TiffanyBellows's avatar
How Aware Are You?

By Tiffany Bellows, Independent Damsel in Defense Pro

Tiffany is a wife, mother of 3 boys & 2 dogs, full-time employee at Boeing, and a loyal Sun Devil. Her passion is to equip women to reduce their risk of violence, educate them on the dangers of distractions and tricky people, and empower women to defend themselves. Damsel in Defense gives her the freedom to let her creativity shine.

How aware are you walking to your car from the grocery store? Are you texting or talking on your cell phone? Did you notice if someone is sitting in the car parked next to yours? When you unlock your doors, do they all unlock at the same time? Do you leave your purse in the grocery cart when you’re unloading? Would you see or hear someone if they ran up to you and tried to push you in the trunk? These are all aspects you should be aware of when conducting such a simple task, no matter what town you live in or the time of day.

You were taught at a very young age to stop, drop, and roll if on fire. However, would you know what to do if approached by an attacker? Would you notice him (or her)? Situational Awareness is a skill. You can learn to be situationally aware by paying attention to the world around you. To achieve this, you need to scan the environment and sense danger, while maintaining the ability to conduct normal activities. If you choose to pay attention, your brain removes the filter between your subconscious and your conscious. This process is called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). By simply telling yourself to “pay attention”, the RAS will scan your brain for, and acknowledge, potential danger when it encounters it. Being able to develop situational awareness is dependent on knowing your environment. Once you know your environment, your mind will recognize disturbances that represent a specific threat or opportunity.

Many women choose to ignore the presence of danger because they think “Nothing has ever happened to me before, so nothing is likely to happen.” This is called the Normalcy Bias. 1 in 12 women are stalked, most not even knowing it. Ten years ago this statistic was 1 in 30. The advent of social media has mapped predators directly to you. Another interrupter of activating your RAS is called Focus Lock. This happens when you are distracted by something that blocks your awareness and all other stimuli. So put away your cell phone!

Let’s go back to the parking lot example, but now with your RAS engaged! This time you walk to your car with your purse around your chest, phone put away, and keys in hand. While walking you’re looking in the cars around you, including yours. You unlock only the trunk, leaving your car doors locked. While loading your trunk, you’re keeping your back to the trunk and continuously looking up and around. After returning the cart, you unlock just the driver door, get in, then immediately lock your door and drive away.

These tips might seem “common sense”, and they are, but technology has morphed into an obstacle you didn’t sign up for! If your cell phone distracts you from driving, wouldn’t it distract you from noticing the creepy guy nonchalantly following you in the store? So put your cell phone away and remind yourself to pay attention, it just might save your life.