Be prepared for the worst

“This could never happen to me” is the most dangerous sentence a teenager could say.

Unthinkable things happen every day. The only way to prevent and survive during unthinkable situations is to plan for them. The first step students should take to ensure their safety is to become more aware of the world around them.

“Generally, a predator is searching for an easy target. Easy targets are people who are distracted or someone they feel they could physically or mentally overpower. The first part is that you have to be aware. A lot of people nowadays are constantly on their phones, and they aren’t even aware that they are being followed or watched. You have to make sure you are not distracted and you are aware what’s going on,” Mr. Josh Harmon, school nurse and SMAK club sponsor, said.

Being aware extends beyond simply paying attention; it is having a plan.

“So for instance, if you’re walking in the mall, and you’re by yourself, and you feel like someone is watching you or something like that, you need to take appropriate steps to get away from the individual. If you start speed walking, and that person starts doing the same thing, the next thing you need to do is pop into a store and immediately get to someone and talk to them,” Detective Sergeant Jay Arnold said.

Store employees should respond to customer concerns by calling security or a store manager to help. Often, stores will help escort customers into the parking lot. And, if the situation seems truly dangerous, they will contact the police.

If escaping is not an option, people need to set boundaries.

“If someone tries to approach you and get close to you, you need to establish your boundaries. You need to tell them that you don’t need them that close to you. If someone gets inside those boundaries, they are showing intent to do ill to you,” Mr. Harmon said.

If those boundaries are crossed, self-defense is the next step.

“If it gets to the point where it has to get physical, then you have many different options. I think mace and pepper spray are great things for anybody, guy or girl, whenever your parents think you are ready to carry it. It is one of those tools that is a great weapon to equalize the fight. That’s what I recommend for everybody. Self defense, physical stuff, boxing and kickboxing, stuff like that is great, but if you are going against multiple people, people who are a lot stronger and faster than you, chances are you are not going to out box them or out hit them or cause more damage,” Mr. Harmon said.

Everyone should have a different plan to protect themselves.

“A person is going to do what they deem necessary to protect themselves. What I would do to defend myself, is probably not the same as what you would do,” Det. Arnold said.

He also recommended pepper spray, which can be purchased for $9.99 at Menards, as a safe option for teenagers.

“The reason I like pepper spray and I like mace is because it is not lethal and it is very effective. I worked for the sheriff’s department as a special deputy in Marion County for a couple of years. I was maced and tazed, and I will say that getting maced will slow anybody down,” Det. Arnold said.

Mr. Harmon added, “The good thing about mace is if there are multiple people, I can hit them all in one swipe rather than trying to fight them all individually.”

The key is for students’ to trust their instincts rather than worry about embarrassing anyone or causing a commotion.

“A lot of people want to stay politically correct, even at the cost of their safety. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable in regards to your safety, you have every right to acknowledge that. And you should,” Mr. Harmon said.

Stop being comfortable in the idea it could never happen and stay safe.

“Ask yourself if you are walking to your car at night and someone comes up and puts their hands on you, what are you going to do, how are you going to react,” Det. Arnold said.


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