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Our Turn: Building Situational Awareness

As the warmer months are upon us, part of staying safe this summer is building our situational awareness skills. While no one is ever responsible for being assaulted, developing your ability to notice changes in your environment can be a tool for creating additional self-protections.

Minimizing distractions is the first step in developing situational awareness. Smartphones are the largest culprit of monopolizing attention in today’s environment. This distraction can be especially dangerous at transition points, such as walking to your car after a day’s work when you are eager to check in with what you may have missed. Putting your phone away increases awareness of your environment, including noticing others around you in high-target places like parking lots and garages. Parking in well-lit areas makes you more visible and knowing your exit points can be crucial. Another good tip is having your keys ready to unlock only the driver’s door so that no one else can enter your car while you are preparing to leave.

Furthermore, in hot summer months joggers may choose to run during the cooler mornings, a time when fewer people are out. Consider running in busier areas within sight of neighbors. If listening to music, leaving one ear bud out and keeping it at a low volume can help you hear an approaching car or footsteps coming up behind you.

Another step in increasing your safety is paying attention to body language. If you are walking with confidence, shoulders back and with purpose, you are less likely to be targeted. Studies show that most potential attackers will be discouraged if they think you will put up a fight or might be able to identify them. If someone is following you, asking a simple question such as “Do you know the time?” or making small talk might dissuade them. Trust your instincts if someone makes unwanted advances.

Ultimately, the goal is prevention. While situational awareness can help us identify potential threats, those who are sexually assaulted are never at fault. If you have been assaulted, you are not alone. Turning Points Network can provide you with a wide range of support services to help you through the healing process.

OUR TURN is a public service series by Turning Points Network (TPN) serving all of Sullivan County with offices in Claremont and Newport. We provide wraparound supports for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, stalking and human trafficking and we present violence-prevention education programs in our schools. For more than 40 years, TPN has helped people of all ages move from the darkness of abuse toward the light of respect, healing, and hope.

For information contact 1.800.639.3130 or www.turningpointsnetwork.org or find us on Facebook and Instagram.

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