Safety Tips as a Solo Female Traveler

When I was working at company John Doe, I was in charged of monitoring the voice messages from the tip line. These voicemails ranged from compliments to tips to threats. Whenever there was a threat, the protocol was to transcribe the message and pass it along to a group of executives. I took this responsibility very seriously and transcribed every word of any type of threat. Threats included profanity towards the owner of company John Doe; other threats were “I’m going to kill you, [owner of company John Doe].” I was unable to tell the seriousness of each threat so I reported all of them. Better to be safe than sorry.

One day, I received a phone call. It was the delivery guy from Seamless. After I picked up my lunch from him, the security manager for company John Doe called me. He told me that my emails containing these transcribed threats were helpful then he taught me how to evalute the seriousness of a threat. He said if people call and leave a message with very specific details of what they will do, that is a red flag. An example of a clear threat would be callers providing exactly what they were going to do at a specific time and location.

A few months later, during lunchtime, I received a phone call. The caller was a male who had a very deep voice. It was a wrong number. Moments later, a White male, 6’3″ entered my office. He was, SS, the Vice President of Security at company Johnathan Doe which was the parent company of John Doe. I quickly learned that he used to be a Secret Service Agent who once protected a former President of the United States.

“Do you feel safe working for company John Doe? Do you feel safe in New York?” he asked. His question threw me off because I never felt unsafe. There were moments when my heart would pound faster if I were walking alone at night but I attributed that to fight or flight. I was never in a dangerous situation where I felt someone was going to harm me or take my life. But I am also a warrior princess whose middle name is “common sense.” Hence, I’d like to share my wisdom to you when faced with a predator.

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  1. Subway emergency brake. After I became a cute baby, my mom took me on my first subway ride in New York City. While we sat on the orange painted seats, she pointed to the emergency brake at the end of the train cart and told me that if I ever felt endangered, I can pull it and the train will stop and a handsome, kind-hearted train conductor will come running towards me to save me. Twenty years later, I was that sick passenger who pulled the emergency brake, resulting in a half hour delay during rush hour.
  2. At night, never enter a subway cart where there is only 1 or 2 other people, especially if they look like Dracula. Reason being that no one else would be able to help you if they try to kill you.
  3. At night, stand or walk in well-lit areas. So if you do get attacked, at least people can see and help you.  
  4. Years ago, I had to walk through a parking lot the size of a football field to get to my home. When it was really late at night, I would run through it in zig zag lines. I had this theory that it would be harder for predators to attack me because it would be harder to predict my movements. 
  5. If you’re getting sexually assaulted, shout “fire!” In high school, I learned about the “bystander effect” and “diffusion of responsibility” concept through the case of Kitty Genovese. Winston Moseley stalked her, stabbed her to death and then raped her. Social psychologists advised that if you shout “fire” people will be more alert and more likely to help. 
  6. Run. I was advised that I could use my keys as a weapon in the event I am faced with an attacker. Other people have advised me to carry pepper spray. I would rather go with the strategy of running because I do not trust myself with a weapon if I am not a certified in it. The last thing I would want is for my attacker to take my weapon away and use it against me.
  7. If you can’t run away fast enough from your predator, drop dead and fake your death, especially if your predator is a bear.
  8. If all they want is your money, just give it to them. You can always get money back but you can’t get yourself back. Write them a check so at least you have a receipt.
  9. Go with your instinct. If something smells fishy it probably is a fish.
  10. I would like to re-emphasize #6. Mr. SS who was a former Secret Service agent told me that one of their strategies was to “cover and evacuate.” He was trained so that if someone fires a shot at the President, he would jump in front of the President and take the bullet. Then, evacuate. He said that in real life they do not linger around like they do in Hollywood movies and fight the bad guys. You evacuate and get the hell away from danger.

Do you have any safety tips you’d like to share?

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