This list is by no means an attempt to create paranoia. We should live our lives everyday with joy and peace as much as possible, yet that does not advocate ignorance to the actions done by those who wish to steal our peace. As my instructor often states, we should be "casually observant" - not full of fear. Our goal is to bring awareness, and create an atmosphere of safety for ourselves, families, and friends.
It is also not to pretend that we can prevent all sexual harassment. None of these will keep someone from shouting obscene words at you. Nothing here is meant to place blame on someone being harassed. It could, however, help keep a harassment situation from becoming a case of assault. Everything written below are good rules to follow - no matter if you are trying to prevent sexual assault, a carjacking, or mugging.
I hope you enjoy reading my 5 ways to gain better awareness of your surroundings.
1. Putting Your Cellphone Away
We have all done it, or at the very least have observed people with their necks crooked down being absorbed by their cellphone. It's easy to get caught up in the latest Facebook post, checking your e-mails, or whatever it is that keeps you from knowing who or what is around. You're not the only one noticing this cultural habit. Others are banking that you won't notice when they approach to sexually harass or assault you. Put the cellphone away when you are out in public. If you must check it, make sure to raise your head frequently to see what is going on. A cellphone doesn't have to be a black hole for your attention.
2. Listening To Your Surroundings - Not Your Music/Podcast/Audiobook
This one is even difficult for me to do. I take the public transportation system which can lead to long, boring rides to and from work. Unfortunately, I've also noticed that my inability to hear what is going on has been taken advantage of several times by sexual harassers. I've caught the tail-end of crude comments thrown at me as I've sat on the bus, waited at bus stops, and even when walking down the side-walk. If someone would have grabbed me from behind, it would have been extremely difficult to know they were there until it was too late. Yes, this goes for joggers and runners too.
3. Observing What Is Around You While Entering/Exiting Your Home or Car
Look - and look again. It kills me to see people leave their car door wide open for longer than necessary, fiddling with their purse before getting in or out of their car, not paying attention to who is potentially around them when carrying groceries into their home, and so on. You're at your most vulnerable in these moments. Can you imagine how easy it is to approach a person with their arms full of heavy bags while struggling to place the key inside of a door?
4. Looking Behind Yourself Periodically
This is worth doing no matter where you are at, but especially while walking or jogging. We can become so focused on what is in front of us that we fail to pay attention to who could come up from behind. Try it out for a few days. You'll end up shocked how much more you notice. It doesn't mean that you have to look back every two seconds, but to do it once in a while. Maybe after a couple of blocks. As it becomes more of a habit, you'll see how often you need to do it. Those with hearing issues may want or need to practice this more often than others.
5. Sitting/Standing With Your Back Against a Wall - Not Exposed
Wow, it makes a difference! You're able to see all the interactions in front of you without the wonder of what is going on outside of your visibility. This isn't a normal habit for me, but when my instructor spoke about it in a recent class, it made sense to begin implementing it. Besides, it's fun to people-watch!
Are there any habits that you picked up that are helpful in bringing awareness? Did anything come to mind to change in your life to make you less vulnerable? Let me know! I'd love to know your thoughts.