At times, we underestimate the amount of danger we could be in either because we don’t realize we’re in danger or we don’t want to accept how dangerous a situation is.
You deserve to feel safe and loved --
from yourself and others.
Steps You Can Take to Stay Safe
Assess the situation. Ask yourself: How likely is it that someone could hurt me? If it’s necessary, you might have to move to a location that is safer or not take risks that you could avoid, such as walking across campus or home from a bus stop alone late at night.
Find support. Making a decision to leave a situation or relationship, where you feel unsafe might be hard and scary. If possible, talk to someone you trust, like a friend, teacher, counselor, or other mental health professional.
Talk to the police. If you feel you are in imminent danger, call the police. They can also help if you or someone else has been hurt, or if someone has threatened your safety.
Believe in yourself. If someone is threatening to hurt you or harming you in any way, it can be hard to maintain your self-confidence. Remember: It’s never O.K. for someone to hurt or threaten to hurt you. You are worth far more than that.
Know your rights. It might be a good idea to check out your legal rights if you suspect someone is breaking the law. Harassment and assault laws, as well as other laws dealing with your safety, vary from state to state.
Prevent access to your internet activity. If someone is hurting you and you are searching for help on the internet, you may not want that person to have access to this information. Remember to turn your browsing history off or to delete it after the fact, if you feel you have to.
Generally, it’s good to be cautious about your safety when using the internet. With so many forms of personal information on the internet, you have to be careful. The Nemours Foundation and WebMD offer several suggestions for internet safety.
Stop & Think About the Consequences of Taking Unnecessary Risks
Some things that jeopardize your safety are things you can control, which is great! That means you can be proactive at ensuring you’re safe. Some of those things might be:
- Making good decisions about drinking and not driving
- Using your phone at appropriate times (not when you’re driving)
- Knowing your limits when drinking alcohol
- Using harm reduction practices if you’re choosing to use drugs
- Not going home with someone you don’t really know
- Not having unprotected sex
- Watching your drink at a party (See Date Rape Drugs for more information)
- Driving yourself to a party, so you can leave if things feel unsafe
- Being aware of your surroundings
- Not picking up hitchhikers
- Listening to your gut or intuition
It’s particularly tempting when you first get out on your own and are not under your family’s eye to experiment and try things that you might not have tried before. That’s natural, and you can still be independent without making unsafe choices. Our Risk-Taking article offers more on this topic.
Consider a Safety Plan
It might be necessary to have a safety plan in place before you leave the situation where you feel unsafe. Consider these points before making your safety plan:
Have somewhere safe to go. If you can’t think of anywhere to stay, you might want to contact a shelter.
Tell someone. If possible, tell your friends and family members to see if they can help protect and support you. You might also want to talk to someone who’s removed from the situation, like a counselor, social worker, or one of the trained volunteers at the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, or RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network at 1-800-656-4673 or Lines for Life’s Suicide LifeLine at 1-800-273-8255. Even if you’re not suicidal, they’ll still talk to you and give you support regardless of what you’re going through. If you’re in immediate danger, call 911.
Have cash on hand. If you can, save some money so you can leave a situation you don’t feel safe in. In these situations, you might need to pay for transportation or temporary housing, so having cash on hand can make this easier.
Minimize your time alone. Remember: There’s safety in numbers. Try and be around other people whenever possible.
After You Feel Safe
Once the crisis has passed, it’s usually easier to work out what to do in the future should you find yourself in the situation again. If someone close to you is putting you in danger, it might be necessary to end your relationship with the person, which could include moving. This will probably be a hard step to take, so have as much support as possible. You can read our articles on Intimate Partner Violence or Abusive Relationships, or check out this article from Joslyn Law Firm that some YouthEmpowerment.com readers found to help you find ways to leave an abusive relationship you’re in.
If you’re concerned for your safety in the future it might be necessary to talk to the police, change your phone number or screen your calls through an answering machine. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence provides important advice about protecting your identity after moving to a new location. You might want to check out the website even if you are not worried about a specific person, as it contains useful tips for anyone to protect themselves.
Remember: There are many people and services that can help. Just talking to someone you trust about your concerns can help you see your options more clearly.
Additional resources, and information for this article was provided by:
The National Domestic Abuse Hotline (1-800-799-7233) provides help to callers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Hotline advocates are available for victims and anyone calling on their behalf to provide crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Safety Plan PDF