I’ve never really been scared to “go downtown” no matter where I lived or traveled. I’ve always had enough street sense about me to be mindful of my surroundings but that also doesn’t make me invincible. I’m sharing some tips that I’ve learned along the way to help you be safer wherever you travel.
I attended a small college in Dallas, Texas whose campus housing was formerly the projects. They got a crazy good deal from the government and renovated the properties that had previously been run down by gangs and drug dealers and the campus was still on the edge of neighborhoods that were known for being pretty dangerous.
For example, pizza delivery guys would not deliver to our dorms, I witnessed my first drive-by shooting while on the campus track located near the edge of campus, and I remember sounds of helicopters with searchlights hovering over us randomly at night. Now I know that all of that does sound pretty extreme….especially for a girl from the suburbs…but those types of incidents didn’t happen all the time and we also had campus security which made me feel a lot safer. I also typically traveled in groups whenever I went anywhere. That experience in college was a reminder that even though our campus felt like a little safe bubble world most of the time, unfortunately, the world isn’t always safe.
My parents also sent me to college with pepper spray but I honestly never really felt that comfortable keeping it on me at all times. I was more concerned that I would misfire and end up spraying myself. It was also really warm in Dallas most of the year and I was concerned that I would forget about it in my car and it could overheat and explode. Way before 9/11, I even forgot that I had the pepper spray keychain and I had to get rid of it in the garbage can before my flight on a home visit.
Self Defense Class
Years later as a parent and at my dad’s strong encouragement, I decided to take a free self-defense course taught by local officers offered near the community near where I grew up. There is a part of me that wants to believe that everything is rainbows and sunshine and that there is no need to worry about these things…..but there is another part of me that knows that it’s good to be realistic and proactive when it comes to your safety.
During our class, we learned different techniques to help get us out of holds. The last class for our graduation was probably the scariest. We were guided into a room by ourselves with our eyes closed. They gave us a scenario and we were not allowed to open our eyes until one of our “attackers” touched us. My scenario was standing in front of an atm when a group of men started saying things to me that were super uncomfortable but I still had to wait until one of them made physical contact. Then I used my voice to tell them to get back and then I had to get out of holds that took me to the ground. I’m happy to say that the officer said that I had the best elbow punches in three years at the time of my class and that he felt one of my kicks through the protective gear….it was definitely the adrenaline! The classroom was the preparation but the streets are the reality. Fortunately, I haven’t had to use my self-defense training on anyone yet…and I hope that I never have to.
Two is always better than One
Confidence and safety levels tend to feel very different when you have someone with you. For example, my first night in New Orleans I was walking around with a local who knew all of the areas very well. My second time in New Orleans was about a week later, my local guide wasn’t available but he gave me all of the tips I needed to know about the specific area that I wanted to visit that evening, down to what streets to park on. I only had a few hours to visit and I didn’t want to waste the opportunity to check out more of the music and culture but I also didn’t want to put myself in unnecessary danger. My local friend did have to give me a little pep talk before I decided to go because it is totally different when I’m walking in an unknown area next to my 6’4 husband versus walking by myself.
Street Smart Practices When You Are Traveling Solo
There were several things that I was reminded of during my self-defense class and tips that I’ve picked up over the years that still apply today.
Do your research before visiting an area that you haven’t visited before. Ask questions from friends who have visited, contact tourism centers for recommendations for where to park.
Take a picture of your identifying surroundings when you park. Take pictures of street and parking garage signs or write them in your phone notes.
Make sure that you have your keys ready before you approach your vehicle.
Look in the backseat of your vehicle as you approach your car.
If there is someone waiting in the vehicle next to you that makes you feel uncomfortable, find security to escort you to your vehicle or wait it out.
Lock your vehicle immediately once you are inside.
Make sure that you are not distracted by your phone, especially when you are looking for your vehicle.
If you feel unsafe, call a friend and tell them your location and describe your surroundings as you walk.
If someone makes you feel uncomfortable do not allow yourself to be alone with them. If you are in an elevator with them, get off as soon as possible even it’s not your floor.
Act like you know where you are going even if you don’t. If you are lost, look for a nearby business where you can ask for directions versus asking on the street.
Make sure that your phone is charged. Carry a backup charger whenever possible.
Stay Alert! Be mindful of your surroundings. Headphones can be distracting. If you must walk with headphones keep one out of your ears.
Fake it till you make it. Even if you don’t feel comfortable in a situation, do your best not to show fear. This is with your eyes, keep your head up, display a body language that shows confidence.
Try to walk in well-lit areas whenever possible.
Avoid the side of the road where you see loiterers on the sidewalk when possible.
Don’t stop to talk to strangers. Have an excuse ready for why you have to be somewhere.
Always know the source of your drink. Know where it came from and never leave a drink unattended.
When the alcohol starts to flow, it’s time to go! I try to stick to a 2 drink policy as a safeguard to keep me out of trouble with the law or as someone who could be preyed upon as a target.
Be mindful of your social media shares that include your exact location.
Try not to have flashy jewelry visible
Wear a crossbody purse when possible
When it comes to self-defense, another option is to arm yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable carrying a gun, there are alternative options available too.
When TASER Self Defense approached me about learning more about their product I had A LOT of questions!
Who is the ideal customer for a TASER device?
The Ideal customer is anyone who ever thinks twice about their personal safety. If parking garages, late-night runs, or even being home alone makes you uneasy, a TASER may be a good option for you.
Is there an age requirement for purchase or use?
The age requirement is 18 and you can find more information on individual state requirements here.
What’s the difference between a civilian TASER device and a stun gun?
A TASER product can reach its target from up to 15 feet away. By contrast, a stun gun requires direct contact, which creates extra risk for its user. When struck with a TASER device, the central nervous system is overridden and muscles are effectively locked-up, stopping an attacker in their tracks. Stun guns use pain to slow an attacker, which can be easily overcome if the attacker is motivated.
Is it legal to own a TASER device as a civilian?
Yes, in most states. Detailed state requirements can be found here.
Is it scary or hard to use a civilian TASER device?
No: In fact, TASER devices are intuitively designed and far safer than many other self-defense products. After some initial training, users can feel confident in their ability to use a TASER device properly. Additionally, our products don’t have the recoil of a firearm and are designed to be simple to use under pressure.
Is there training offered for TASER device customers?
We have a few options for training: in-person or at-home. At-home training is through our subscription box The Lightning Club. You can also find a Trainer Near You for in-person training.
Can civilian TASER products kill people?
Any device that’s misused can be harmful. TASER products are effective and serious tools. While it’s very rare for a death to occur, it’s important to remember that when these weapons are deployed on attackers in elevated positions, they could fall and be seriously injured or even die from the fall. If the devices are used on someone soaked in a flammable liquid, the chances of a resulting fire could have serious consequences.
Can a TASER device hurt me or accidentally hurt my children if they find and play with it?
One of the reasons parents choose a TASER device over a handgun is that it is highly unlikely to cause serious harm to an attacker or their children in the event that it’s accidentally used against them. It will cause temporary pain and incapacitation during use, but it won’t cause severe or lasting damage. The devices effects will immediately stop once it is turned off or completes its cycle.
How do I carry a TASER device and/or keep this on my person?
So how does the TASER device stay secure and not accidentally go off while you run?
Yes, the Bolt has a safety door and the Pulse has a safety switch. Both require deliberate actions to make the device “armed”, after which the triggers need to be activated to actually fire. Attached is a close-up of the Bolt safety door & trigger button.
How do you travel with a TASER device?
Be sure you know state laws if you are crossing state lines. The easiest way to fly with one is to remove the battery, check the device in your checked luggage, and carry the battery on.
What is the cost of a TASER device?
The price is $399 for Pulse or Bolt
Do you refill a TASER device after it’s used?
Cartridges are replaceable, so after use, you can reload a new cartridge. However, in the event of a self-defense scenario, we encourage people to leave the device on the ground and running away so they can make a safe escape. Pulse and Bolt will each “cycle” for 30seconds at a time, so leaving the device running gives you 30 seconds to get away. We will replace any device left in a self-defense scenario for free. More info on that here.
A big part of feeling safer is becoming educated on your options are deciding what works best for you!
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