Cathy Steinberg didn’t let a traumatic physical attack stop her from making a difference in the world. She wanted to know why she was targeted and spent years studying criminals and the insane to get answers. The research paid off and Steinberg discovered that over 90% of personal violence is avoidable with awareness or knowledge and how to protect yourself isn’t a gender or age-specific necessity – it’s important for everyone whether you’re concerned about travel safety or just crossing the street.
Still, most every day there’s another international headline about a brutal rape or attack on women. An LA Times reporter in India recently wrote about Sobhana Gazmer, a young woman living and working in Delhi, who lives in fear. “Knowing what to do when it matters most,” Steinberg says, is not about “Living without fear. Once you are aware, confident, and knowledgeable you tend to fear the unknown less.”
Check out or download her interview on The Gathering Road Podcast. More tips are included in her book,The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Being Fearless: What Every Girl Should Know.
Steinberg’s safety tips include these Levels of Awareness, adapted from a military officer:
White Alert : You may be on vacation or going about everyday life, bumbling around with maps, smart phone, texting, or jogging with headphones on and generally unaware of your surroundings. Criminals are looking for this behavior. By the time that something’s amiss and you’re worried, they may be upon you already. You don’t then have the time to react and consider, “OK, where am I going to take this? What is going to be my reaction and how am I going to get out of this?”
Pink Alert: The everyday level to live in – aware of your surroundings and paying attention to everything around you. Then if there’s a change and a dangerous situation arises , you have the time to avoid it from escalating. You are aware that danger may be lurking around you. Your focus and confidence shows. “This,” says Steinberg, “Is the ideal state to be in when you become aware of a concrete threat.”
Orange Alert: You’ve identified a problem. You know that something could happen at this point, perhaps you’ve been followed and a threatening person is near you or they’ve come too close. The thought is, “Now I need to figure this out.” You’re at an elevated level to react to a physical situation. Confident and focused, you stay like that ready to protect yourself until the threat has moved on.
Red Alert: The fight is on and you must act: screaming, running away or reaching for a weapon. You know you need to escape. The objective is to save yourself.
Steinberg’s Travel Safety Tips:
- Make copies of documents and upload them into email (or use the free Dropbox service). If you lose the originals you have a way to assist the authorities in helping you as well.
- Never keep all your money in one place. If you have two credit cards, keep one with you and the other somewhere safe. If you get robbed, then you have another source of money to help you get out.
- Keep your bags with you all the time and be aware of them, just like they say at the airport.
- Don’t keep wallet in the back of your pants. Keep cash in the wallet and a pocket with a little money that’s easy for you to access. If someone’s looking, they’ll go for where they saw you pull the money out and you’ve misdirected them to the small, easier cash. Replenish that pocket cash as you go.
- Don’t trust strangers. Be friendly with the natives but do your due diligence. Go online to different forums when planning your trip. People who’ve been victimized at your destination will give you advisories on how to keep from being hurt.
These are just a few travel safety tips on how to protect yourself. What others have you discovered?