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Personal Safety Print E-mail

Living alone, going out and dating for the first time in many years can be a daunting prospect. Although the chances of attack from a stranger are far less likely than you may think, it is important to take reasonable steps to protect yourself.

man leering over woman at bar"There were times when I was out and about in London and I forgot that I was on my own after spending an evening in a crowded bar surrounded by men and women I didn't know but talked to after a few drinks. I would find myself in a situation in the early hours of the morning in a bar, with my credit cards on me, unsure of how I was going to get home or exactly where I was".

"This man came to the door and said he wanted to replace my roof tiles. He asked me if I was a single homeowner and without thinking I said yes. Before I knew it he disappeared through my side gate and into my back garden. He was extremely aggressive in trying to persuade me to part with cash as a deposit for work I hadn't asked him to do. Eventually I threatened to ring the police and he left."


At home

  • Fit a door chain, spy hole and outside lighting, and use them to identify callers
  • Ask for proof of identity before letting anyone in. Their card should include a photograph, name and company. Call the company to check if you are suspicious, and trading standards or the police if necessary
  • Never take time to talk to cold sellers or market researchers on your doorstep. Tell them you are busy and close the door
  • Keep expensive items out of view of windows. Use nets or blinds and ensure that your property is secure. Your insurance company and local police can offer advice on ensuring that your home is secure
  • Obscene phone calls are a criminal offence. If you receive obscene or nuisance calls call the police immediately
  • Whenever you are going out, leave a couple of lights on, including the outside light for your return. A radio is always good to leave on 
  • Always tell a trusted person if you are going away, but don't talk about it publicly. Get a timer switch for your lights 
  • Join your local neighbourhood watch scheme, which has the added advantage of reducing your contents insurance


Out and about 

  • Plan carefully, know how you are getting to and from from your destination and prepare for the unexpected 
  • If you are taking cards, take some spare cash as well for emergency telephone calls, taxi fares etc. Keep all of your cards and cash in separate pockets 
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back, or leave a note including details of anyone you might be meeting 
  • Look confident and remain alert at all times. Avoid drinking excessively when you are out alone and remain in control 
  • Avoid an aggressive stance and confrontation. Try not to cross your arms, wave your finger or make remarks that might offend others. Try not to touch others unnecessarily 
  • Do not assume it will not happen to you, and never ignore your instincts. If you have a funny feeling about a situation or someone, act on it


Walking 

  • Look confident and remain alert 
  • Dress appropriately and wear sensible shoes and loose clothing 
  • Stick to main routes and never take short cuts. At night walk along well-lit pathways and stick to residential or busy areas 
  • Always walk facing oncoming traffic 
  • If you do meet a problem walk away as fast as you. Head for a place where you know there will be people 
  • Yell or shout. Shouting 'fire' is usually a good way to get people's attention if you are out of the immediate view of other people!


Public Transport 

  • Plan your journey so that you wait at a well-lit bus stop or station on a main route, and know departure and return journey times
  • Have your ticket or the correct change ready 
  • In a train sit in a carriage with other people and on the bus avoid the top deck when it is empty 
  • Carry the telephone number and money for an emergency taxi 
  • Arrange for someone to meet you from the bus stop or train station if possible, or order a taxi if your house is not on a main road


Taxi 

  • Always carry the number of a reputable firm with you
  • Never take a lift from a taxi touting for business on a main road 
  • Book by telephone and ask for the drivers name and colour/make of the car 
  • If you are booking from a public phone, do not give your address and telephone number where people can hear you 
  • If possible share a taxi with a friend. Always sit in the back 
  • Have your house keys and money ready before you arrive home 
  • If you leave a light on before you leave home, it will look like someone is in waiting for you when you arrive home


Holidays 

  • Ask friends and family for recommendations and book with a reputable company
  • If you are travelling alone always keep your passport secure and money and travellers cheques in separate bags or pockets 
  • Check with the Foreign Office for up to date information on your holiday destination and further safety advice


Dating

If you are ready to date again, whether you are looking for a casual encounter or long term relationship, it is important to be safe The following advice offers a common sense approach to taking care of yourself but don't get paranoid - attacks are rare and as long as you are sensible we'll sure you'll have a great time

Clubbing and bars 

  • Never leave a drink unattended, and do not accept a drink from a stranger unless it is handed to you straight from the bar staff. If you think a drink tastes funny return it to the bar and ask for another one 
  • If you meet somebody and decide to leave with them, let someone one know, even if it means making a telephone call. With picture phones, it may even be possible to send a picture 
  • Make sure you know where you are going, and that you can get home from that area when you need to

Dating agencies/ blind dates

  • Always use a reputable agency and ensure that they do not pass personal data on to clients
  • If you are meeting somebody, ensure it is in a public place and trust your instincts, if you are uncomfortable, leave 
  • When applying to a personal ad or meeting through an agency be careful and realistic in your expectations 
  • If you are a single parent be cautious when advertising through agencies and personal ads. There are many people who prey on single parents for the wrong reasons

Internet dating 

  • Remember that people are not always what they seem on the Internet, tone of voice, posture and body language are things we rely on when making judgements about people and these are missing in a chatroom
  • Be careful not to give out personal details such as surname and where you live and work. With many internet sites offering personal search facilities, it will not take long for someone to find our your full address, telephone number and whether you live alone from a small amount of detail 
  • If you have children do not let on immediately and never declare this in a public chatroom. This may attract the wrong sort of attention 
  • If you decide to meet somebody make sure you meet in a public place. Let someone know where you are going and who you are meeting, and if possible ask for a photograph in advance. This way you can leave it with someone and check that the person you are meeting matches their picture 
  • Be realistic, Internet meetings can be exciting but the person you build up in your head will rarely match the person you actually meet

Links

Neighbourhood Watch
Includes online search for local schemes throughout the UK

Suzy Lamplugh Trust
Offering in-depth advice on all aspects of personal safety, also offers affordable personal alarms

Think You Know
Advice on using the Internet safely for children, parents and carers

Victim Support
Offering free, confidential support to the victims of crime

Also contact your local police station for advice on personal safety and safety within the home.

 
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