture you. Don’t comply. Run screaming. It is MUCH more likely than not that he will just move on to an easier target.
2. Pulling over when a man drives alongside of you pointing at your car pretending something is wrong.
If this happens, drive to the nearest well-lit and populated gas station and look the car over yourself (or ask an attendant). Never pull over. Believe it or not, many women have fallen for this for fear of their car spontaneously exploding in the middle of the road. Not likely.
3. Not locking your doors while driving.
I have read several cases where the attacker simply walks up to a woman’s car while she’s at a traffic light and jumps in with his gun or knife drawn.
4. Opening your front door when you have not positively identified who is there.
If you don’t have a peep hole, get one. I’ve seen countless cases where the attacker gains access to his victims simply by knocking on their door.
Don’t let an attacker get into your home. He then has a private, relatively soundproof place to attack you.
5. Not being alert in parking lots.
If you go to the grocery store at night, don’t be shy about asking for an escort to your car. Too many women are abducted from parking lots or even raped in the parking lot.
Look in your back seat before entering your car. Cars provide endless hiding places for attackers, both inside them and in between them.
Be aware of your surroundings by looking to the left and right and behind you with your head up all the time. You may appear paranoid and look funny to others, but an attacker will think twice about approaching someone who appears so aware of what’s going on.
6. Trusting a clean cut, honest looking stranger.
I see mug shots of every sex offender. They do not look like monsters. They often look like they could be your friendly grocer,
bank teller, waiter, neighbor, clergy, doctor, etc. They are every age between 15 and 90, and probably beyond. Only a small minority actually look scary.
7. Trusting people to be alone with your children.
This is a difficult one, because child molesters end up being the LAST person the parents would believe is the molester.
Most of the child molesting cases I see involve the stepfather, the uncle, the sister’s boyfriend, the mother’s boyfriend, the grandfather, the baby-sitter, the neighbor, the family friend, the youth camp director, day care worker, etc. Although rare, even women can be molesters.
In every case, the perpetrator is a nice guy, trusting, good with children, and the family is baffled or even in disbelief that the person could be abusing their child.
When it comes to your children and grandchildren, be suspicious of everyone, no matter who they are. And pay attention to what your child says and how he/she reacts to the mention of different people in their lives.
I didn’t mean to make anyone uncomfortable with this. I have the dirty job of reading all these files, and it makes me feel good to know that I can share some inferences from what I have learned. This is not an exhaustive list of what not to do, but just some things that I have observed more than just a few times.
Pass this on to the women in your lives.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT YOU ARE BEING STALKED
If you think you are being stalked, phone or visit your local police immediately no matter how trivial the harassment may seem. This will enable them to record your complaint, log, monitor and build a profile of the offender. Ask for the name and serial number of the officer you see or speak to.
To assist prosecution:
- Keep a record of all events, telephone calls etc., noting as much detail as possible including time and date of incidents.
- Try to get photographic or video evidence of your stalkerís actions.
- Do not throwaway parcels or letters. Try to handle them as little as possible and if possible place them in plastic sleeves or envelopes to preserve them.
- You should read any mail you receive in case it contains threats or indecent / offensive language.
Get to know your neighbors so that they can keep a record of sightings and notify you of anything they may see or notice. Inform work colleagues about the harassment so they will be able to support and protect you (i.e. prevent calls from reaching you and prevent your stalker from gaining access).
Try to alter any daily routines, if possible ask friends to accompany you and always try to let someone know what your plans are and when they change. Although it may be hard, try to show no emotion towards the stalker, do not confront them and do not agree to meet them. If you do come into contact, aim to get away and ideally into a busy public place. Consider buying a mobile phone. It will give you greater confidence and in an emergency.
Consider improving home security measures by asking your local Crime Prevention Officer to look around your property and offer free advice. If you receive malicious or threatening calls, try to keep calm and show no emotion. Do not answer the phone with anything more than “hello”. If the stalker continues to ring, answer the phone but place the handset to one side for a few minutes and walk away then replace the handset – you do not have to listen to what the caller has to say.