Key steps to staying safe
Staying safe means being in control, thinking carefully about what you are doing and trusting your instincts.
It’s very unlikely that anything serious will happen to you. When someone is attacked or goes missing, it often makes headline news. But, in fact, violent crimes, especially involving strangers, are rare.
Unfortunately, other forms of crime, including mobile phone theft, are becoming more common. Government figures show that in 2003 a third of 13- to 19-year-olds reported having money, a mobile phone or a bike stolen. One in 10 had been injured in an assault, and a further one in 10 had been threatened in a way that frightened them. Boys were 60% more likely to be victims of this sort of crime than girls.
The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to protect yourself and reduce the risk of this happening to you.
Before you go out think about where you are going, how you will you get there, and how you get back. Does someone know where you will be and when you expect to return?
Make sure your mobile phone is charged and has plenty of credit. Separate your valuables: keep your keys, phone and enough money for the journey home in your pockets in case you lose your bag.
If you are walking or cycling, stick to busy well-lit roads. Travelling on buses and trains is usually very safe, but make sure you stand in a well-lit area while you’re waiting for them to turn up.
If you’re using a taxi, always choose a registered car or minicab and try to book in advance rather than hailing one from the street. Share with a friend if you can and sit in the back if you’re on your own.
Meeting up with friends can make you feel safer but don’t let them pressure you into aggressive behaviour. Avoid confrontation with other groups and don’t let yourself be provoked.
If you need to use a cash machine, ask a friend to stand beside you. Watch out for people standing behind you and, if you feel uncomfortable, cancel the transaction.
Try to travel home with a friend. If you are travelling home alone by public transport, ask someone to meet you at the bus stop or station.
Staying safe in pubs and clubs
There are around 23,000 alcohol-related incidents in Britain every year. Regular visitors to pubs and clubs are twice as likely to be victims of assault. But there are things you can do to protect yourself in these environments.
Firstly, stay in control of your drinking. Don’t feel pressured into drinking more than you feel comfortable with – it’s fine to say no. Remember, you will be much more vulnerable if you are drunk.
Always watch your drink being poured and never accept a drink from a stranger if you haven’t seen it being poured – it could have been spiked.
Keep a close eye on your drink and, if you do have to leave it, ask a friend you trust to watch it.
Don’t mix alcohol with drugs – this can be deadly.
Staying safe on the internet
Don’t post your full name, address or phone number on the internet as this could easily be seen by other people.
Keep your password private. If you think someone knows your password, change it – they could use it to access your account.
Be aware that friends you chat to online may not be who they say they are.
If you do want to meet someone you have talked to on the internet, let others know what your plans are. Pick a busy public place to meet and get an adult to go with you.
Consider a self-defence course. These skills will help you feel confident and can lead to more positive and assertive body language. Remember, getting away safely should be your main priority. Contact your local council or library for details of classes in your area.
Carrying a personal alarm is also an option. The Suzy Lamplugh Trust sells reasonably priced alarms and their website discusses the pros and cons of having one.
Tips from an experts
Claude Knights, training manager at anti-bullying charity Kidscape, says:
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust has lots of information on keeping safe and self-defence: www.suzylamplugh.org
Milly’s Fund: www.millysfund.org.uk