BYU student Pam Richmond, 18, was on her way to work when a man asked her for directions. She thought he was probably a conference visitor, so when he said he’d drop her off at work if she’d point him toward the freeway, she wasn’t worried. It was only a few minutes later when he drove past her stop and pulled out a gun that she knew she was in real trouble.
“At first I couldn’t believe this was happening to me,” said Pam. “The gun really scared me, and I didn’t know if I’d get out alive. When I understood that he intended to hurt me, I said a prayer, and then I felt very calm. I knew I had to do something to get away from him.
“The car was going about 60 miles an hour, but I felt very strongly that I should jump—so I did. I remember the ground whizzing by me, I didn’t feel anything, though I got scraped up. When I stopped rolling, I just got up and ran as fast as I could, yelling at people to stop and help me. Finally someone took me to the police.”
Pam is one of the fortunate people who was able to escape without being seriously hurt. But it was a frightening experience, and she was very lucky. Afterwards she realized that it isn’t just other people who need to be cautious—that a life-threatening incident can happen to anyone.
Accepting rides from someone you don’t know isn’t the only way to collide with trouble, though. An attack is not a woman’s fault—it stems from a violent, emotionally unbalanced attacker. However, you can build up your awareness of potential problem situations and avoid them. You should know that often an attacker will look for the most available woman, regardless of her age or prettiness. (That’s why hitchhikers are heading for trouble.) Also, a large percentage of attackers are the victims’ passing acquaintances, people they don’t know very well. A lot of attacks occur in parking lots, almost half of the attacks on women occur in the home, and half of the attacks are by men under 25.
The message these facts spell out is loud and clear: you can help avoid trouble situations if you watch where you go and what you do. Don’t be shivering in your shoes whenever you go somewhere, but do be smart.
“You’ve got to be fussy about yourself and care enough to avoid disaster,” explained Elaine Cannon, general president of the Young Women. “Don’t take chances and risk being a statistic. Avoid situations where your life could be endangered. Maybe you could be lucky with a tricky situation, by you have only one life, and it’s too precious to be careless with.”
Common sense can help you steer clear of hazards, but it also helps to be alert to what’s going on around you. Remember that you’re the one in charge of watching out for you, and if there’s any doubt about the safety of a situation, don’t get involved.
Some circumstances can be especially troublesome. A few tips may help you:
Hitchhiking. Don’t hitchhike. It’s that simple. Male and female alike have been badly hurt, sometimes killed, by taking a ride with a stranger. There’s no way to tell what a person who stops to give you a ride is really like, so don’t guess.
Offers for Rides. You may be walking down the street when someone in a car pulls over and asks if you’d like a ride. Unless you know the person very well, don’t accept. Better to turn down a kindness than to end up a statistic.
Babysitting. Always make sure you’re properly escorted home after babysitting. Don’t be afraid to ask the returning parents to see you safely to your house. If they drop you off at your house, ask them to wait until you’re safely inside. Never let people you don’t know into the house when you’re babysitting, and make sure the house is locked.
Activities. Plan for safety when you go to a school activity, a Church function, or out with friends. Don’t walk alone at night—arrange to walk with friends, or arrange for your parents or friends’ parents to pick you up.
At Home Alone. Lock your doors and don’t let strangers in. If someone you don’t know asks to use your phone and it’s an emergency, keep the person outside and make the call for him of her yourself.
Walking. Not all attacks occur at night. Try to walk by other people, and if it’s getting dark, walk near the curb to avoid passing close to dark doorways. If you think someone is following you, cross the street (or if there are no cars around, walk down the middle of the street). Don’t’s hesitate to go for help at a nearby store or service station or to call your parents.
Driving. Keep your doors locked. Park by other cars, in a well-lighted area, and be aware of anyone loitering in the parking area. Have your keys ready when you get to your car, and check the back seat to make sure no one’s there.
Don’t be afraid to follow your feelings if you feel uncomfortable in a situation. You’re smarter to be safe than to wonder if you will be.
Be careful with yourself! You have too much fun and joy and life ahead of you to miss out on, so be cautious.