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Women’s Personal Safety: The Unwanted Hug
Have you ever found yourself wrapped in a hug you didn’t want, but didn’t know what to do about it?
I certainly have, and it made me feel angry, resentful, and outraged!,
Whether on campus, at work, or just socializing, unwanted hugging seems to affect almost all women and girls – and many men – at some point.
Yet, few of us know what to do in the moment, because it’s weird, and we don’t want to be “rude.”
Many of us, especially women and girls, are socialized to accept hugs without question – ignoring the fact that sometimes hugs are aggression posing as affection. That teaches us that we do not own our bodies, and leaves us more vulnerable to harassment and sexual assault. Therefore, our personal safety strategies are paramount.
You might say that unwanted hugging is a “gateway drug” to escalating physical contact. “Pick up artists” use hugging as a “compliance test” to determine how vulnerable a woman will be to his particular brand of manipulation.
The fact that unwanted hugs may or may not be done with ill intent, hiding under a veil of plausible deniability, and rely on you to “be polite” makes us feel … oddly powerless.
Having strategies at the ready helps immensely, as opposed to trying to think of something in the moment.
A Direct “NO” is A-OK.
You alone own your body, and you alone decide who gets hugs or not, according to how you feel in that moment. It’s perfectly ok to tell someone, “I don’t want a hug, thanks,” or “I’d prefer to shake hands,” or “Let’s just wave from here!”
It is the other person’s job, not yours, to manage how they feel about that.
You don’t owe anyone a justification, so if you’re met with objections or entreaties, calmly stand your ground with an answer such as, “It’s just my preference.” “I’m not a hugging sort of person.” “I’d rather shake hands.” “I would prefer not to.”
But if you don’t feel comfortable or safe giving a direct “No,” try this instead:
Stick out your arm for a hearty handshake.
Add a cheery “So nice to see (or meet) you!”
Take a step back and angle your body if you have room.
Most people will get the message and react accordingly. However, if the hugger is tone deaf, but you need to let that person save face, try:
Handshake + Conversational Pivot
Your pivot may sound like this: “Sorry, I’m maxed out on hugs today – but tell me about your new project – it sounds so interesting!” or, “Hey, you know what? I’m all hugged out from my new puppy! Do you want to see a photo?” “Oh, sorry, my little nephew got all my hugs already. Speaking of which, what is a Pokemon?” The point is, always have a few rehearsed sound bites at the ready. Use whatever works for you and go with it like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
This method distracts the other person and glosses over any uneasiness.
If someone drags you into a hug anyway, making you uncomfortable, your job is to make your discomfort clear, and redirect it back to the offender.
“HEY! I said NO HUGS!”
“OW! You’re pulling my hair!”
“OUCH! You’re hurting my neck!” (because you have a little crick in it, of course)
“HEY! You’re hurting my sunburn!”
You might *accidentally* step on his feet — because he pulled you off balance with the unwanted hug, right?
Some people will always ignore boundaries and go in for the hug in spite of your objections. That is valuable information: This person is not to be trusted.
This is someone to avoid. This is someone to keep a wary eye on, even if you’re acquainted or “friends.” This is someone who will not take “No” for an answer. This is someone to warn your friends about.
Never let social conventions or fear of feeling awkward get in the way of your bodily integrity and security.
Your personal safety always come before someone else’s feelings.
– Jennifer Kaminer, 27 March 2017
Related: Your Daughter’s Campus Safety and Security: 3 Tips
Although we like to think of our daughter’s years away at college as safe and idealistic, the reality is that her time at school puts her at risk. Enhancing your daughters campus safety and security is paramount
RAINN, (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, reports that close to 1 in 6 college-aged women received assistance from a victim services agency.
Although there is no 100% guaranteed strategy for keeping our daughters safe, there are many empowering precautions they can take.
Of course, the cardinal rule is to always use the Buddy System. They learned it in kindergarten, and it’s a classic for a reason. You don’t stop using the Buddy System just because you turn 18 – in fact, it’s more important than ever, because the stakes become higher as our daughters leave the protection of parents and home.
Here are 3 highly effective strategies to enhance your daughter’s personal safety both on and off campus:
1. Even If I Can’t See You, I WILL HEAR YOU.
That means headphones off, earbuds put away. No exceptions when in public. Some argue that wearing headphones is a useful social signal that indicates they don’t want to talk. A predator just sees an easier target. We need the full range of all our senses, at all times. Hearing alerts us to when we are being approached from behind. Police remind us that 90% of surprise attacks are launched from closer than 15 feet behind an unaware person.
Bring your own beverage and pay attention to it. Ideally, this will be in a reusable bottle with an attached lid. This dramatically cuts down on opportunities for someone to tamper with or switch the drink. Remember, most often it is someone with whom your daughter is acquainted, or may even know well, who will attempt to spike her drink. Even ice could contain a predatory drug, such as GHB, which is odorless, colorless and tasteless. Have her bring her own bottle everywhere and protect it, all the time, just as she would her wallet.
3. Lock It Up, Lock It Down.
On university campuses, as in life, complacency sets in, and people get lax about locking doors and windows. This can be especially problematic in dormitory buildings. One person propping open a back door – even innocently, as a favor to a roommate, for example, puts everyone at risk. Unlocked windows are often an overlooked security risk, especially on the ground floor. If your daughter will be sharing off campus housing, seriously consider installing a lock on her bedroom door.
While the risks of college life are real, don’t let fear drive your daughter’s university experience. Instead, incorporate these and other tips for personal safety and security as part of her education, which will empower her for life.
— Jennifer Kaminer, 28 Feb 2017
Personal Safety: Active Shooter. Being Prepared for a More Turbulent World
Young women, aged 18-24, attending college, are 3 times more likely to be sexually assaulted or raped than the general population.
According to RAINN, 23.1 percent of female students experience rape or sexual assault via physical force, violence, or incantation.
That’s a little over one in 5 young women … and those are only the ones we know of. The real number is much higher.
This is why addressing women’s personal safety on campus is paramount.
It is imperative that we inform our daughters what they’re really up against — and how to better protect themselves.
Common sense tips such as “use the buddy system” and “don’t walk home alone at night” are valuable and have their place. However, those tips ignore the fact that, according to the University of Michigan, most sexual assaults are committed by someone we already know and trust, and most assaults happen in familiar surroundings. Hence, the term “Acquaintance Rape.”
Most young woman and their parents find this fact counterintuitive, but once they understand it, are able to put in place powerful strategies to not become another statistic.
Remember, the mind is the most powerful weapon.
When you change your “mental setting” from “prey” to “powerful” – that energy permeates though your body language, and shows up as confidence and strength.
Use your mind, body language, and strategy to develop “command presence” – this will broadcast to the world that you are not an easy target, which is the best deterrent against opportunistic, predatory fellow students and acquaintances,who are the most common offenders!! (Think: Entitled Frat Boys!)
We know the buddy system is always recommended, but the larger the group, the better. Go out together, and come home together. Leave no one behind. At parties or events, agree to check in with each other at pre-determined times. Use the buddy system when going to the bathroom, or to retrieve a coat from a back room. Why? This how a lone young woman gets dragged into a room and assaulted.
What is your plan if you think you or a friend have been drugged? Do you have a pre-determined “distress code” to alert the other members of your group? Have you rehearsed the power of your numbers, and the strength of your loud voices together to create a scene that would deter anyone with bad intent?
Walking home at night will happen. But again, walk in a group. Carry yourselves with confident presence and scan your surroundings – just two of several presentations that victim selection studies reveal you as “harder targets.”
Don’t be shy to ask TWO trusted young men within your peer group to walk with you – but don’t let your guard down.
There is no one magic bullet that will keep you or your young woman 100% safe on campus. But the more strategies you put in place, the safer you will all be.
Parents, you should all know what the Cleary Act is, and why it is so critical in choosing a school that is entrusted with your daughter’s safety.
– Jennifer Kaminer, 9 February 2017
Security experts say that we should take a common sense approach to our personal safety, regardless of where we live, whether it’s New York City or Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Nairobi, Kenya or London, England. Safety strategy should not be situational or regional when you choose to employ it. It should be a proactive mindset that you live all the time, not unlike defensive driving—recognize the possibility of a problem regardless of how improbable, and having response options tucked away in the back of your mind.
Companies often task security or executive protection teams with briefing employees moving abroad. However, valuable information can be found at the State Department’s website, www.travel.state.gov. You can find information on current regional crime trends such as “express kidnappings”, extortion scams and the use of predatory drugs for purposes of personal and property crimes. Access to real time information is especially helpful if you are moving to a part of the world known to harbor people with hostility against our government or to a developing nation experiencing political unrest.
Here are things to keep in mind as you get ready for your move.
Blending into your new environment is very important. Avoid wearing expensive, flashy jewelry or clothing. Cameras, electronics and laptop bags also draw attention. Exchange currencies upon arrival and do not flash dollars when doing transactions. Avoid carrying any military or law enforcement membership or association identification cards unless required. Driving an understated vehicle commonly seen in your new hometown is recommended. If you can, alternate the vehicle you use from time to time. Knowledge of customs, culture and common courtesies help you understand how to conduct yourself in a manner that conveys respect and consideration for the people of the community you have just joined.
Map out the best routes to get to and from work, store, schools, hospitals, police stations and other safe havens. Be aware of any weak or dead cell phone coverage areas along your routes. It is best to stay on busier streets where traffic flows at a brisker pace. Do not stop to interact with street vendors or pedestrians. Quiet side streets, routes that require a lot of stopping and starting and those that are poorly lit leave you vulnerable to anything from a “smash-and- grab” of a purse or wallet to a carjacking. These are primarily crimes of opportunity that occur more often when people are in or around stationary vehicles. Make a habit of locking your vehicle and getting underway immediately. Other tips include backing into parking spaces whenever possible; never letting your gas tank fall below half full; leaving maneuvering room between you and the vehicle in front of you; and keeping a flashlight and charger for your phone in the vehicle. And don’t forget to check if your car key remote has a panic button.
Clayton Consultants, Inc. (www.claytonconsultants.com), experts in global risk and crisis management, reminds us that most kidnappings for ransom take place on weekday mornings on public streets between the victim’s home and a known destination such as schools, coffee shops or the office. This is why being less predictable in our habits and patterns are so important. Be sure to vary your routes and times of travel, whether on foot or vehicle. If you have the option of varying your entry and exit locations, do so. Be wary of a person or vehicle that you see twice, separated by time and distance. If you see that person or vehicle for a third time, you are being followed. This is not a coincidence and you must move to a high traffic, well lit area immediately.
Good strategy also includes running “what if” scenarios through your mind and determining the best response options to any situation you might be visualizing. One example is what would you do if an intruder was in your home? Exiting the dwelling might be an option but it is always best to have a “safe room” ready. This is a room with a sturdy door, and preferably no windows, to which you can retreat with your cell phone if you absolutely need to. Be sure that you receive a cell signal in this room. Keep a flash card with your home address, a flash light, bottles of water and a fire extinguisher in the safe room. You can easily read your address to the emergency operator from the flashcard if you are in a state of fear and then wait for help to arrive. Safety, disaster and communications kits are available on the Internet and can be stored in a safe room or taken with you during an evacuation.
Regardless of the situation, your strategy will only be as good as your personal communication plan. Have your primary and secondary contacts’ mobile numbers programmed into your cell phone’s speed dialer. It is always best to share your schedule with your contacts, check in with them during your day, and brief them on what to do if they lose communication with you. Examples of business and family emergency communication plans can be found and downloaded at www.ready.gov
Your contact list should include local law enforcement, company security personal and the U.S. Embassy. The State Department also recommends you create a profile through their Travel Registration page so they know where you are and how to contact you. The State Department can only help you during political turmoil, a natural disaster, a disease outbreak or even an act of terrorism if they know where you are. If you travel from your new hometown on vacation or business, it is worth logging on and registering that trip as well.
The cornerstone to any safety and security strategy is being aware of your surroundings. The late Jeff Cooper, a Marine Lieutenant Colonel, described the ideal state of mental preparedness as one in which you are relaxed and observant of your surroundings and therefore, more difficult to surprise. He called this “Condition Yellow”. Those oblivious of their surroundings were described by Cooper to be in “Condition White” and criminals very easily recognize this lack of attentiveness—daydreaming, multitasking, walking “heads down” and in general, not being “present time” aware.
The military reminds us that we live in a “360 degree world”. Remember to look up especially in urban environments. Criminals like to “perch” and do their surveillance from high ground like balconies and upper stories in a mall, knowing that most of us never look up! The most important area to monitor in your 360 degree world is the blind spot just behind you from where most attacks are launched known as your “six o clock.”
As you casually scan your surroundings, your instincts will let you know if there is someone in your midst that warrants closer attention. Over 50 percent of communication is via body language. Shifting, darting eyes, fidgety, clenching hands and a shifting stance are some of the telltale signs of a suspicious demeanor. Fred Burton, a counter terrorism and corporate security expert with Stratfor Global Intelligence (www.stratfor.com) reminds us that even the most sophisticated criminals are not able to completely hide these and other telltale signs of someone trying to “fit in” while doing surveillance. This is why Burton states that the best opportunity to identify and to react to a prospective problem is during the perpetrators surveillance phase, when there is still time to do so on our own terms.
It is best to avoid high-profile tourist destinations, any location that is iconic of American culture and five-star western hotels. Similarly, avoid any planned rallies, protests or large public gatherings. If you do travel regionally, be sure to use well-vetted ground transportation. Hotels with a high visibility security personnel presence are preferred. Regardless of you location, a hotel, business meeting, school or at an airport, always know where the primary and secondary exits are located. If in a public place you hear gunfire or if police or military personal were to arrive in force you need to take cover immediately. If evacuating is your best option do so and drop anything that will slow you down. If instructed to evacuate with a group of people, try and position yourself in the middle of this group.
If the mind is our most powerful weapon, then our instincts are our ever-present guardian. No discussion on personal safety is complete without revisiting and reinforcing the topic of intuition and instincts. We often deem our instincts as silly or irrational, many of us not wanting to “cause a scene” or embarrass others or ourselves. In fact, many of us, who have good instincts and “Condition Yellow” mindsets, are often accused of being paranoid. Most often this accusation comes from someone who quite obviously lives in “Condition White”, hardly a credible source.
Gavin DeBecker, a world renowned safety expert, describes our intuition as “knowing without knowing why”. Remember, it is okay to know something is amiss without staying around to find out why. Honor your instincts, stick to your safety strategy, cover your six o’clock and enjoy your new destination.
Larry Kaminer- Personal Safety Training Group