A Personal Appeal To Women: Don’t Be A Statistic
Please do yourself a favor and arm yourself with something to keep you safe, like pepper spray. It just may save your life. It did mine.
UPDATES: After publishing the post, I remembered about the amazing EmergenSee mobile app, which I talk about below. And a friend alerted me to a legal alternative to pepper spay for people who live in regions where pepper spray is illegal, such as the UK, also added below.
I’ve never written a personal post before. I’m a pretty intensely private person, so I usually like to stick to business on my blog, with some shoes and shenanigans thrown in along the way. But I’m going to make an exception with this post. If it saves even one life from tragedy, stepping outside my comfort zone will be worth it.
I thought I was pretty safety conscious. I stay aware of my surroundings, shoot off the stink eye to questionable characters, avoid parking or even walking next vans with no windows, let a friend know if I’m meeting with someone from Craigslist to cash in on a good deal, etc. etc. Every once in a while an episode of Law and Order would alert me to a danger I hadn’t considered before, and I’d add a new line item to my mental list.
But then a stalker turned my world upside down. After a few incidents that creeped me out but didn’t seem to warrant a call to 911, he found out where I worked and who my boss was and left several incoherent and bizarre but vaguely threatening messages at his extension throughout the night. No one at my work knew I had a stalker. (See earlier note about being intensely private.) So when I got to work that morning, my boss’s assistant told me what had happened, and they put the place on lockdown. I was mortified by the spotlight and kind of embarrassed that I didn’t detect the signs that his stalking was escalating. I didn’t even know the guy’s last name.
Needless to say, this incident catapulted my personal world into a frenzy. I did learn his last name later that day and did an instant background check on him. He had a history of aggravated battery. Great. The good news was I had no problem getting a restraining order against him, and the judge made it permanent. But I was in a fog. I really never felt in danger from the stalking, more annoyed and baffled over why he was doing it. I barely knew the guy. And we had never dated or anything else that you would think would potentially trigger obsessive, stalking behavior.
I’m not writing about this because it’s fresh. It’s not even painful anymore. That weird season of my life is almost 10 years in my rear view mirror now. But the lessons I learned from a very wise crisis intervention counselor I had to meet with at the courthouse (part of the restraining order process) set me on a course I’m now very grateful for. She saw that I was in way over my head and went down a list of safety tips with me:
- Get some pepper spray and put it on your key chain.
- Stay alert when walking alone at night, especially in parking lots.
- Don’t talk on the phone, put headphones in, or look too distracted if you’re walking by yourself at night.
- Always look into your backseat before getting in your car.
- Invest in an alarm service
As you’ll see later in the post, little did I know at the time, the advice she gave me in that fateful meeting very likely saved my life several years down the line.