Play It Safe
by Tina Groeger
Have you ever been in a situation where you weren’t sure what to do? I'm a teen mentor for a program called Girls LEAP. LEAP stands for Leadership Empowerment and Awareness Program, and it gives girls the physical and mental skills to defend themselves in scary situations. Knowing and practicing how to react in a dangerous situation is important for everyone, but especially for girls. Here are some guidelines on how to be safe in uncomfortable or threatening situations:
Walk On By
On the street or in a deserted area, if a stranger approaches and you don’t feel comfortable, don't talk to him. Continue walking to the nearest public place—a store, library, or police or fire station. If the person is very threatening, get attention by yelling "Fire!" rather than "Help!" since more people are likely to respond. In general, always walk with someone else or in a group and avoid shortcuts through deserted areas.
If you’re at home alone and a stranger is at the door, keep the door locked. Look through the window or peephole to see who’s there and ask who they are—and don't open the door unless it’s a trusted person. If the person won’t go away or tries to get in, call 911. If a stranger calls on the phone, never say that you’re home alone. If he asks for your parents, say they’re busy and can't come to the phone. If the caller says things that scare you, hang up and call a trusted adult or dial 911.
On the Internet, in any public area (like a chat room or message board), never give out your name, address, phone number, school name or any other information that someone could use to identify you. Also, it’s very dangerous to meet someone you've only talked to online. If you’re meeting someone for the first time, ALWAYS meet in public places and ALWAYS have a parent with you. Just because someone says they’re a kid in an email doesn’t mean they’re telling the truth.
Keep Your Hands to Yourself
At school, if someone sexually harasses you—makes inappropriate comments, touches you, or does anything else that makes you uncomfortable—the first thing you should do is firmly tell him to stop. If you’re scared or uncomfortable, you may say "no" while nervously laughing or smiling, and that sends a mixed message to the harasser. As soon as possible, tell a trusted adult and be persistent until someone takes you seriously. Your school is required by law to listen and take action against any type of harassment. For more information, visit www.aauw.org/7000/ef/harass/index.html.
Love Me Tender
If you’re in a dating relationship, be aware of any abusive behavior. A relationship with someone who’s overly jealous, tries to control you, puts you down, or scares or threatens you, is abusive. First, talk to your partner and explain how you feel. Talk to a friend or trusted adult because the more isolated you are, the more control your partner has over you. You can also call a hotline to get help.
In any uncomfortable situation, always use caution and common sense to make decisions about what to do. Trust your own judgment and always feel free to talk to other people about how to stay safe.
A CALL FOR HELP
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)
National Youth Crisis Hotline (advice about many issues 24/7)
© 2003 New Moon® Publishing, New Moon®: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams, Duluth MN.
Content last reviewed May 15, 2008
Page last updated October 31, 2013