The risk of becoming a victim of crime is very low, but the best way to cut the risk is by taking sensible precautions. Find out:
Walking alone in the dark
If you often walk home in the dark, make sure you:
- get a personal attack alarm from a DIY shop and carry it in your hand so you can use it immediately to scare off an attacker. Make sure it is designed to continue sounding if it's dropped or falls to the ground
- carry your bag close to you with the clasp facing inwards
What if someone tries to grab my bag? Let it go. If you hang on, you could get hurt. Your safety is more important than your property.
- carry your house keys in your pocket
- don't take short-cuts through dark alleys, parks or across waste ground
- walk facing the traffic so a car cannot pull up behind you unnoticed.
If you think someone is following you, cross the street (more than once if necessary). If they also cross at the same points, they might be following you.
Do you still think they're following you? Get to the nearest place where there are other people like:
or anywhere with a lot of lights on, and call the police.
Avoid using an enclosed phone box in the street, as the follower could trap you inside.
Jogging and cycling alone
If you regularly go jogging or cycling, make sure you:
- stick to well-lit roads with pavements
- keep to main paths and open spaces where you can see and be seen by other people
- avoid wooded areas.
Listening to music? Remember you can't hear traffic or somebody approaching behind you.
There are many reputable mini-cab or private hire car companies, but these must be booked either at their office or by phone. Make sure you:
- keep the number of a reliable firm handy, and
- avoid mini-cabs or private hire cars that tout for business.
Before getting in
If you are going to be out late book a taxi before you leave home or try to arrange a lift home.
When booking a taxi ask for a description of the car, including make and model. Check the taxi matches the description when it arrives. If you gave your name when you booked, check that the driver can tell you it before you get in.
Don't feel safe? Don't get in. Call and book with another company instead.
When you're inside a taxi
Always sit behind the driver and check his driver identification.
Don't feel safe? If you feel uneasy for any reason, ask to be let out in a well-lit area where there are plenty of people.
When you get home
Ask the driver to wait until you are inside before driving off.
Preparing yourself for all possibilities could provide a split second advantage.
If someone threatens you
Shout and scream for help and set off your personal attack alarm if you have one. This may unnerve the attacker and frighten him off.
If it does not, throw the attack alarm away from you. The attacker will want the alarm to stop and go to pick it up, this is your chance to escape.
How can I defend myself
You have every right to defend yourself with reasonable force and with items which you have with you like an umbrella, hairspray or keys
it is against the law to carry anything which can be described as an offensive weapon.
Assaults and rapes are serious crimes, whether committed by a stranger or someone you know. Call the police straightaway. They need your help to catch the attacker. You can help the police by:
- taking the name or address of any witnesses
- trying to remember exactly what the attacker looked like
- if a car was involved, try to note the colour, model and registration number
- you do not need to go to the police station to report an assault, you can be interviewed in your own home if you wish. These crimes are dealt with sympathetically, regardless of sex. Police stations have specially trained officers who will help and support you, and many areas have comfortable victim suites, separate from the police station, where you can be interviewed privately
- although your immediate reaction will be to wash, try not to if you can possibly help it. It will destroy vital medical evidence that will help prove the case against the person who raped or assaulted you
- should your case come to trial, by law, your anonymity will be guaranteed if you are female, or under 18 years old. The law forbids newspapers to publish anything that might identify you. Also, as a general rule, you should not be asked about your previous sexual history in court
- if the violence is within your family, legal protection is possible under either civil or criminal law. In some cases, for example, they can require a partner not to enter your home, or even your neighbourhood. Further information is available on the domestic violence adult services page.
Men can help by taking the issue of women's safety seriously in their everyday lives. Bear these points in mind:
- if you are walking in the same direction as a woman on her own, don't walk behind her, this may worry her. Cross the road and walk on the other side. This may reassure her that you are not following her
- if you are thinking of chatting to a woman waiting, for example, at a lonely bus stop, remember that she won't know you mean no harm
- realise how threatening actions such as staring, whistling, passing comments and jostling can be, particularly when you are one of a group of men.