Last week I was on my way to work when I passed a greenway in South Charlotte. Suddenly, the area began filling with police cars and an ambulance. A lot of police cars. It was later that evening I found out a woman had been assaulted while on the greenway walking trail. Fortunately, she was OK. Regrettably, this type of incident has occurred before and unfortunately, will occur again.
Safety and security on a walking trail can be unique. The first thing required is a heightened sense of situational awareness on your part, an awareness that you are engaged in a 720° environment. I say this because of the unique terrain features located in an outdoor setting. Some high, some low and of course, all around. Foliage, creek embankments, and overpasses all make up the usual walking trail in our city.
Now that your situational awareness is where it needs to be, let's look at some other factors. Your common daily attire is generally substituted for some type of athletic wear, which limits pocket space. But there are two items you should consider finding a way to carry with you. The first is a small canister of pepper spray. (know the laws of your respective state for the carry of pepper spray).
You want the type that's smaller and fits into your palm and isn't readily visible until you need to use it. You also want to have the type of pepper spray that contains a colored dye. If you do spray your attacker, it is much easier for the police to identify them because the non-toxic semi-permanent dye must wear out of their skin over time.
The second item you should have with you is a personal alarm like the one pictured in Preferably Preferably, it should be the type that not only has a very loud audible alarm, but also a bright strobe light. Built to be very rugged, it operates on a 9-volt battery and is activated by pulling out the pin attached to the lanyard, with the lanyard secured to a fixed point (i.e. belt loop, button hole, etc.).
If you are attacked, activate the alarm and throw it as far away from you as possible. This forces your attacker to make decisions. Do they continue to assault you and risk others coming on scene to find out what the alarm is all about, or do they leave you and try to silence the alarm, which is very hard to do unless they have the pin on the lanyard. Or their final choice is whether they simply run away and leave you alone.
Of course, the best solution to any confrontation on a walking trail is to immediately exit the area and call the police. But if that option does not exist, remember the bad guy is expecting you to get that "deer in the headlights" look and freeze from fear and surprise. Do not give them this response. If you feel threatened, immediately do something. Put motion into effect. This requires having a plan of action. Adopting and practicing your own personal protection plan is the first step to surviving a violent attack.
As part of that plan, if you can walk/jog/bike with a partner, that's great. If you can't, at least let someone know where you'll be and an approximate length of time you plan on being gone.
Carry your cell phone with you and install one of the free safety apps like B Safe which will alert designated people if you are in trouble and your location.
Nothing beats common sense when it comes to personal protection. Bottom line, if you don't feel comfortable entering into a certain recreational environment, then don't. It's your safety that's most important. Stay safe and don't let the bad guys win!
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