Friday, 31 May 2013

Safety in the City - 5 safety tips for when you are out partying

It's the weekend. You and your girlfriends have decided that it's time to go out and have a few drinks and hit the dance floor wearing your super cute new dress and stunning new, impractical heels (sometimes it's all about fashion before function!). What are some things you can do to maximize your safety and reduce risks when you are out and about the downtown core? 
Look hot AT the club, not while you're getting there

1. Dress appropriately while in transit - If you wanna dress up in super tight clothing, wear barely-there miniskirts and tops that plunge to your navel, I say do whatever floats your boat; however, you need to be prepared for the fact that you will attract unwanted attention along with the welcomed attention. This might be anyone from your cab driver, to creepy guys on the streetcar, or weirdos that you pass on the street while you're walking to the club/bar. I strongly suggest that you cover up (wear a hoodie) on your way to your destination. Risk- reduction is a huge part of self-defense, and unwanted attention carries some very real risks to your safety. Now, some women say, "I should be able to dress any way I want!" You're right. You should be able to, and indeed you can, though you need to be aware that this also makes you a target for men who will use your manner of dress as an excuse to victimize you. Let me very clear about something though: no matter what you are wearing, no one has the right to touch you. If you are ever assaulted and you have friends who say, "well, you shouldn't have been wearing such suggestive clothing", that's victim-blaming, sister. Push that thought right outta your head and report what happened immediately to the police (and more importantly, don't let an officer or friends make you ever feel that being assaulted was your fault or could have been prevented. If the first officer you talk to says that, ask to deal with a different officer). 

2. Drinks - Date rape is a real and scary thing. I, unfortunately, have had a few friends experience this terrible reality, and would like to give you a few tips to avoid this at all costs. There's the obvious things to do: don't accept drinks from strangers, go out with friends, etc. But let's go a step beyond that:
  • THIS IS A LOT MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK IT IS. These drugs are easily accessible and widely available. Don't think, "oh he looks so clean cut/he would never hurt me/he's so well-off, he doesn't seem like the type." Predators are manipulative chameleons who will do their best to make you think that they are charming, nice, trustworthy, and above all, that they would never seem like the type to hurt you. We need to get over this type of thinking, ladies.  
  • If someone is going to buy you a drink, walk to the bar with them and watch the bartender pour it and make sure that the bartender hands it directly to you.
  • Once you have your drink, walk around the club with your hand over the top of the cup. You'd be surprised how easily a predator can slip something into your drink without you noticing. Don't forget, these men literally watch and wait for the split second that you're not paying attention. I've seen people also place napkins over their drinks for the same purpose (which is even better).
  • Don't leave your drink unattended, even for an instant. If you have to go to the bathroom, have a sober girlfriend HOLD (not watch) your drink. If you put your cup down and forget about it, only to remember about it later, forget it and just buy a new drink. Not worth the risk. 
  • Alcohol affects women differently than men because women also produce less alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol, than men. In other words, if a man and woman with the same weight drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman’s blood alcohol content will be higher. 
  • Around the time of your menstrual cycle, you may get drunk more quickly. 
  • Women’s bodies process alcohol more slowly than men’s, so the effects take longer to wear off.
  • Eat before you head out, space out your drinks, and try to drink water as often as possible
  • Don't ever drink from an open punch bowl at a house party. The risk is simply too high. 
3. Buddy System - You definitely don't need to be glued to the hip all night, but keep an eye on each other, and make sure that everyone gets to and from the party/club/bar safely. If you're going to the bathroom or to check out another room in a club, tell your friends before you go. No one likes to play the babysitter to that one obscenely drunk friend, but it's a small price to pay to make sure someone you care about gets home safely (besides, they will undoubtedly return the favour for you at some point). 

Your friend might not necessarily be at risk in terms of date-rape drugs though. Think about these tips to help steer a drunk friend away from danger (maybe she's mouthing off to another drunk girl and you see a fight brewing):

DIVERT your friend's attention away from continuing consumption of alcohol:
a) Change location: "Let's go some place else for a while"
b) Change activity: "Let's go sit in the lounge for a bit" 
c) Change beverage: "Let's grab some water, eh?"
d) Compliments: "Those are super cute shoes! Where did you get them? Tell me everything."

DIFFUSE an explosive situation by distancing your friend from the location:
a) "Let's go outside and grab some air" 
b) "Let's go to _____'s apartment to wind down"
c) Let's go there (i.e. across the room) and see who we can find" 

DEESCALATE strong emotions by introducing friends into the situation:
a) Get help. "Jenn, Claudia - I need your help over here." 
b) Make direct eye contact with your friend and always speak in a calm manner. This helps to transfer your own calm feelings to your buddy. 
c) Ask your friend to step back, take a breath and sit down for a second. 

4. Getting home - Avoid going home by yourself, if possible, particularly when you are really drunk. Being really drunk means that your judgment is not only impaired, but it also makes you particularly vulnerable to predators (including your cab driver). Additionally, plan out your route home before you start to drink so that you know exactly where you are going and how long it should take. Make sure that either the cab driver or the friend who is dropping you at home at the end of the night sees you safely into your house from the car. 

5. Know a few phone numbers by heart - always good to know your bestie's phone number off by heart in case your phone is stolen/you lose it and you get into some trouble. If your best firend isn't the most reliable woman, have a couple solid people's numbers memorized who you can rely on at any time of day. Of course, always keep your cell charged before you go out. 

Above all, be smart and have fun (in that order). 


  1. You continue to give some great 'pre-event' self-defence tips to women in all your posts. I hope your blog is being well read because it is so important for women everywhere. Thank you

    1. Thanks for the support, Sue! I'm working on an article about defense against front chokes right now. I definitely want there to be martial arts content mixed into the prevention stuff, too!

  2. One of my former coworkers was/is a serious party girl who suspected she'd been roofied on more than one occasion. Your remarks about how to prevent drink-tampering made me think of her and I forwarded your article to her in hopes she might pick a few things up.

  3. That's scary. I'm writing an article that will probably be posted sometime next week on what to do if you think you may have been roofied. Hope your friend is doing well.