Guarding Your Fortress: Taking Caution Against Robbery and Assaults

Editor’s Note: Erin Weed founded the Girls Fight Back program after her sorority sister was murdered in June 2001. Determined to prevent similar tragedies, Erin created Girls Fight Back to educate women about campus security, personal safety, violence protection and self-defense. She now travels the nation giving personal safety seminars and has spoken to over 100,000 women nationwide. The following column is excerpted from her book, Girls Fight Back!:The College Girl’s Guide to Protecting Herself.

 Guard Your Fortress
I was on the road speaking at a university in Louisiana when I got the distressing voicemail. It was my husband who had left the message, “Call me back as soon as possible. Our building was broken into this afternoon.” Getting a message like that can jumble your mind with scary questions: Who did this? Have my valuables been stolen? Is my dog okay? Was anyone hurt? Did they have a gun? Why did we put off installing that alarm system?

Upon calling him back, I learned that no one in the building was home during the heist. FBI statistics tells us that three out of four homes will be burglarized within the next 20 years. Since burglary takes place in America every eight seconds, we can realistically say this is a significant problem. The good news is that there are proven ways to secure the home front.

While stairwells are secluded places and attacks have been know to happen in this setting, I'm not going to advise you never to use them. However, take the stairs with extra caution.

Most medium or high-rise residence halls and apartment buildings have elevators. For the most part they are safe, but attacks can happen in this secluded spot. Always listen to your intuition if you feel uneasy about someone on an elevator. If the door opens and you get a bad feeling about the guy on board, simply let the doors close and wait for the next one. And by the way, don’t feel even a bit silly about it. What’s more ridiculous? Waiting a minute for the next elevator? Or getting on the elevator only to be alone with a stranger whom your intuition sent warnings about?

Laundry Room or Laundromats
Try to mix up your schedule when you do laundry, instead of religiously doing it at the same time on the same day every week. This makes you a little less predictable. Ideally, you want to do laundry during daylight hours. Also, make laundry fun by finding a laundry buddy and tackling the task together.

Parking Lots and Parking Decks
Any parking lot can be scary, but there are things you can do to minimize risk and anxiety. Try to park in a spot near a light and as close to the building as possible. When parking during daylight hours, make it a habit to look around for light poles so your car will be illuminated even if you come back after dark. Before you get out of the car, have your keys in hand and be ready to walk directly to the building. If you have a self-defense keychain, flashlight or pepper spray, have it ready in hand but stay relaxed. Keep your eyes sweeping the lot and walk in the center aisle to avoid being pounced upon from someone hiding between cars.

Floor Bathrooms
Often times, floor bathrooms in residence halls or sorority houses are kept unlocked which makes them accessible to anyone. This is rather troubling since bathroom activities are personal in nature. Having only a shower curtain between you and a bad guy isn’t much of a shield. Try to find someone on your floor with a similar class schedule so you can shower at the same time. If possible, keep your shower routine to regular hours during the day, as opposed to obscure times when nobody is around.

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