Personal safety first on Valentine’s Day


In a relatively safe and affluent area like Bellevue, it is easy for students to forget scary numbers.For example, in 2011 there were on average more than 392 violent crimes per 100,000 people in the United States. Statistically speaking, 27 of those 392 incidents were cases of forcible rape. These are numbers that are important for people to know and understand, particularly college-aged people and, unfortunately, particularly women.

While it is a natural instinct for people to think, ‘that’s what the police are there for,’ I challenge you to look at your surroundings. If you can see a cop, then congratulations, you might be safe presuming a potential predator is particularly unobservant. If not, then your first line of defense is you. I used to assist in teaching “stranger safety” seminars for a martial arts school in Sammamish, and it was always a ghastly point of interest that the instructor was able to tell numerous stories of his own students who had had to use skills we taught to protect themselves from abduction or worse. It is simply a fact that police cannot be everywhere at once, and when thinking about crime statistics, it is worth bearing in mind.

Valentine’s Day represents a predictable spike in incidents of date rape around the world. With understanding about the real nature of these types of crimes, it might be possible to better avoid them this coming Feb. 14 and beyond.

First, to clarify a few misconceptions. Many women seem to imagine rape as a threat peering out of dark alleys and dingy bars. While it is certainly possible, vastly greater numbers of sexual assault occur within the confines of a known, “safe” environment like the perpetrator’s home or a hotel. On a similar note, the statistically normal stalker or rapist is not a creepy stranger in his 50s, but an acquaintance the victim has known for less than six months. Often, this is a classmate, friend or even a boyfriend.

Thus, the most difficult part of dealing with a stalker or potential rapist is identifying them. While these people are sometimes difficult to pick out, there are some indicating manipulative behaviors that should raise red flags.Unusually assertive charm and niceness, unsolicited help or promises with expectations of reciprocation and “typecasting,” a self-deprecating insult designed to obligate acceptance (You’re probably too cool to spend time with a loser like me), are three such examples. The refusal to accept “no” as an answer is another particularly strong example that should set off immediate mental alarm bells. You are under no obligation to be polite and observe normal social niceties if you feel that your safety is in danger.

Most importantly, trust your instincts. Your sympathetic nervous system has been keeping your ancestors alive for millions of years and your gut readings of people are the cumulative result of those thousands of generations of tweaking and perfecting your brain. Your body is smarter than you think it is, so if you get a creepy “vibe” about someone, it isn’t worth testing your amygdala’s judgment for the sake of social graces. Be smart, stay safe and have an enjoyable Valentine’s Day.