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10 Personal Safety Tips for Tweens and Teens

I get really mad whenever I think about people who harm girls and women. Crime statistics reveal that 1 in 6 women will be a victim of sexual assault in their lifetime and 1 in 4 on their college campus! The good news is that the majority of attacks on women and girls are preventable.

How do I know attacks are preventable? Unfortunately, by experience. I am the mother of a girl who was attacked by a stranger. When my daughter Amber was 14 years old, she was grabbed off her bicycle one block from our home, thrown into this bad guy’s car, and driven to a secluded area to be raped.

But things didn’t go down as he planned because this bad guy hadn’t chosen a “perfect victim.” He chose a smart, prepared girl who had a smart mother who is a black belt and who had taught her to fight for her life if she were ever grabbed. Amber did fight back, screamed for help, escaped, and lived to tell. I am happy to report that she is 35 years old now and the mother of my two perfect, little granddaughters.

I’d like to give you a few safety tips for keeping yourself safer from harm.

1. Act confidently (even if you aren’t). Bad men and women, “mean girls”, bullies, and aggressive boys are weak people who want to overpower and pick on people who are weaker than they are. But if you look strong and confident, they won’t want to mess with you. This is how to pretend that you’re confident. Stand up straight. Shoulders back. Chin up. Look people in the eye. If threatened, speak in a strong way-say things like “No, I won’t!” “Go away!” “Leave me alone!” “Back off!” Report all acts of intimidation and violence to a trusted adult. A little secret: The longer you pretend you’re confident, the more confident you will actually become.

2. Be brave, be strong. Studying a martial art or taking a self-defense course will help you become a confident, brave, and strong person very quickly. Plus it will teach you how to defend yourself if you are ever grabbed by a dangerous person.

3. Trust your gut feelings. If someone or something feels creepy, scary, or weird, trust your feelings! Your gut feelings are always right. Get out of there quickly!

4. Go out in pairs and avoid unlit areas and dangerous situations. Never, never go out alone if at all possible. Exercise, date, shop, and do everything else with a friend or two.

5. Carry a cell phone. If you have a cell phone, carry it with you to call 911, if needed. If you don’t have a cell phone, you can get one that only calls 911 for around $10 per month. Also, ask your parents if they would feel comfortable with you carrying mace with you on your keychain or in your purse.

6. It’s okay NOT to be nice sometimes. I know your parents and teachers have taught you to be polite and nice to others. And that’s wonderful. BUT…when it comes to strangers, it’s safer to be cool and aloof. Avoid strangers and if one speaks to and makes you feel uncomfortable, or touches you-run away, call 911, get help.

7. Dangerous guys. Most guys are nice and respectable. BUT…there are many guys out there who harm girls and women. They are the ultimate bullies. Keep this constantly in mind when you go on dates: Violence of any sort (verbal, mental, physical) is UNCOOL and UNACCEPTABLE and DANGEROUS! Get away and stay away from that person immediately. Shoving, hitting, degrading, carrying a weapon, and threatening are all acts of violence. No amount of violence is acceptable in your world. You deserve to be treated with respect always.

8. The Internet can be a dangerous place. Please, please be aware of the danger of entering into online relationships. Don’t give out too much personal information, like your real name, address, or phone number. If you decide to meet face to face with this person, take a parent or a trusted adult along.

9. If grabbed by someone, yell your head off and fight back! Then run for help. My 14 year old daughter Amber saved her life when she was attacked by fighting back and yelling for help. A man a block away heard her cries and ran to help her. The bad guy let her go and drove away.

10. Help others who are being harmed. If you witness an act of violence, all 911. Create a lot of noise to draw the attention to the scene. Don’t keep quiet about it. Report all attacks to a trusted adult and to the police.

Be safe out there! The world needs great girls and women like you!