Do you have good situational awareness? Do you know, from one moment to the next, what’s happening around you—and are you responding to keep yourself safer?
Crimes against women are common, and when coupled with the fact that women are more likely to be addicted to their smartphones than men, this makes women far more likely to become victims. When your awareness is on your phone, the world around you takes second priority. You effectively cut off your own ability to avoid—and respond to—potential dangers. Although it might not feel like it, when checking your smartphone, you’re actually as vulnerable to attack as you are when you’re sound asleep.
Even “reduced” smartphone use leaves women vulnerable. Intermittently glancing between your phone and your environment can still leave an opening for a bad guy. And while women often believe that they’re sending a “don’t bother me” signal while looking at their smartphones, a potential attacker reads the signal as “easy target.”
Staying constantly aware of your situation leaves you free to detect and act, and all of them require keeping your attention off your mobile. After all, awareness and preventative behaviors are 90% of self-defense, according to the National Self-Defense Institute in Florida.
Here are 4 things you can do to keep yourself safe—and they all involve putting down your phone.
Pay Attention. It’s undeniable that your phone diverts your attention. You could easily be taken down while you’re off your guard. When you’re looking at your phone or listening to a speaker, you’re missing subtle cues from others, such as avoiding eye contact, shifty body language, and darting eyes. These tiny signals can alert you to taking evasive action long before anything happens. Once something happens, it’s often too late.
Make Eye Contact. When you’re talking on your phone, your peripheral vision is blocked. You simply can’t see the people around you as well, and you’re unable to make good eye contact because you’re focused on the speaker. The same goes when you’re looking down at your screen.
When you look someone in the eye, you let them know you’re aware of them, where they are, and what they’re doing. You don’t need to challenge anyone by staring them down; holding their eyes for a moment is sufficient. This lets them know you’re aware and wouldn’t be so easy to take off guard.
Keep Your Hands Free. When you’re holding your phone, you can’t use that hand to ward off an attack. The first instinct is often also to protect the phone. While the phone has value, it’s nothing compared to your own safety. Keep your hands free and be ready to fight back, if necessary.
Act Confident. Holding a smartphone instead of engaging in your surroundings screams a message of uncertainty. Potential attackers pick victims based largely on body language, and lack of confidence is the last thing you want to project. Walking and sitting with your shoulders back and face forward sends a message of self-assurance. It tells attackers, “I’ve got places to be and things to do. I know where you are and don’t get in my way.”
Not every situation is what it appears to be, and staying vigilant is the only way to pick up on subtle signals that something is wrong. Before pulling out your phone in any situation, ask yourself this: “Would I feel safe enough to lie down and take a nap here?” If the answer is no, be safe and put your phone away.
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