Staying Safe During the Darker Evenings
When I was asked to put something together for women’s safety and the darker months, I realised there wasn’t actually a huge amount of difference between what I would normally advise and what I would change, just because it is now darker earlier.
So much of what I teach in my classes and workshops is based on common sense and once you hear the advice it dawns on you how much of it is obvious, but you don’t always necessarily action it on a day to day basis.
So here are my top tips and advice about staying safe generally when out and about – not only in the darker month but ideally all year round.
Be Aware Of Your Surroundings
Stay alert. Put away your phone, your headphones and any other distractions. You cannot be aware of people behind you or around you if you cannot hear them! Apart from making you a mugging target, your phone is the number one distraction on the street that stops you from being aware of your surroundings.
If you’re walking or running or taking your usual route, take note and pay attention to anything that feels unusual or out of the norm. This includes a car or van that isn’t usually parked in your road or cul-de-sac.
In fact, make this an action you take, every time you are out and about – whether it is dark or not!
Similarly before getting into your parked car, have a quick check around to make sure you weren’t followed or there isn’t somebody watching or tailing you.
Stick to well-lit paths, main roads and busy trains stations etc. They are more likely to have members of the public around and hence generally safer. Same goes for walks and runs, try to stick to times when it is light and a path that you know is well used. If you are going during darker hours think of grabbing yourself a running or walking buddy so you aren’t alone.
Trust Your Instincts
I’m a huge advocate of this. Your gut instinct and intuition is rarely wrong. If something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t. If something or someone makes you feel uncomfortable don’t override your gut instinct and ignore it. Head to somewhere safe or public (shops, restaurants etc.) where you can either get help or you can wait till it feels safe to head out again.
Plan Your Journey
Know where you are going to go or parking. If you are using public transport or the tube make sure you know the timetables of trains/buses etc, so you aren’t left secluded or stranded. If you are parking the car ALWAYS park in a well-lit car park, in an area frequented by other members of the public. If you are our travelling by yourself, drop a friend or family member your ETA so they know when you should arrive at your destination or be back home.
Be organised and ready if you know you are going to be out alone. This means take cash out at ATM’s etc. whilst out in daylight hours. If this isn’t possible, use an ATM inside a convenience store rather than out in the street, where you are more likely to be targeted in the dark.
Have your keys ready in your pocket or in an easy to access place before approaching your car or front door. There’s nothing worse than fumbling in multiple pockets or your bag searching for them, especially when it’s dark. You need to be able to get into your car or front door as soon as possible, so get organised before leaving the safety of the office/restaurant/club or venue you were at.
In Your Car
As mentioned previously, always park in a well-lit car park and ideally close to the exit or entrance, so you don’t have a long walk alone through the car park to or from your car.
Get into the habit of reverse parking into spaces so you can get out quickly if need be. Similarly when parking on your drive way reverse park so you can clearly see if someone is approaching you from the street.
Learn to lock your car doors, blindly on auto pilot as soon as you get into your car. Not once you have got settled, checked messages, put on your seat belt etc. Do it straight away. Practice being able to do this without thinking about it. Don’t sit in your car checking your phone, especially in a car park or late at night, even if your doors are locked. Get home or to your destination before pulling your phone out.
Keep Your Hands As Free As Possible
Ideally, carry a shoulder bag or a bag with a strap so your hands can remain free. I strongly advocate AGAINST carrying keys or any other items in your hands as a ‘weapon’. It’s not realistic and gives you a false sense of security. Keep your hands free so you can use them as a weapon if need be.
Learn Some Effective Self Defence Skills.
Nothing will replace knowing some basic effective self defence skills. For me they are a life skill, every female should know. They will give you confidence as well as heighten your sense of awareness to your surroundings.
Find yourself a good self defence instructor – which isn’t necessarily the same as a martial arts instructor. Whether they are male or female is personal choice, but ensure it’s someone who understands violence and how it happens. Do your research and find someone who can teach you from a women’s perspective.
Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. Always happy to help!
I’m Gully/ Gulshen and I’m owner and instructor of ‘Strike Back Self Defence for Women.’ A women’s only Krav Maga Self Defence school.
I specialise in teaching women and girls how to defend themselves using practical easy to learn self defence techniques. It is my mission to empower women and girls so they are confident and able to protect themselves no matter where they are. I run the only ‘Women’s only’ Krav Maga school in the UK. I’m super proud of this and the journey to get here has been a long one! But I believe I’ve finally found what I was meant to have done all along and I love what I do with a passion!
My background couldn’t be more different, I’m a Pharmacist by profession with over 20yrs of experience. But a number of incidents and physical attacks I experienced during my time as a pharmacist sent me looking for a way I could protect myself and my young boys.
This is when I came across Krav Maga and during my journey of learning this self defence system, I realised how much other women needed to learn this too. However often the biggest obstacle standing in the way of women who wanted to learn was the lack of a safe ‘women’s only space.’
I found the very women who needed to learn how to protect themselves were being prevented from doing so! Whether it was due to cultural, religious, personal or trauma related reasons, women simply did not have a space they could learn real effective self defence skills away from men and more importantly with a female instructor! And so Strike Back Self Defence for Women was born.
Today a number of years on I proudly teach women and girls in classes, workshops and 1-2-1 sessions both here in the UK and across the globe.
I am honoured to also be the UK Women’s Self Defence coordinator for the DV charity Hopefull Handbags. Through their amazing work I have had the privilege to teach and empower women and girls globally in places as far as Trinidad, Mexico and the Caribbean. As a petite woman at 5’0” tall I totally understand violence from a woman’s perspective and I am also proof that you don’t need to be a huge powerful figure to be able to protect yourself.