Protecting Yourself as a Woman in the City

There are so many advantages that come with being a student in the city, but equally, there are disadvantages, especially for women. My college career has been a mess, but one thing that has stayed consistent is living in a city. I went from attending school in Washington, D.C, to living in Columbus, OH (which is a very underrated city), to my last and final stop in Richmond, VA. Throughout these experiences, I’ve picked up a few tips on how to protect myself from any harassment I may endure. It’s something that’s difficult to normalize because it reminds us of how we can easily be put in vulnerable positions when they are unwanted. But I believe its important to learn how to fight it rather than let it take us over. Here are some ways you can protect yourself. 

  1. 1. Always Avoid Eye Contact and Walk With a Straight Posture

    Chicago city landscape at sunrise

    This would be especially useful if you’re ever getting catcalled. Men often advance on a situation when they receive any type of reciprocation, whether that’s from a glimpse of eye contact or walking slowly. They will approach if you don’t walk with absolutely no interest in what they’re saying to you. I know you sometimes want to respond and “stand up” for yourself, but in most situations, the best thing to do is walk away and remove yourself from the situation as fast as possible. That doesn’t mean you shouldn't be aware of your surroundings because everyone is different. A person might take it upon themselves to still approach you even when you’ve done everything to avoid the situation. This is when you reach for your pepper spray or any form of protection. Make sure your form of protection is always in arms reach, which leads us to our next topic.  

  2. 2. Carry a Form of Protection

    Silhouette of two people

    This isn’t just for women in the city, but for all women who exist, anywhere. Women are always vulnerable, no matter where they may be. Women, in general, are oppressed and men are not. I speak for myself and any women I have ever met, but I’m naturally paranoid whenever I go anywhere, especially alone. The constant fear is naturally embedded in us. Imagine that feeling being enhanced 10x more, and that’s what women in the city feel like. A form of protection, like pepper spray, a pocket knife or a razor, won’t solve all of our problems, but it’ll make us feel less fearful, and it honestly might solve all our problems. It's important to also never walk alone if you don’t have to. Having a buddy is always good for both of your protection, especially in the city.   

  3. 3. Always Be Aware of Your Surroundings

    three women posting for picture

    I remember having a conversation with a group of people about the first thing women do when they’re heading to their car at night, whether that’s leaving the grocery store or a friend’s house. Some of the women responded with unlocking their door and then locking immediately after entering the car. Some people were very confused at the question like it was a trick question. The men were also asked this and said they just enter their car and walk at their normal pace. The reason for this is they don’t have the same constant fear that women endure. The correct way for girls to go to their car at night is to check under their car from a relative distance before entering, then checking the back seat of the car and then locking it immediately. The men were in shock at the precautions women have to take in avoiding being in a sex-trafficking situation. But being constantly aware of our surroundings is the only thing keeping us safe in this world. 

There are a lot of resources for women to learn ways they can protect themselves. Usually, I would recommend taking an in-person course on self-defense. But due to the circumstances of the pandemic, I would say check out this free online course for self-defense.