"But it is the men who are attacking the women. If there is to be a curfew, let the men stay at home."
So responded Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meier to a 1950s suggestion that fewer women would be assaulted if all were asked to stay inside. While few would suggest confining women to their homes after dusk in 2015, the burden placed on women to protect themselves from potential harm is nonetheless heavy still.
Many have explained why "what were you wearing?" and "why were you out so late?" are problematic responses to cases of assault. Both imply a woman should be held responsible for her own safety; that by wearing the wrong thing or going to the wrong place at the wrong time, she has failed to prevent her own victimhood.
Yet even more earnest, well-intentioned commands to simply "be careful" take for granted how much energy and preparation "being careful" actually entails. "Practicing caution" can be frightening. "Watching your back" can be expensive. "Staying safe" can be exhausting.
Across packed cities, small towns and sprawling suburbs, many women adopt daily behaviors in order to feel safer that are rarely discussed in broader conversations about preventing assault. Altogether, these small behavioral modifications amount to an atmosphere where women's mobility is dictated by safety concerns. We asked our community, both within The Huffington Post newsroom and on Facebook, to share some of the things they do to "be careful."
For many, the actions listed below are small-scale habits practiced on a daily basis, often based on negative past experiences. They are not a guarantee of safety, but reached for as a first line of defense. Few would say these are things a woman should have to do to prevent an assault. Many more will say they are the things she should have done to avoid it. Here are just 34 things women do to "stay safe(r)."
1. Walk with our keys grasped between our fingers in case we need to use them as a weapon. 2. Making sure to have the correct key out and ready before we get to our door3. When someone is walking closely behind us on the street, we stop to pretend to make a phone call or otherwise occupy ourselves to allow them to pass in front of us.4. Walk past our destination, particularly if it's our home, if someone has been trailing us for a while. 5. Scope out potential safe havens if someone appears to be following us.6. Stay in well-lit areas at night even if it means taking a longer route.7. Switch up our running routes to avoid potential stalkers learning our route. 8. Change direction if a car appears to be following us while we're walking on foot.9.Run outdoors with only one earbud in to keep the other on our surroundings. 10. Pretend to listen to music while walking by men who attempt to engage with us. 11. Change the locks when housekeys are misplaced.12.Take alternative routes to avoid areas we know we are likely to face street harassment. 13. Cross the street when we see men who look like they might be drunk.14. Late at night, cross to the other side of the street when anyone is walking towards us. 15. Avoid eye contact with men trying to get our attention. 16. Decide the cost of a taxi is worth it. 17. Avoid entering stairwells or elevators occupied by only one other person who is a stranger.18. Text a friend before going out for a run or on a date with a stranger. 19. Avoid social situations if a man whose prior advance made us uncomfortable might be there. 20. Decide not to open Facebook messages from unknown men, who could see the message has been "Read" and become hostile and harassing. 21. Never open the door for someone we're not expecting and stay still until the doorbell stops ringing.22. When bringing heavy bags and packages into the house or apartment, locking and unlocking the door with every trip. 23. Avoid sleeping naked in case of an intruder or on-looker. 24. Buy pepper spray: for the purse, for the car, one for the home. 25. Make sure we're not the only woman on the subway car or bus.26. Avoid getting off at our bus or train stop if a man who has been staring exits at the same time. 27. Check our mirrors frequently while driving, noting characteristics and license plate numbers of cars trailing close behind. 28. Driving in a circle if we sense we might be followed.29. Park next to a light post when it's dark outside. 30. Wear a hoodie when driving late at night to appear male to other drivers. 31. Check for an official city medallion number when entering a taxi. 32. Never leave a drink unattended at a party. 33. Run outside in baggy clothes, even if it's hot, to decrease the chances of unsolicited commentary on our anatomy. 34.Making sure we have enough cell phone battery life before leaving one location to last until we get to another.
Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center's website.