It’s holiday season, and we’re all more prone to accidents, thefts, and acts of violence during holiday season.
Over the years, I have been in some very sticky situations through my work and my travels. Most of them would have been resolved quickly, particularly if we lived in a fair society that promotes fair treatment of colored individuals under the law. But we don’t live in fair times, fair societies, or fair contexts. We live in societies where our “friends” will continue to haunt the bars where we get attacked by neo-Nazi assholes in Budapest, and where only money ensures our rights to justice, in situations where we are falsely accused of not paying our tabs (thank heavens for credit cards that provide solid proof in the face of doubt and institutionalized brutality).
As it’s the holiday season, and particularly because women are susceptible to more acts of violence, theft, and possible rape and violations, these are some of the tips I’ve learned about remaining safe over the years.
Several of these tips are derived from a friend who was a high ranking officer with the French Secret Service. He gave me some quick tips, early this winter, of what to do if I am ever stuck in a situation where my life in endangered. I share these with you today, because I know how horrible it is to lose a passport, and all your cash. It happened to me in London, and again in Belgium. As a midget, I am a likely target, but I have learned over the years, that there are certain things you can do to make yourself less of a target.
1. Try to limit the number of bags you carry to a trolley and a backpack. The more bags you have, the more susceptible you are to thieves. When you pack, also make sure that your cash is separated into different parts of your bags. DEFINITELY don’t pack all your valuables in one place, and if you do, they should go at the bottom of your backpack, not the top.
2. Don’t try to help strange men who appear as though they are handicapped. No, really. You’re not being cruel by doing this. You’re just watching out for your own safety. Notorious rapist Ted Bundy would often act as though he was a handicapped man in trouble, in order to lure unsuspecting women to his car, at which point he would disarm, rape, kill, and perform necrophiliac activities on them. Yup. It’s just as disgusting as it sounds. The man was responsible for over 30 deaths, and he did it because he LIKED killing women.
3. Don’t accept drinks from strangers. It could be tempting, but don’t do it. You are setting yourself up for roofies.
4. Keep a copy of your passport with you. If your passport gets stolen, your first stop should be the police station. If you’re in foreign parts in particular, do NOT attempt to leave the country without your passport, regardless of what the idiot police officers will tell you (this goes for Europe in particular, where the borders are unmonitored). As soon as you leave the country without a passport, you’re committing several international crimes. You need to stay and get your passport replaced from the country where it was stolen. And you can’t do this without a police report.
5. Keep your main credit card away from all your other cards. This saved me once, when I had everything I owned stolen from me in Brussels. This also almost ruined me, when the jerk who stole my bags in London ended up spending 2000 GBP on lingerie, and the card company almost didn’t give me my money back- until I found out that I could prove that I was filing a police report at the time, and the cops could put a time stamp on my whereabouts at the time of my supposed purchase of expensive lingerie (I mean, who spends 2000 GBP on lingerie purchases in one night anyway? Crazy thieves, of course).
6. Don’t put your shopping bags on the floor. Keep them on your chair, because professional thieves do use hooks to retrieve packages. This was precisely what happened when my bags were stolen in London. The thieves apparently followed me into the restaurant, and of all the shopping bags my friends and I had gathered over the course of two hours, mine were the only ones that was stolen.
7. Travel in groups as much as you can. Simultaneously, don’t try to take photographs with your expensive SLR camera in the busiest shopping streets in London. Lesson well learned.
8. Watch out for the travel alerts and heed them. As soon as you’re in Belgium, there are signs all over the subway and train systems that will tell you that professional pickpockets work on the platforms. Do take note.
9. Oftentimes, thieves travel in gangs, and one will try to distract you, while others will try to casually bump into you. The surprise element helps with ensuring you don’t know what is going to happen. Two friends had their passports stolen in Rome in this manner. Don’t fall for it.
10. Don’t be on your flashy phone while crossing the street in a dilapidated area of town. You’re automatically a target when you do this.
11. If you’re in a city that allows pepper spray, do carry pepper spray.
12. If you’ve been abducted and are stuck in a car’s trunk, do note that you can kick out the headlights from inside. I’m pretty sure that a passing car would notice flailing feet from the road you’re on.
13. Act crazy. Scream, shout, bite if you must, pull their hair out, be weird- do it. No one wants to rape someone who they think will do something freaky during the act.
15. Someone trying to limit your hand movements? Spit in their face. If you have a hand free, aim straight for their eyes and then run. Run screaming. Scream like you’ve never screamed before. Really.
16. If you’re brown, black, or any other color that is not white, DO NOT trust the cops to help you. If Ferguson was any indication of cop mentalities, as it should have been, don’t trust the cops. If he’s not enough indication of clear cut police tendencies towards brutality, Eric Garner should be indication. Don’t. I’ve never met a police officer who has actually tried to help me. Once, I was in a cab where the driver made an illegal turn, and the police officers became busy arresting him. When I asked them how I was supposed to get back home in the middle of the night being 20 blocks away from the nearest subway station, their response was simply to shrug and drive away.
17. Most people know their rapists and molesters. Be aware of who you trust. Knowing your assailant is what makes life difficult for many people. They feel ashamed because they let their guard down momentarily. I’ve had women from all walks of life all over the world, who have come and spoken to me about their dealings with men. These acts were horrific, and horrendous, and 99 percent of the time, these women knew their molesters. Don’t put yourself in situations where you are alone with someone who has expressed any kind of romantic interest in you, and I mean completely alone in isolated areas. Some men are never to be trusted.
18. If you’re out drinking, space your drinks with water so you’re not hammered. You live once. Don’t put yourself in a situation which you will regret for the rest of your life. Yeah, I agree, it should be on the man to not rape you. Great thinking, but unfortunately, we live in a patriarchal misogynistic world where men get away with more crap than they should. So don’t make yourself extra vulnerable when you don’t need to be.