There is a good chance that many women will at some time need to know how to avoid rape, mugging, robbery, or any of numerous other violent crimes. We cannot turn away from facts; these assaults occur regularly in public places and in private homes. A certain amount of preparation, a “healthy paranoia,” might very well save a life.
Here are some specific steps a woman can take to ensure her safety.
At home. Although the alternative may seem attractive, it is important (particularly if you live alone) that the front door of your home be clearly visible to at least two of your neighbors. Alert these neighbors to your regular schedule and ask them to call the police if they see anyone suspicious around your home—whether you are there or not.
On returning home, have your keys laced between your fingers and ready for immediate entrance. But be alert for signs of a break-in. If you find the door ajar or the lights tampered with, or if you feel that things are just not right, do not go inside. Go to a neighbor and ask for assistance or call the police.
When you are inside the house, always lock doors and windows. Use a rubber doorstop to further secure a locked door, and use a piece of sturdy doweling or a broomstick for sliding glass doors. Secure windows by drilling a hole through the frame and sticking a long nail through the hole. This prevents the window from opening farther until you remove the nail. Always draw the shades after dark.
If you have good reason to believe that an intruder is in your home, don’t wait to make sure. Leave by the nearest safe exit and phone the police from a neighbor’s.
Replace the locks when you move to a new home. Previous tenants may have old keys. To prevent house keys from being copied, do not leave them with your car keys when leaving the car for servicing or parking.
Identify callers before you open the door. If it is practical, install a peephole or speaking device. Teach children to use them and to always check with an adult before opening the door. Do not admit strangers. If someone requests the use of your phone, place the call yourself. Ask to see the identification of service people or police before admitting them.
When walking or jogging. Plan your route through well-lighted, populated areas as much as possible. Never walk or jog alone if you can help it. If someone looks suspicious to you, cross to the other side of the street. If anyone comes after you—run! Scream! Run as fast as you can to a lighted area—run to the light!
On the road. Always check the back seat of your car before getting in—even in your own garage. Make sure your car is in good repair and has plenty of gas. Get a good spare tire and know how to change it. If you do have car trouble, park on the road side and stay in the car until police arrive. Carry a sign to display for help: PLEASE CALL POLICE FOR ME.
Always drive with your doors and windows locked, and never stop to help a stranded motorist or pick up a hitchhiker when you’re alone. Report them to the police for help. If you are followed or harassed, drive to the nearest service station or store and phone the police. Write down the license number.
If you are traveling alone and plan to stay at hotels or motels on your trip, carry along a rubber doorstop or some other portable means of securing your room door. Hotels are usually very accommodating to single travelers and will, on request, place you in a room in what they consider to be a safe area in their facility.
Meeting an attack. The circumstances of an attack often determine the best response, but a predetermined and practiced plan may be helpful. Each woman must evaluate her own capabilities before deciding how to act. For example, you might try talking calmly, using persuasion; screaming and running to the nearest source of help; or throwing your purse behind you and running.
If you decide you must fight back, use your keys, purse, feet, or fingernails as weapons to throw the attacker off guard or to get free. Although it sounds cruel, always strike for the eyes and face. The momentary stunning effect of wounds to the face will give you the chance you need to run.
Carrying chemical agents (frequently referred to as Mace or CS or CN gas) has become common among women in large cities, but they pose a number of drawbacks. First, it is illegal to have a chemical agent in your possession in an airport. Second, many women have trouble finding the canister in their purse when they need it. Third, your attacker can take the chemical and use it on you. Fourth, chemical agents are very attractive toys for small children.
Most communities have educational classes and many require licensing before Mace or other kinds of gas may even be purchased. The classes, available through police and sheriff departments, may be important for your own peace of mind.
If we equate our physical safety with the same guidance we have been given for our spiritual safety, we can find great comfort in the passage “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” (D&C 38:30)—, Hamilton, Montana
A Package of Care
Every once in a while when I hear of a friend or relative who is having a hard time making ends meet, I make up a sampling of each of the items I have stored—beans, lentils, barley, noodles, spaghetti, oatmeal, rice, soups. I deliver the items, along with some recipes and jars of seasonings, to the person in need. This gives me the opportunity to help others as I rotate my own food supply.—Name withheld upon request
More Than Child’s Play
One of the jokes around our house involves the difference between the “good old days” and now. Whenever it snows, our children remind us how tough it was when we “walked five miles to and from school through two feet of snow,” sometimes barefoot and often uphill both ways. Although we joke about the physical hardships of the past, today’s life-style really does require less activity.
Many adults have sensed the need for increased physical activity, and we are now in the midst of a fitness revival. But what about youth? According to a study by the U. S. President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, in the past few years there has been a decline in fitness among children and teenagers.
No one questions the value of being physically fit. Studies show that fit people live longer, have fewer health problems, control stress better, and have a better self-image. It is important, therefore, that parents teach their children good habits and attitudes that will lead to a lifetime of health. The following suggestions may help.
Be an example of fitness. If you do not currently have a personal exercise program, start one. The most beneficial exercises develop cardiovascular fitness. These are large-muscle, rhythmic-type activities that can be done continuously: jogging, walking, bicycling, swimming, or aerobics. Participate in these activities for fifteen to sixty minutes at least three times per week. But don’t overdo it; if you are exercising too hard to carry on a conversation, slow down.
Watch what you eat, too. Maintain a balanced diet that is low in fats and sugars.
Do active things with your children. Our summer evenings were simply not complete until we had turned the rope for each other, ending with “hot pepper.” Ropes were always included in the equipment we took on trips, and we jumped as a family in trailer parks and motel parking lots all over the West.
One family I know jogs together. They go to a park where they can see—and be seen by—each other no matter where they are in the park. This lets everyone run at his own pace. Another mother walks with her baby in a backpack and pushes an older child in a stroller. In bad weather they walk at a nearby mall.
Summer outings to the golf course or tennis court bring families closer together while teaching children a sport they can enjoy for the rest of their lives.
Some families buy memberships in a local recreation facility so they can swim or run indoors in inclement weather, as well as play basketball, tennis, or racquetball.
Provide facilities and equipment for active games. Every backyard should be a family fitness area. Our first project when we bought a house was to pour a cement pad out back and put up a basketball standard. We also painted lines on the cement for four-square or hopscotch and kept a garbage can of different-sized balls, bats, mitts, ropes, and other apparatus readily available.
Help children learn physical skills. Teach children the activities you enjoy or enroll them in classes so they can develop new skills. Our children took gymnastics, karate, swimming, golf, and tennis, and played in several different organized leagues in team sports such as basketball, soccer, and baseball. Of course, we didn’t pressure them to win in any of these activities; we simply encouraged them to enjoy participating.
Insist on quality physical education programs in your local schools. Elementary schools should teach basic skills such as running, jumping, throwing, and catching; middle school programs can include team sports as well as personal fitness; and high school programs should emphasize personal fitness and health as well as introduce carryover activities such as golf and tennis.
Encourage those who develop physical fitness programs in your children’s schools to use tests based on personal fitness rather than physical performance. One of the best was developed in 1980 by the American Alliance of Health, Physical Education, and Dance (AAHPERD). It measures cardiovascular fitness using a mile run, evaluates fatness by using skin-fold measurements, and checks muscular strength and flexibility using a simple sit-up and sit-and-reach test.
Another, even more realistic, approach for the average student is to give awards for participation. An excellent program that was developed by the Church can be obtained through your stake activities committee. This program awards points for various activities and gives awards for a total number of points earned during a certain period of time.
Children and young adults can and do become more physically fit when they participate in proper training programs. Surely, parents should encourage development in this area as much as in any other aspect of their children’s lives.—, professor of physical education, Brigham Young University