How To Stay Safe in New York City: Tips for Women
Yesterday, the Voice reported that a tourist was raped in her Bronx hotel room.
Cops say the perp talked to the victim on train departing from East 14th Street and Union Square. Around 4 a.m., after she had returned to her East Tremont hotel, the alleged assailant knocked on her door. When she opened it, he forced the door open and attacked her.
Obviously, this is awful and heinous, and we feel for the victim and hope she's OK. It's also scary as shit: if you're a woman, some stranger has probably tried to chat you up on the subway, so it's worrisome to think that that guy could be an attacker.
That said, we've assembled some safety tips for women in New York City.
Know what's up with your surroundings. Attackers often try to take advantage of the "element of surprise," so eliminating said element -- like, not being wrapped up in a text convo or being tuned out to the world with your iPod -- tends to be a good idea.
Even say to yourself: "Something doesn't seem right, I don't know if everything is cool, but I'm being irrational -- these are just my feelings." Well, fuck that noise: Go with your gut. If shit doesn't feel safe, leave. You are probably better at subconsciously picking up non-verbal communication skills than you think. Science says so.
Have an escape plan. Don't sit on the inner aisle of a bus or subway seat if you can avoid it, and it's always a good idea to sit nearest an exit and closest to a conductor or driver. Know how to get out of any location fast. If some jackass demands that you go somewhere at gun or knife point, don't: Your chances of survival lessen drastically if you do, so yell like hell and run. Do whatever you can to get out of a dodgy situation. Another thing: if you're traveling by yourself in the city, wear shoes in which you can run. Stilettos are great, but unless you can pop them off in a heartbeat and haul ass, opt for something safer.
Got nails? Then use 'em if you have to. Though some worry that attacking might provoke the perp into being more violent, stats again suggest that this isn't the case -- you have better chances for avoiding attack if you fight back. You aren't only right to defend yourself -- you also have legal justification to do so. Go for the groin and eyes.
Unfortunately, most of us womenfolk are brought up to be polite and passive with attention and compliments -- even if we don't want to interact with anyone, we're still taught not to be "rude" and directly shoot anyone down. Newsflash: It's high time that manners shit ends, especially in the big city, because it can compromise our well being. You have no obligation to talk to strangers or be nice to them. You don't have to politely decline anyone's proposition or pickup line -- you can ignore it or tell them to fuck off, totally your call. You don't have to give anyone directions or tell them what you're reading at the coffee shop, or whether you're heading home from work. You also don't have to open the door to anyone that you don't feel comfortable with. You have the right to interact with whom you want, so use that right, especially if you think it can make you safer.
Consider picking a more populated subway car, and trying not to stand alone when you're waiting for a train or bus late at night. Walk like you know where you're going, not wide-eyed and confused-looking. Don't take dark shortcuts when you walk home. Keep your keys in-hand for protection. If someone is following you, head to a non-sketchy area ASAP, such as a bodega where you're cool with the staff. If a car bothers you while you're walking, cops say you should "turn around and walk in the opposite direction." Do that as much as you need to. Usually, the motorcreep will get discouraged.
Shoulder purses are easy to snatch. If someone robs you, it's safer to let it go and just file a police report. Keep your bag close to you, such as tucked into your elbow.
Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.