One of the things we almost never talk about is the personal safety of our exhibitors. We are constantly On The Road Again, flying into strange cities, driving to new locations. Some of these journeys, and even show sites, are in sketchy areas, at best. A significant number of us are traveling alone through all of it.
Our sport also features a unique mix of ages, genders and positions of power that have been known to be abused.
With that in mind, we offer our “Five Best Tips for Safety” while traveling. And, as a bonus, “Best Practices for Handling Inappropriate Advances.” Obviously, much of this advice applies anywhere, anytime.
Ray Helmken, retired from the Honolulu Police Department and Akita fancier; along with GWP lover Guy Miner, owner of GMM Defense, who offers self-defense courses for small groups, provide these insights.
1. Stay alert and aware. Pay attention to your surroundings. If you want to check Facebook or send a text, do it from the safety of your locked vehicle. Wandering aimlessly into a rest area bathroom while staring at your phone sets you up for someone to take advantage of your distraction. Body posture has a lot to do with how the bad guys choose victims. Head up and watchful, shoulders back, strong core and purposeful movement is our first line of defense.
2. Stay in well-lighted, populated areas. Dim parking lots, deserted (or seemingly so) rest areas with no other people around leaves the predators amongst us with too many places to lurk. “Situational awareness,” Miner says, “is critical. Know what’s going on around you. Avoiding conflict is vastly better than fighting.”
3. Keep keys and cell phones with you. Calling for help in a bad situation isn’t possible if you left your phone in the vehicle while you ran in to pee or exercise a dog or grab a bite to eat. Your car’s key fob also may have an alarm option that you can push which will set up enough racket for people to look up and see a problem. In an absolute worst case, keys wedged between your fingers, with your hand in a fist, make an adequate weapon. Aim for eyes or throat and make it count. Male attackers will always expect and be prepared for a kick to the genitals. “If you must fight, cheat!” says Miner. “Win. Defend yourself.”
4. Stay in touch with family/friends. Someone should always know your route, intended destination and ETA. Always have a travel buddy you check in with when you stop for the night. This sets up a built in alarm system — if you don’t check in, your buddy should check up on you.
5. Make use of available non-lethal self-defense and deterrent options. Pepper spray, whistles, self-defense alarms and barking dogs all work. Keep in mind that most attackers are looking for targets of opportunity. They don’t want to get caught. “The more noise you make,” Helmken says, “the more the individual will divert, go a different direction.”
*Don’t* Touch This….
As disappointing and upsetting as it is, inappropriate touching or advances are not confined to billionaires and Hollywood starlets. From copping a cheap feel to offering hotel room keys, and worse, it does happen, even in our sport.
Helmken says, “If somebody touches or grabs at you without your approval, step back. Get space between you. Get loud and verbal. This is not a time to avoid making a scene.”
From the “School of Hard Knocks” files:
Your momma was right when she told you to make good decisions and use your common sense.
Gracefully extricating oneself from an awkward or even ugly situation is much more difficult than avoiding it in the first place.
There is safety in numbers. Don’t allow yourself to be singled out of a group in social settings.
Everyone has a slightly different comfort level of what is “harmless” and what is not. Be true to yourself.
While it’s pretty to think that in today’s society people know the boundaries of what is and is not acceptable, each and every one of us need to be able and willing to say, “Back off” if a line is crossed.
In the Year of Living Well, stay safe, stay aware and stand strong.
As always, this is JMHO.