Saturday, 11 May 2013

Safety in the City Pt. 2 - Parking Lots

I have had a few women ask me about what to do in parking lots when they need to get to their car at the end of the night. As a woman, I know that walking to your car when it's dark and there are few people around can be a pretty nerve-wracking experience, and can certainly be highly stressful. Many women know the basics about safety, but I'll include a few ideas that might make you feel safer: 
  • If possible, have security escort you to your car. I know that this sounds overly obvious, but many women tend to shy away from actually doing this out of the worry that they are bothering the security guards or because they think that they are being silly and that they shouldn't have to ask staff to escort them anywhere. Again, this is a mentality that many women need to move away from. We are the only ones in charge of our safety, and we most definitely aren't bothering security guards whose job it is to provide security. Ask nicely, and it shouldn't be a problem. You might have to wait a few minutes if they are busy, but I'd always rather wait a few minutes and be escorted with peace of mind than to venture out alone in a dark parking lot if it's unnecessary. If there are no security guards around, see if a friend or female co-worker can walk with you to your car. If you are alone, you can always enlist another woman to walk in the general direction of your car, or to stand by the door and make sure that you get to your car safely.
  • Walk in the middle of row - Most people tend to walk right beside the rows of cars
    Red arrow - danger zone
    Green arrow - safer, in the middle of the rows
    (...obviously in an effort to avoid being run over). However, when you are walking through a parking lot by yourself and there aren't many people around, resist this urge and try to walk in the middle of the rows. Predators rely on surprise in order to gain control of their victims, so if anyone is waiting for you behind a car, they'll have to jump out from the cars to the middle of the lot, giving you time to react and to hopefully run to safety. 
  • Have your keys out and ready before you even walk into the parking lot. Again, predators are looking for easy victims, and by minimizing your vulnerability, you are significantly less likely to be targeted. Having to spend time fumbling through your purse means that you are distracted and an easy target. 
  • Fake a phone call - Another great tactic is to take out your phone and fake a phone call to a husband, boyfriend or male friend. "Oh, you're just at the end of the parking lot? Great, I'm walking to my car now so I'll meet you in about 30 seconds. Football practice went well? Well, I'm not surprised, you're the biggest guy on the team!" If anyone is in earshot, it will deter them if they think that someone else is around (especially if that someone is the biggest person on their football team). You always want to give the illusion that you aren't alone, whether you fake a phone call, or call out to an imaginary person at the end of the parking lot, or even if you wave back at someone who you are pretending is watching you.
  • Walk with purpose, be alert - Keep your head up, your eyes alert, your hands free (that means phone in your pocket or purse), and your ears open (no iPods). Make use of all your senses so that your intuition has accurate data to work with. Additionally, when you are walking, make sure that you do so with your shoulders back and that you are walking with purpose and confidence. You want to project how confident and strong you are, which will make you less likely to be targeted. 
  •  Park underneath a light, and as close to the door as possible - Again, this is to minimize your vulnerability. Darkness is the predator's ally, because it means that they can move more easily without being detected. 
  • Avoid rear, side, or secluded exits where possible - try to use the main entrance, because it will have the most traffic, and will usually be monitored by security cameras. 
Wear comfortable shoes - in the even that you need to run, having sensible shoes can make a big difference. Additionally, the clacking sound of a pair of high heels in an echoing, empty parking lot is an immediate auditory signal that you are a woman by herself. Certainly not the signal we want to send. 

Remember, it is important to be alert, but to have level-10 anxiety anytime you go through a parking lot is silly. Being in a state of constant anxiety actually dulls our intuitive senses; be smart, follow the tips that I have listed above, but above all, listen to your senses:
  • Do you hear anyone (footsteps, breathing, soft talking, music playing, etc)? 
  • Do you see anyone (shadows moving, reflections on surfaces, a pair of feet behind a car)?
  • Do you smell anything (cologne, deodorant, fresh laundry from clothing, food)? 
  • Is there a legitimate cause for concern that your intuition has picked up on using your senses, or are you simply worried because you're by yourself, it's dark and you're in a parking lot? 
Learning to listen to your listen to your intuition and to develop your intuitive senses should actually be a very freeing experience, and will teach you to let go of unfounded anxieties and concerns. Again, you should always be mindful of your surroundings, take precautions to reduce your risk and be smart in your choices, but to be on high anxiety all the time when it is unfounded is simply unnecessary, a waste of time, and only serves to reinforce your fears and anxieties. 

*Recommended reading: Chapter 2, "The Technology of Intuition" in Gavin de Becker's book The Gift of Fear


  1. I dunno about faking a phone call. Not only is it a bluff but it also takes attention away from watching and listening to your surroundings. And, given the size of modern cell phones, partially blinds your vision on the side in which you're holding it.

    I agree with you about the keys, though. I am always trying to get my wife to have her keys ready before the exits a store and to stop fiddling with her purse after she gets in. Can we say "target"?

  2. I think that maybe it would be safer to suggest that someone fake a phone call if they keep the following in mind: 1) you're not actually on the phone, so you don't even need to necessarily have it out; you might want to just walk with your hand close to your ear like you were pretending to hold an older, smaller phone 2) if you are going to fake a phone call, you should make sure to continue to scan and keep your senses finely tuned to your surroundings, and 3) the phone call should only be done when you're already in transit to the car, so keep the pace you're moving at quick. Hopefully anyone who is close enough to you to hear your conversation doesn't have the intention of hurting you, but you never know. I like the idea of a predator knowing that the woman has someone close by that could help out or get in the way of an attack.