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CHOOSING A HOTEL
Smaller is smarter: you
want the staff to be familiar with guests
and with you. The smaller the lobby, the
more noticeable the loiterers.
Aim for a
well-trafficked street (neighborhood
restaurants and late-night stores mean
traffic, corporate offices mean darkness).
Affluent residential areas tend to have more
reliable transportation and fewer
threatening street people.
If you're still
concerned about the area, ask a female
employee--not one in reservations--whether
she walks around at night. (Call the
restaurant, for instance.)
A reception and
concierge desk near the entrance, and/or the
elevators, is more likely to deter non-guest
There should be privacy
for guests checking in: no one should be
able to overhear a name, room number, or
other personal information.
Room numbers should be
written on the key envelope, not mentioned
aloud or inscribed on the key--this way,
anyone finding your key won't have access to
Look for a parking lot
that is well lit and secure. Find out if
there's valet parking . . . and if it will
be available when you need it. Use it, even
it costs a little bit more.
Does the hotel gym have
an attendant? Being alone and semi-dressed
in the basement is not good for your health.
The hotel should have
sufficient staff to walk you to your room
late at night. Inquire when you book and
you'll get an idea of how woman-friendly the
Request one near the
elevators and away from any renovation work.
Have your key out when you leave the
You want to be far from
emergency exits (which someone might pry
open to avoid using the elevators), and on
an upper floor away from catwalks and
The door should have
double locks--one of which is a dead
bolt--and a peephole. Bring along a security
doorstop for extra protection.
The please make up this
room sign tells everyone you're not there.
Call housekeeping instead.
Conversely, the do not
disturb sign can make the room seem occupied
(especially handy if you leave expensive
Put expensive clothing
on hangers under other garments. Robbers
usually "shop" what they can see.
Lock valuables in the
If your bag is stolen
from the hotel, recruit management to search
for it. Most hotel robberies are committed
by the staff, and many properties,
especially overseas, don't allow employees
to leave with packages; thieves take the
money and dump the rest.
Stand near the elevator
buttons with your back to the wall; if
threatened, push all the buttons at once
with your back.
Study a map before going
out; once on the street, use a pocket-size
guidebook to avoid looking like a tourist.
Your hotel's concierge or a female employee
can mark any dangerous areas on your map.
Avoid jewelry--even a
chain that's fake gold can be ripped off
your neck. Do consider wearing a wedding
Loop a money belt around
your belt loops so that if someone cuts it,
it won't fall from your waist.
Be wary when getting off
a bus or train, or riding stairs and
escalators; that's when pickpockets tend to
Carry just one credit
card and photocopies of important documents.
Divide money for small and larger purchases
so you don't have to expose a wad of bills.
(When sharing with friends, keep a kitty for
common expenses to make digging for cash in
public places unnecessary.) Become familiar
with foreign currency before you need to use
Have gratuities ready
for porters and doormen.
Use prepaid phone cards
instead of carrying your card number.
Ask the concierge to
make any restaurant reservations, and have
him or her say, "Please take care of
our guest, she's coming alone and will need
a taxi home."
Should a car start to
follow you, immediately turn and walk the
If you must ask for
directions, approach families or women with
children. To be extra safe, say, "Where
is the --? I'm meeting my husband
On sidewalks, keep your
handbag and other valuables away from the
street side (and on escalators, away from
the opposite ramp).
If attacked, run, fight,
and yell as loud as possible.
Use covered luggage
tags. Instead of your home address, write
that of your office.
Lock all suitcases. If
you make a lot of purchases on your trip,
and your bag becomes full, secure the bag
with strong tape.
In public rest rooms,
use the corner stall.
On overnight flights,
keep an eye on your valuables. A good idea
is to put your valuables in a security waist
pack (versus leaving it in your stowed carry
on) and wear it while sleeping. When you go
to the lavatory, take your purse/valuables
Talk to female
passengers and flight attendants on the
plane about the safety of your destination.
In a busy area, if you
deposit your belongings on your car's
passenger seat, lock the door before walking
around to the driver's side.
Don't exit a taxi until
you're sure you've arrived at your
destination. Pay while still in the car so
that you can be sure you've gotten the
Stay close to your
valuables when passing through airport
If you place your
carry-on bag on the floor when sitting in a
restaurant or other public area, put your
foot through the strap; don't leave it
Tear your name and
address off magazines before leaving them on
the plane. Why announce to the world that
So you won't get lost
when leaving a tricky airport, hire a taxi
to lead your rental car to the expressway.
Don't use an unmarked taxi; if necessary,
take public transportation to a city center.
Rent a mobile phone or
bring your own. And put the police on speed
On the road, if someone
tries to get your attention or your car is
bumped, don't stop until you arrive at a
well-lit and busy area, or lacking that,
stay in the car and blow the horn until
someone comes to your aid.
If suspicious about
"phony" police, don't open the
window. Instead, hold your license against
In your car, keep items
out of sight (especially maps and
guidebooks). Hatchbacks leave your luggage
in plain view.
When possible, park so
you won't have to back out. It makes for a
Don't just check the
weather at your destination; also make a
note of when the sun rises and sets.
Log onto an Internet
chat room to obtain safety info about a
place you're planning to visit.
WORDS OF WISDOM FROM A
POLICE DETECTIVE ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT
I have to share some things I have learned in my
job with you. In my job, I have read
hundreds and hundreds of files, and have taken
note of some of the mistakes women make. Let me
preface this by saying that a woman is NEVER
EVER EVER at fault for being raped or attacked,
but there are definitely ways to reduce your
risk of being a victim.
Here are the most common mistakes women make
that could result in them getting kidnapped,
attacked, and/or raped:
1. Getting into the attacker's car when he
pulls a gun and orders you to get into his
Most attackers don't want to shoot you ... they
want you to get into the car so that they can
drive you to a deserted place and torture you.
Don't comply. Run screaming. It is MUCH more
likely than not that he will just move on to an
2. Pulling over when a man drives alongside
of you pointing at your car pretending something
If this happens, drive to the nearest well-lit
and populated gas station and look the car over
yourself (or ask an attendant). Never pull over.
Believe it or not, many women have fallen for
this for fear of their car spontaneously
exploding in the middle of the road. Not likely.
3. Not locking your doors while driving.
I have read several cases where the attacker
simply walks up to a woman's car while she's at
a traffic light and jumps in with his gun or
4. Opening your front door when you have not
positively identified who is there.
If you don't have a peep hole, get one. I've
seen countless cases where the attacker gains
access to his victims simply by knocking on
Don't let an attacker get into your home. He
then has a private, relatively soundproof place
to attack you.
5. Not being alert in parking lots.
If you go to the grocery store at night, don't
be shy about asking for an escort to your car.
Too many women are abducted from parking lots or
even raped in the parking lot.
Look in your back seat before entering your car.
Cars provide endless hiding places for
attackers, both inside them and in between them.
Be aware of your surroundings by looking to the
left and right and behind you with your head up
all the time. You may appear paranoid and look
funny to others, but an attacker will think
twice about approaching someone who appears so
aware of what's going on.
6. Trusting a clean cut, honest looking
I see mug shots of every sex offender. They do
not look like monsters. They often look like
they could be your friendly grocer,
bank teller, waiter, neighbor, clergy, doctor,
etc. They are every age between 15 and 90, and
probably beyond. Only a small minority actually
7. Trusting people to be alone with your
This is a difficult one, because child molesters
end up being the LAST person the parents would
believe is the molester.
Most of the child molesting cases I see involve
the stepfather, the uncle, the sister's
boyfriend, the mother's boyfriend, the
grandfather, the baby-sitter, the neighbor, the
family friend, the youth camp director, day care
worker, etc. Although rare, even women can be
In every case, the perpetrator is a nice guy,
trusting, good with children, and the family is
baffled or even in disbelief that the person
could be abusing their child.
When it comes to your children and
grandchildren, be suspicious of everyone, no
matter who they are. And pay attention to what
your child says and how he/she reacts to the
mention of different people in their lives.
I didn't mean to make anyone uncomfortable with
this. I have the dirty job of reading all these
files, and it makes me feel good to know that I
can share some inferences from what I have
learned. This is not an exhaustive list of what
not to do, but just some things that I have
observed more than just a few times.
Pass this on to the women in your lives.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT
YOU ARE BEING STALKED
If you think you are being stalked, phone or
visit your local police immediately no matter
how trivial the harassment may seem. This will
enable them to record your complaint, log,
monitor and build a profile of the offender.
Ask for the name and serial number of the
officer you see or speak to.
To assist prosecution:
Keep a record of all
events, telephone calls etc., noting as much
detail as possible including time and date
Try to get photographic
or video evidence of your stalkerís
Do not throwaway parcels
or letters. Try to handle them as little as
possible and if possible place them in
plastic sleeves or envelopes to preserve
You should read any mail
you receive in case it contains threats or
indecent / offensive language.
Get to know your neighbors
so that they can keep a record of sightings and
notify you of anything they may see or notice.
Inform work colleagues about the harassment so
they will be able to support and protect you
(i.e. prevent calls from reaching you and
prevent your stalker from gaining access).
Try to alter any daily
routines, if possible ask friends to accompany
you and always try to let someone know what your
plans are and when they change. Although it may
be hard, try to show no emotion towards the
stalker, do not confront them and do not agree
to meet them. If you do come into contact, aim
to get away and ideally into a busy public
place. Consider buying a mobile phone. It
will give you greater confidence and in an
Consider improving home
security measures by asking your local Crime
Prevention Officer to look around your property
and offer free advice. If you receive malicious
or threatening calls, try to keep calm and show
no emotion. Do not answer the phone with
anything more than "hello". If the
stalker continues to ring, answer the phone but
place the handset to one side for a few minutes
and walk away then replace the handset - you do
not have to listen to what the caller has to
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