Unsafe In My Own Skin

In the wake of all the tragedies that are befalling our nation’s women, the safety of women in Trinidad and Tobago has come under immense scrutiny.

Outraged citizens and pressure groups are lobbying for the implementation of stricter penalties for the perpetrators of these heinous acts against women. Some citizens are calling for the legalization of non-lethal weapons such as pepper spray and tasers, while others are encouraging women to join self-defense classes as a means of protecting themselves. Opinion leaders are also urging women to educate themselves and to become more vigilant of their surroundings.

For me, the discourse about women’s safety ought to begin with the perpetrators, as understanding the reason for the said behaviour(s) is fundamental to finding the solution. Research has shown that perpetrators are predominantly male. The irony of this is alarming as a man’s role should be one of a protector, yet some protectors are the very same predators that we as women must protect ourselves from. Notwithstanding that there are cases where women are actively involved in carrying out these acts. It is sad to say that it seems as though some women are their own enemy.

Perhaps part of the solution is dialogue. Notably, there is a paradigm shift in the narrative as it was once taboo for victims to speak out, for fear of discrimination and victimization. As it is commonly heard, “She look for that!” It is therefore refreshing to see campaigns like The ‘Life in Leggings’, which aims to give a voice to the voiceless by inspiring women to share their stories. While dialogue is important, there is no one off solution, as there should be a holistic approach to dealing with women’s safety. Dialogue would be useless, if there is no action to follow.

But when did human trafficking, kidnapping, murder, rape and other forms of physical and verbal abuse become an imminent threat? To be honest, our twin island republic has been plagued by these ills for some time; however, it appears that it is becoming more prevalent every day. The under-mentioned are some safety tips for women:

  • Always, always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Drive with your doors locked and windows up and park in well-lit areas.
  • If placed into the trunk of a car, kick out the back taillights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy. The driver won’t see you, but everybody else will.
  • If you have to defend yourself, aim for body parts on your attacker that are tender and cannot be strengthened.
  • Use apps like Women Safety, which will inform and update your close ones if you are in an unsafe place.
  • Do not talk on your cell phone while walking by yourself.
  • If walking by yourself, hold your cell phone and be ready to make an emergency call.
  • When asking for directions and someone offers to show you the way by having you follow them, do not go, just ask for them to point you in the right direction.
  • If someone tries to grab you, twist your arm up and down and yell, “Stop!” Do anything you can to draw attention to yourself.
  • Always pour your own drink at a party or watch the bartender as he/she is preparing your drink.
  • If someone is chasing after you, run away in a zig-zag pattern. This will exhaust your attacker.
  • Inform your family and friends about your whereabouts, the colour, make and license plate number of the vehicle that you are travelling in.
  • Have a friend accompany you to your home or car.
  • Keep the bushes around your house trimmed so that someone doesn’t have a place to hide.
  • Watch your use of social media. Be careful not to give out too much information that someone else will know your schedule and can figure out when you’re most vulnerable.
  • Take a self-defense class.
  • If you feel as though you are being followed on your way home, do not stop at your house.
  • Trust your gut.

Do not be another statistic. Your safety is your prerogative!

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