About a month ago, at a networking breakfast, one woman asked what I thought are the three most important things every woman needs to do for safety as she walks out her door. As typical at these events, each person gets only a minute or two to tell about themselves and their business, so I kept my response short yet informative. But for you, I elaborated a little.
1. You've heard this before, over and over. Be aware. Of the environment, of other people around, of the season, of the atmosphere. If anything is unusual or out of place, keep it in your awareness. One woman was just outside her office on break; she heard shouting and saw a well-groomed and nicely dressed man apparently yelling at anyone and everything as he strode down the street. Confident that no harm could come from such a well-attired individual, she turned her attention away. Moments later she found herself getting choked by that same young man. (Yes, she escaped.)
2. Many of you may have heard this one also. And if you haven't, you'll immediately recognize it's obvious veracity. Extend your awareness into yourself, particularly when out in public. Are you daydreaming, planning your current work project, fuming about your spouse's lack of consideration over washing the breakfast dishes? Or maybe you're under the weather, ill, or depressed. If you appear inattentive or distracted you are more likely to be perceived by a potential perp as an easy target. See my blog post of September 8, 2006 (it's an audio file, so you'll actually have to hear--rather than see--it).
3. Finally, NEVER let the thought of embarrassment get in the way of your safety. I routinely hear from women of being approached by a man who seems very nice and friendly, but within minutes it turns to a verbal assault and often progresses to a physical assault. And many of these women do not yell or create a scene because they didn't want to be embarrassed. Remember, nobody ever really died of embarrassment.