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Archive for category Campus safety
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
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
If you will be working late, be sure to move your vehicle to a well light parking place that is closest to the door by which you will exit before it gets dark.
Do not leave valuables in view inside your car.
Try and leave the building with co workers if possible. The buddy system leaves you less vulnerable.
A small high intensity flashlight is helpful for illuminating the area around and under your vehicle, and allows you to check the back seat before unlocking and getting in.
Have your keys in your hands before you leave the building and remember to use the panic button on your key fob if you sense something is amiss.
Try and walk down the middle of the parking aisle keeping as much distance between you and the parked cars on either side. Don’t take shortcuts between vehicles.
Always walk with purpose and scan your surroundings.
Once in your vehicle, lock the doors immediately and get underway.
Always trust your instincts. If you get a bad feeling about walking out to your vehicle don’t!
I had the opportunity to read Stop Signs authored by my friend Lynn Fairweather who is a threat assessment and domestic violence expert. As a personal safety trainer and consultant and father of two daughters, I was particularly eager to read this book and share the “golden nuggets” with them and those I interact with on a professional level.
I found this book to be well balanced. While I have read several books on domestic violence, I have never seen one as comprehensive as Stop Signs. The book is segmented into three equal parts devoted to recognizing, avoiding, and escaping dating / domestic abuse and violence. It therefore applies to all women: those who have never been abused, those who are currently being abused, and those that have left an abuser.
This book serves as a resource, a safety plan, and offers self-help empowerment all in one. It is an intuitive read and also gives voice to survivors in dialog boxes that are strategically placed to drive home the teachable moments. This style is in keeping with Lynn’s “lived experience” as she too is a survivor of domestic violence and is therefore able to bring a personal as well as a professional perspective to the topic.
Who should read this book and keep it on the shelf as a domestic violence resource? Anyone from a mother with young daughters, to someone in an abusive relationship all the way over to a threat assessment / security professional or HR personal in the corporate sector.
The book is available at Amazon.
Lynn is the founder and president of Presage Consulting & Training, an Oregon based organization specializing in fatality reduction through threat assessment and management.
Lynn’s contact details appear below.
Lynn Fairweather, M.S.W.
Presage Consulting and Training