These thoughts go through my head constantly when I'm by myself at night. I shouldn't have to think about these things, but I do. This is the reality that I, and many others, live in.
1. Don't put your phone away
Hold on to it. Don't put it in your purse or pocket. Keep it close just incase. Better yet, call someone.
2. Hold your keys in your hand
You need to be able to get into your car or house as quickly as you can. You never know what could happen in the few seconds it might take you to rummage through your bag. They could also be used for self-defense if heaven forbid I need it.
3. Does this path have enough light?
Which route should I take? Am I going to be walking on a street that has enough light? Even if it takes longer, is there a safer path I should take..?
4. Check to make sure no one is following you
Don't make it to obvious, but look around. Be aware of your surroundings. Has that person been behind me for a while? Maybe I should go somewhere else to see if they are actually following me. Am I just being paranoid? No. People get raped, assaulted, and kidnapped every day. Women get raped, assaulted, and kidnapped every day. Queer people get raped assaulted and kidnapped every day. I am not being paranoid. I am being cautious.
5. What should my boyfriend's name be?
If I'm approached, I need to have a quick story. Something that sounds believable. I'm going to meet my boyfriend, maybe? I need to make sure my 'boyfriend' has a name that makes him sound big and scary. Chad? Max? The freaking Hulk? I can't tell them that I'm single, that might give them the wrong idea. I can't tell them what my sexuality is, that might give them the wrong idea. Honesty isn't the best policy when every 98 seconds another American is sexually assaulted.
6. Your pepper spray is in the side pocket of your back pack
All you'd need to do is swing your bag off of your left shoulder, unzip the pocket with your right hand, and there it is. Super simple. You can use it if you need it.
7. I wish I could listen to music...
I wish I could just put my headphones in and listen to the Spotify playlist I just made but I can't risk it.
8. Why didn't I ask a friend to walk with me...
Everyone preaches about the buddy system but it's so easy to just assume you'll be fine. You don't want to be that person who victimizes themselves before anything ever happens. But it is better to be safe than sorry. I'll bring a friend with me next time.
9. You're almost there
Just two more flights of stairs and you'll be on the 6th floor of the parking deck. The car is in the middle row and about 5 cars in. You'll be there soon and you'll be safe. You're almost there.
10. Lock the doors
Get in the car and lock the doors before you do anything else.
I wish I was exaggerating about these thoughts, but I'm not. This is how I feel when I'm on my college campus, downtown, in a parking lot, and even in my own neighborhood. This is the reality of women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and many other marginalized groups. I should be able to walk somewhere without fearing for my life. We, as a society, need to do better.