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Saturday, July 13

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Andrew / August 2, 2007 11:13 AM

Suggested by Anne.

I lock the doors. That's about it.

lacey / August 2, 2007 11:17 AM

If walking, I think the key to feeling safe at night lies more with what you're "not" doing...not talking on the phone or listening to music. Try and remain aware of your surroundings. I spent many a Chicago night walking around enjoying its natural sounds.

Doyle / August 2, 2007 11:18 AM

I patiently wait, every night, forgoing sleep, as I hover over the front door in my suit of armor with a vat of boiling oil. Please, please try to break into my house.

Mo / August 2, 2007 11:55 AM

I try not to walk alone at night, but if I do, I'm fully aware of my surroundings and walk in well lit areas. I usually also have my keys in my hand pointing out between my fingers for stabbing if I feel nervous.

I have to admit, though, that lately when my sister/roommate sleeps at her boyfriend's house, I leave the dining room light on real low, kinda like a nightlight but light enough that would-be intruders might think someone is still awake.

Tonic / August 2, 2007 12:09 PM

I'm 6-3, 235 and African American. I'm good, thanks.

My biggest problem is making OTHER people (read: women and in particular white women) realize I'm not a threat when I walk down the street behind them at night. So I cross streets when I don't have to (and a lot of times they cross too, to get away from me and, dammit, now I behind them again!), slow down so they can gain some distance (pretend I'm trying to figure out where my wallet is, walk back like I forgot something), speed up to get around them (when makes them speed up to because they think I'm coming to get them). It doesn't help that for all my size, I walk pretty quietly. Sometimes I say "fuck it" and let them sweat it out...

But personally, I just keep aware of my surroundings... dark doorways ahead, bushes, alleys, etc.

Cheryl / August 2, 2007 12:10 PM

Pepper spray

Cheryl / August 2, 2007 12:13 PM

Tonic, as a white woman I just want you to know it's not your race, it's your gender. And I'm sorry men of all sizes, but please be aware if you're walking behind a woman after dark, that woman is probably reaching for her pepper spray.

Carrie / August 2, 2007 12:26 PM

I'm aware of my surroundings, walk on busy streets, lock my doors, etc. I also keep my clutch purses tucked under my arm so someone can't just walk up and grab it.

Tonic, I agree with Cheryl... it's b/c you're a guy, not African American. Typically, if there is a guy behind me and I want him to pass, but I don't want it to be obvious that I'm a little nervous, I'll slow down so he can pass. If he wants nothing to do with me, he'll keep walking. Thankfully, that's always been the case.

bucky / August 2, 2007 12:31 PM

A guy once told me that when he's stuck walking behind a woman at night, he tends to whistle a little tune which he seemed to think made him seem a little less threatening.

bucky / August 2, 2007 12:31 PM

A guy once told me that when he's stuck walking behind a woman at night, he tends to whistle a little tune which he seemed to think made him seem a little less threatening.

anne / August 2, 2007 12:46 PM

I do take cabs when it's very late (though until I read about it this week, I never thought to ask the cab driver to wait till I got inside...most of my friends already will do that if they give me a ride home).

If I'm getting off the train alone at night, I try to walk with the group. There's almost always one person headed my way, and I've struck up conversations, esp. with other women walking alone if I felt nervous. Sometimes when someone's eyed me strangely on the train, I'll get off a stop later which is a brighter, more populated area, and walk down Broadway, which gives me a chance to see what's up, and stay in the brighter lit area longer while I do that.

Yes, guys following at night can be really stressfull. Guys, just back off and give us space.

Tonic / August 2, 2007 12:56 PM

Cheryl, Carrie...

that is good to know, although I tend to do some body reading of situations and there is a different in reaction sometimes. Maybe I'll work on an undercover photo essay or something (Is NBC through with that "to catch a predator" stuff?) If that's not you two, great. But trust me, it happens. But anyway, yeah, I can see how all guys can be intimidating.

and to Anne.. how much space? I try to stay at least a couple houses back (if I'm walking down a residential street). and when you say "following" what do you mean? Walking to his apt. which just happens to be in the same direction? How do you think a guy should handle that so he's not seen as a threat, but still just wants to go home?

kate / August 2, 2007 12:57 PM

Not much.

Doors get locked. I walk alone in the dark all the damn time. I tend to scowl a lot. Not because I'm angry or have a scowlin' nature, that's just sorta how I look when I'm on my way somewhere. People tend to not mess with foxy broads who look like they have a bad attitude.

TaJ / August 2, 2007 1:19 PM

how timely....since i live in lakeview
- i try tp alway be aware of my surroundings
- keep mace in the purse or handy
- cell phone in my hand
- walk fast + try to look mean;)
- avoid dark streets
- let people pass me if i feel "off"
- in my home i always make sure back door is chained, bolted + locked

Leelah / August 2, 2007 1:39 PM

If I'm walking late at night by myself, I usually have my two 70 lb dogs with me. One of the dogs is easily scared and barks at things that scare her (like, last night it was a garden hose and a skateboard), and her big bark sounds threatening.

vit / August 2, 2007 1:41 PM

Tonic - I wish I could say that it was soley a gender thing (I'm a woman and a bit nervous about guys walking behind me at night, regardless of ethnicity) but I've known too many African American guys complaining about women acting weird and clutching their persons when walk past to believe it is an entirely gender driven behavior by some. In fact, awhile back I was at a party with a bunch of neighborhood guys and one guy (who was black) was complaining about the new neighbors, and he stated that "I just said 'hi' one morning and she grabbed her purse and scuttled into the house, like I wanted what was in that lousy purse of hers" ... I loved that he used the word 'scuttle'. I've seen the neighbor in question and would bet money that if a young white guy said 'hi' to her on the street, she would not have reacted the same way.

fluffy / August 2, 2007 1:48 PM

I don't talk on the cell phone, stay in well-lit areas, walk with an attitude and look around to see what's going on, make eye contact if possible.
Although, usually my pimp scares people off, so I'm pretty safe.

Nuke LaLoosh / August 2, 2007 2:13 PM

Other than the obvious and previously noted common-sense steps (stay in lighted areas, travel with others, etc.), I:

-don't stay out too late;
-take a cab (per city ordinance, cab drivers cannot refuse a valid credit card as a form of payment; if only the drivers would just follow the law);
-don't get too drunk;
-pay attention to my Spidey senses and avoid people/places/situations that seem hinky (people often have decent instincts, if they'd only pay attention to them) ;
-carry a claw hammer.

Okay, I don't really carry a claw hammer. Also, I do get too drunk sometimes, but I take a cab.

Sol / August 2, 2007 2:18 PM

"A guy once told me that when he's stuck walking behind a woman at night, he tends to whistle a little tune which he seemed to think made him seem a little less threatening."

See...that would creep me out, late at night. But...maybe it's just me. And yeah, Tonic, I have to agree with Cheryl and Carrie that it's more the gender thing (personally, anyway) since I've only had experiences of that sort with white guys.
In any case, I do the bitchface thing too, but I also carry a switchblade I know how to use and have taken self-defense classes that have shown me a) that at least, if something happens, I won't freeze and/or freak out and b) how to get away, which is all you need, in the end.

My dad and brother, both of whom are military, have offered to buy me guns, but then they live in the South, where...yeah. The South.

anne / August 2, 2007 2:21 PM

A house or two is a great distance. It's a safe rule of thumb, I'd say, to make someone not feel pressured by your presence late at night. It's far enough that you'd have time to react if you felt that you needed to.

I wonder if anyone would even look out their window if I blew the whistle I have on my keychain (had it since college, never used it). And, haven't we all heard that mace backfires on the person trying to use it more often than not? I've taken hour-long self-defense classes, but I'm just not sure how much I've retained since then.

kd / August 2, 2007 2:27 PM

I perform 'the basics' of personal safety, most of which have been covered by previous posts.

Like most ladies, I worry about being vulnerable to attack. But am I supposed to be thinking about potential rapists lurking in the bushes EVERY time I come home at night? Makes me wonder if it's doing me more psychological harm than it's worth. It's really discouraging.

Also, have any other ladies been forwarded 'tips on how to protect yourself against rapists' mass emails? I got one a while ago, and a couple of the 'tips' really pissed me off. One was 'don't wear your hair in a ponytail, an attacker could use it to pull you to the ground', and another was 'carry an umbrella with you at ALL times for use as a potential weapon'. Geez - talk about taking things too far!

Olive / August 2, 2007 2:33 PM

I agree I don't necessarily think it's only a gender thing. Unfortunately, I think race subconsciously
or consciously plays a role
in how some women react.

I have to add on that it's also how men look - if they look well-groomed and "normal," like a commuter on his way home from work, I am less alarmed, but if that guy looks scruffy or just down on his luck, I am definitely prone to be on the defensive.

I am not saying an attacker necessarily looks one way, but that is my own personal gut reaction.

I don't walk alone anywhere in the evenings, except this past quarter, at times late at night I have to get from my school library to the open parking lot which is a walk through part of the campus with lots of good bushes to hide behind and towering trees which contribute to an ominous atmosphere, on not-so-brightly lit paths. At night the distance seems 10x longer - so I just run to my car.

Tonic / August 2, 2007 2:36 PM


that two-house rule works, but I fuckin' hate it when they walk slow. I walk fast, have long legs and sometimes say "to hell with it" and walk in the street just to get around them or just zoom past them. I'm sorry if I scared you but, hell, I gotta use the can.

as far as carrying items that double as weapons, etc.: it's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

Shasta / August 2, 2007 2:45 PM

If there is an event someplace that I know will be difficult to get home from using public trans because it will be late, I don 't go.

Walk with purpose.

Keep a look on my face like I've got a can of "batshit crazy" in my pocket that I'm just dying to use (which is actually really difficult because I almost ALWAYS have some kind of stupid grin on my face).

Sol / August 2, 2007 2:59 PM

I carry a whistle too, got it in college, and I thought it a joke then, but hey - if it's late and I hear someone blowing a whistle like a crazy person I suppose I'm going to check it out.

Although that totally sounds like a set-up now that I wrote that out.

fluffy / August 2, 2007 3:14 PM

2 neighborhood teenagers have been shot and killed down the street from my house in the span of 2 weeks. Both on school grounds in the playground. This past winter, I saw a girl get mugged right outside my window.

One time, a friend of mine and I were drunk in Lincoln Park and my friend got into a loud argument with a crack dealer. (there's a long story about how they knew each other). Anyway, the arguing got a little scary so I decided to act insane - I started screaming and acting crazy and freaked out the crackhead. I grabbed my friend and we ran away. It helps to have that crazy twitchy look to your eyes.

JohnnyQ / August 2, 2007 3:26 PM

Don't forget to look possible aggressors in the eye.

Otherwise just swing a samurai sword as you saunter down the street.

Elizabeth / August 2, 2007 4:06 PM

I was mugged a few months ago while walking home. I can tell you that all of the precaution in the world cannot prepare you for being attacked.

I actually get freaked out whenever anyone is walking behind me or too close now. I never used to be that paranoid.

Anyway, what I have begun to do when I feel unsafe is to walk in the middle of the road. Sure, I guess it's unsafe in its own right. But I am not sure I would have been attacked had I done this instead.

C-Note / August 2, 2007 4:45 PM

One thing I can tell you is that no matter what you do, you're not safe unless the guy who's planning to mug you decides you're safe, for whatever reason.

I agree with Tonic - white, Hispanic and Asian women in this city are more scared of black men than they are of anyone else. But when I see them acting scared, I just think, well, act scared, but know that there's nothing you could do about it if I decided to take your shit. I don't play that one-house/two-houses behind shit. If you want to be scared, be scared, but I'm doing my thing. If you want to be scared because a black man's behind you, be scared. I couldn't care less.

Jill / August 2, 2007 4:47 PM

I watch the Bourne movies and learn those kinds of skills--observation, be aware of surroundings, know how to fight....

I too hate it when people follow me. I tend to look back a lot.

skafiend / August 2, 2007 4:48 PM

Urinate on myself, maybe drop a load in my pants (whether intentionaly or not) and drool... That usually does the trick. Oh, and throw up on my money (although I think I stole that one from Richard Pryor or some comedian).

But seriously, as far as this women safety thing you are talking about, I would suggest looking people in the eye at least for a second when you walk down the street. I think someone else said this. I always see women dip their heads or avert their eyes downward when approaching someone, more than likely a man, while walking down the street. Looking away leaves you unaware. Look at their face, if even for a second. It lets them know that you're alert and could even identify them if need be.

peta / August 2, 2007 5:07 PM

Let people pass you? Well, that just means they've caught up with you and can do what they want with you! Get the hell out of the way!

Baldeesh / August 2, 2007 5:29 PM

Lock the doors, sleep with sharp objects nearby, be aware of my surroundings when out at night, walk like you own the place, etc.

I've dated some pretty abusive guys in the past, and while I'm fine most of the time, if some dipshit were to try and lay a hand on me (or my sisters), I would have absolutely no problem with taking all that anger out on him. It's like my little can of Whoop-Ass, and if I get a chance to use it, I will.

michele / August 2, 2007 5:35 PM

Have to agree with Cheryl and Carrie, it's a gender thing. I know that it's very unlikely the guy walking behind me will want to do me harm but as a woman, I don't take any chances. I cross the street, walk with a purpose, look around frequently, carry my head high and make eye contact and carry pepper spray in my hand. And I do not walk home from anywhere after 10:00 pm. I take a cab.

d. / August 2, 2007 6:06 PM

i just drink more whiskey. after enough of that sweet water, there's nothing i'm afraid of!

i'm kind of a little person. with a huge liver.

Mikey / August 2, 2007 6:17 PM

Regarding the whole "guy walking behind you thing"...

I can relate as there's been times at night I've been behind a woman on my way home or whatever and we just happen to turn down the same streets, etc. and I think, "Shit. Now she probably thinks I'm following her home..."

On the other hand, I was walking back from the Wilson 'L' last night and a woman who was also on the train tried catching a passing cab as she exited the station, but it didn't see her. I started heading west, and she started walking that way as well with a short distance between us. I got the feeling she didn't want to put too much distance between us because I think she felt safer with me as her lead "blocker." I even intentionally slowed down a few times when coming upon some of the sketchier people that hang out on Wilson late at night, until I know she was safely by them as well...

Does that sound about right? I can understand how a guy behind you can make you nervous, but can a guy (assuming he's reasonably "normal") a safe distance in front of you make you feel a bit safer as well?

Olive / August 2, 2007 6:25 PM


That's an interesting point - now that I think about it, another sane-looking person on a sketchy street may actually be more comforting than walking home alone. I guess she had a okay feeling about you. It's hard to say. It def. helps that you were ahead of her.

Olive / August 2, 2007 6:26 PM


That's an interesting point - now that I think about it, another sane-looking person on a sketchy street may actually be more comforting than walking home alone. I guess she had an okay feeling about you. It's hard to say. It def. helps that you were ahead of her.

J D / August 2, 2007 7:05 PM

When alone on a scary street at night, I just reflect on what I learned in my crotch kicking class. There is nothing like a swift kick to the junk to dissuade that person two houses behind me.

YAJ / August 2, 2007 7:06 PM

This all makes me sad because most of the strategies curtail us:
- don't stay out late;
- walk in a group;
- take a cab;
- don't drink too much; etc.

As women we are probably afraid most of the time when walking alone at night, even if we have a safety strategy or two.

The sadder fact is, more women get harmed in their homes than on the streets.

Amanda / August 2, 2007 8:37 PM

Hey, Tonic, I am African American and female, but my 2 brothers complain of the very same thing. I feel ya!
I always walk at a very brisk pace, and slow down and really take in my surroundings when I near my door. If someone is going to try to attack me, I want them to know I am aware of my surroundings. I never wear headphones when walking at night.

jj / August 3, 2007 12:20 AM

Trust my instincts, no matter how crazy they might be. I also remind myself that almost all sexual assaults are committed by people the victim knows in interpersonal situations, not the "stranger in the alley". I do not say this to be bitchy, it is an actual recognized defensive strategy - theory being that reminding yourself of the reality of whatever you are afraid of allows you to better listen to your instincts, which will sound the alarm when you actually are in danger. (Read Gavin DeBecker's The Gift of Fear)

That said, I don't walk alone after a certain hour of night, or if I do I stay to well traveled streets, walk in the middle of the street, or talk loudly on the phone to someone (often imaginary) saying "I'm almost downstairs, buzz me in" or something of that nature. If I will be drunk and out late, I take cabs - but keep in mind a cab driver is a stranger too. I accept and rehearse in my head a scenario where I am robbed - I hand over my purse, bike, whatever and turn to run in the other direction - and where someone tries to physically assault me - I scream and fight.

Tonic, I agree with everyone that says its most likely because you are a guy, rather than an African-American...I'm aware of any big guy walking down the street. That said, I do agree that internalized racism probably plays a part as well, which is unfortunate. It sucks, because you feel bad about it, the woman probably would feel bad about making you feel bad, you end up deferring to the woman's comfort level by walking slower to make her feel better, the cycle continues. I don't know what the answer is, I just wanted to acknowledge that. And thanks for being a guy who thinks about these kind of things.

nutsackylacky / August 3, 2007 8:04 AM

I wear a condom. Oh SNAP!!

All about gender and not about race? Bulllllllll.....shiiiiiiii.....tttttt.
Tonic, if someone tells you, "I don't see race" you should get as far away from that klansman as you can.
People see race all the time only the sad thing is they feel like they can't admit to it for fear of being, well...racist.
People, if you get nervous when a black dude follows you but, later, in the safety of your home, decide that your fear was silly, IT'S OKAY!
I'll step out and say that I probably suffer from the delusion that I could beat the sh%t out of the white kid behind me and not the black one. Further, on the white, er, north side of Chicago, it ain't like it's Freaknik happening on every block. For real, I've seen more black people in parts of Maine. Perhaps I would be struck by the oddity of the pursuit and assume it's for a purpose--rape or homocide or both.
But seriously, some of best friends are white.

rootdowwn / August 3, 2007 9:27 AM

cabbies can be creepos, too. i have two friends, who on separate occasions, have had cab drivers take them to out-of-the-way streets or empty parking garages and stop the car. and neither of these girls were alone in the cab and both live in the city. so although taking a cab at night is probably safer than walking, you should be aware of your surroundings at all times until you get home. don't ask me how, perhaps giving the cabbie specific driving directions if possible and don't pass out drunk in the back seat.

Allan / August 3, 2007 9:32 AM

When I was fat I always felt pretty safe especially being a man. Now that I am skinny and definitely more in touch with my feminine side I don't feel as safe in certain neighborhoods. In my current jobless state I decided to walk down Western Ave. as far as I could and made my way through some iffy areas. I was sure some guys were going to gump me but I hopped on the bus and headed back up north. So I guess to feel safe I stay in the white yuppie parts of the city where my only fear is not being able to make my rent and being ostracized for not wearing polo shirts and caring the least about the Cubs. I have however, always wondered what would happen if I was attacked and just pulled out my chubb and started urinating on my attacker what would they do.

Tobermory / August 3, 2007 9:46 AM

I took a self-defense course though IMPACT Chicago that was truly excellent. They use 'real' attackers (heavily padded) so that you can actually use the force and skills that you have learned. It makes a difference to be able to feel the kind of force you would need to do damage to an attacker. The class is time consuming (Sat. & Sun. for two weekends) and kind of expensive but it is very empowering and I can't recommend it highly enough.

I also wear a Subtle-Safety ring if I know I'm going to be walking alone at night.

Note to kd - it's interesting that one of the tips was not to wear your hair in a ponytail - in one of the IMPACT class situations I was in the attacker was walking behind me and he came up and grabbed my ponytail. The correct response in class was to plant my feet and crack him in the (padded) helmet with my elbow.

Carrie / August 3, 2007 9:56 AM

Mikey-- I actually used to do that to guys.. walk behind them for an odd sense of safety. Sometimes they'd slow and then I'd let them know that they were my safety net. I'd rather someone be in front of me than behind me. (and when I slow down to let a guy pass me, I always have my back to the wall, pretend to dig into my purse and keep a slight eye on him.)

I do have big plans to go apeshit if someone tries to steal me. Barking, drooling, rolling on the ground, flailing, anything to draw attention and make them decide that I'm not worth it. That's the plan, but as others have said, you can't really ever plan for anything like that.

Sheila / August 3, 2007 10:04 AM

I agree with Tonic et al that race is a significant factor in whom white women fear more on the street; I think itís a pretty big factor in crime fear in general. I live in affluent, well-maintained Hyde Park. Visiting white North siders always act like itís a much more dangerous neighborhood than it is, and make little jokes about, oh look, my car is still there! etc. Unless streets overarched with tree canopies and lined with neat gardens and SUVs evoke some kind of nameless dread in most mortals that I just donít happen to share, Iím going to have to go out on a limb and say itís all the black faces scaring people for no reason.

I canít feel too superior though, because I totally used to be like that; I grew up in an all-white environment and was afraid of black men for a while after I moved here. But let me tell you, this is one situation where racism is its own punishment. For one thing, itís a horrible, demoralizing feeling, and youíre just inflicting it on yourself over and over again for no reason if you have an unreasonable fear of black men. For another thing, itís dangerous. ďActing scaredĒ actually invites attack, for the reasons another commenter has already mentioned, plus the attitude of submission it conveys. You shouldnít ever act like that anyway, but you really shouldnít be acting like that as often as you might be sharing a piece of sidewalk with a black man in the city of Chicago. (Criminals are lazy; they want the scared bunny in unfamiliar surroundings, not a confident, alert woman with her head up who maybe knows how to handle herself, or might know a door to knock on on that very block, or has some other unknown reason to look so relaxed). For yet another thing, most black men, like men in general, are not criminals but instead are potential protectors.

My rule of thumb on the street is, one or two seconds of eye contact with everyone, make a judgment about what kind of person each guy is, and keep track of who potential helpers are and stay near them if possible. I tend to go by behavior, dress, and age rather than size or race. (And just to throw a spanner in the works, Iím way more bugged by a man keeping pace with me block after block than by a man coming up behind me at a normal pace for him; itís natural for men to walk faster than me in my experience, but the last guy who kept pace with me for more than a block or so was waiting for a good opportunity to run up and snatch my purse. I realize this is a minority opinion however.)

I see white women actually making themselves less safe sometimes because of generic fear of black men. For example, one night when I was riding the El by myself around midnight, the car I stepped onto happened to be nearly empty (scary!), but in the middle of the car there were two black men seated a few rows apart from each other on one side. One was a young handsome guy dressed in nicer clothes than I can afford (good) and a middle-aged man wearing a Bears jacket and a baseball cap (good good). So, thereís nobody dangerous on the car yet, the best way to avoid any problem from whoever might be getting on later is to sit in a row between the safe men, which I did. A stop later, a North Sider woman gets on and sits as far away from us as possible (she probably didnít even see me, flinching away from the black faces like that), at the far end of the car and in a corner, almost visibly drawing herself up into a tight little ball; it was obvious she was scared to even be there. If youíre a mugger or a creep, of the two of us which do you think youíd pick to bother?

I really apprecate men like Tonic who react to an effed-up situation like this with kindness. The only rewards are spiritual, I imagine. FWIW, I would consider crossing the street away from a woman to be the 100% unambiguous signal of non-danger, I donít know why that wouldn't work with anyone.

ab / August 3, 2007 10:14 AM

I don't worry. I have a rottweiler that sleeps with me, who loves and is very protective of me. I didn't get her for protection, but it certainly makes one feel a little safer while walking late at night or living alone in a big, creaky building.

skee bop / August 3, 2007 10:16 AM

I am really bad about being safe while walking alone, but typically it is at least not at night.

On another note, where can I get some mace or pepper spray? For some reason I thought they were illegal to get at any old store...

KJ / August 3, 2007 10:18 AM

I was mugged in my neighborhood a few years ago. Since then I am about 100 times more paranoid when walking after dark (and since "after dark" means any time after 4 pm for 3-4 months of the year, that's a lot of the time). I have taken a self-defense class and have determined that the next person who touches me with bad intent is going to get a broken nose.

Appreciate all those guys who attempt to give people space when following at night. If I look at you funny over my shoulder 6 or 8 times, it's not your fault.

SG / August 3, 2007 10:21 AM

Anne - I'm not sure if people would respond to your whistle, either. I was told in a self defense class not to scream 'Help', but to scream 'Fire' or 'He's got my baby' when in trouble. The thinking is people are more likely to respond to one of these than a general cry for help.

I also highly recommend reading debecker's Gift of Fear. Stranger on stranger danger is much less likely than danger from someone you know. and it really stresses listening to your instincts. I no longer fight mine, and as result feel much safer.

K / August 3, 2007 10:24 AM

If someone is walking behind you and making you nervous, just stop and face them and let them pass. Who cares if it offends someone or weirds them out? Take care of yourself. Polite behavior doesn't apply on a dark, empty street.

CC / August 3, 2007 11:09 AM

I'm with you, YAJ! It think a lot of this "street" fear is misplaced. Sure, it's a city and women are vulnerable to muggings/attacks by random strangers on the street. But women are much more likely to get hurt by an abusive boyfriend or that asshole who picked them up in the bar. Sisters, use 1/10th of that street precaution in other seemingly not-as-threatening environments and it'll do you good.

rachel / August 3, 2007 11:09 AM

nobody's fucked with me since i started riding a bike.

Josh / August 3, 2007 11:29 AM

Collapsable baton in the driver side door of my car, Buck 110 knife in my bike bag, Louisville Slugger next to the bed. No joke. Never used any of these, and hopefully never will. They are there more to remind me to keep my eyes open, because I'm prone to daydreaming and spacing out.

paul / August 3, 2007 11:40 AM

I got pepper sprayed by two drunk girls in front of me once. And I'm really not the intimidating type.

Although, again, about a month ago, at dusk on a lightly crowded sidewalk on Chicago Ave, I stopped to take a photograph, and a girl I had passed earlier went past me yelling at me that I was a creep.

I know it's wrong to say, but in both situations I wanted to slap these girls silly. Imagine what a real creep would have wanted to do. And the pepper spray, while painful, wouldn't have stopped me from knocking the girls down, unless they knew more judo than me.

And folks "CALL 911" is the best scream, the attacker won't know for sure if the police are coming, but he'll have to assume they are.

I caught an intruder in the garage recently, and after I nailed him in the head with a beer glass, he ran off as I yelled "CALL 911", leaving his bike behind. Most of my neighbors made the call, even though they didn't know what was happening.

Sara / August 3, 2007 12:25 PM

I was mugged in front of my house a couple of years ago. Two blocks earlier, I had actually switched sides of the street to avoid someone else who looked unsafe. These guys came out of the shadows though, and I never saw them coming. They attempted to pull me into the alley with a gun in my back, but I held onto a fence and screamed "NO."

Now I'm much more cautious (like KJ and Elizabeth) about walking alone, but the truth is sometimes you never see it coming. Also, when I get really freaked out, I'll walk down the middle of the street which kinda sucks because that doesn't feel safe either.

And thanks to you guys who are compassionate enough to give us space when walking at night. I always wondered if you guys were aware.

eep / August 3, 2007 12:45 PM

It's funny, I'm pretty much the exact opposite of most of the women here. I feel much more on edge when I'm followed by a white guy than a black or Latino guy. In my past experiences, it's the white guys who have said or done things to make me physically uncomfortable (being tackled on a date, having sexual comments shouted at me, etc.). This has made me MUCH more paranoid about being followed by a white guy, as they've been the ones to actually express a threat to me.

I think the best way I feel safe is just to keep myself aware of my surroundings. I have to cut through a parking lot when walking home from the L, and while it's a safe neighborhood, I always look around and behind me the whole way through. Some nights I've gone the long route to stay on well-lit streets when I've noticed sketchy people.

Another thing that makes me feel better is to make eye contact with the people around me. Sometimes this has led to some little conversations, which is a nice reminder that most strangers aren't creeps.

Navin / August 3, 2007 1:06 PM

This has been interesting,
I've always felt that lagging behind would be much creepier than just passing a woman. It would seem more to me like you were shadowing (and really following) them that way. I also would think that a woman walking faster would signify she's aware of the person behind her and show a sense of purpose that would maybe deter a creep. Anyway, ladies if there was any doubt before it's safe to say that most of us know we are making you nervous in these situations and try to do what we can not to.

skafiend / August 3, 2007 1:12 PM

In a semi-related note, did anyone read the story on the GB front page about the professor and his study?...

Sarah / August 3, 2007 3:20 PM

My boyfriend waited in his car one night to keep an eye on me after he dropped me off at my building. When a man threatened me, I pointed at my boyfriend and the man headed diagonally across the street, directly to his car window.

There have been so many occasions that I have been followed, harassed, or propositioned that I have stopped feeling as worried about it. That's weird right?

I am comforted a little by the barbed wire around my building, the extra locks on my door, the police camera on my street, heavy foot traffic on my street, and the quick response time of police in my neighborhood.

llaves / August 3, 2007 3:41 PM

I have a splinter ridden old bat that was a house warming present to my first time living solo in the city. I keep it by my bed now and since.

Some people think it's kinky, I just think it's comforting.

Me / August 3, 2007 4:04 PM

I'm Black, female, 5'3 and I weigh a buck and a quarter. I'm usually wearing business casual attire.

I find that most white & Asian women will move their purses to the shoulder furthest away from me before passing me on the sidewalk. 90% will grab their purses if I begin to walk behind them. I had a white guy grab his bag when he noticed me walking behind him this morning.

Some white women have crossed the street to avoid walking in front of me. On two occasions I've caught women crossing back to where they started after I walked further ahead. Pretty sad.

Oh, this happens during the day. At night, I could walk down the street wearing nothing but $100 bills and most people won't come near me. They think I'm going to harm them. I suppose that's a good thing, right?

josie / August 3, 2007 4:19 PM

Sometimes I hold my cell phone to my ear and act like I'm talking to someone (or call and actually talk to someone), to make myself seem less isolated. Don't usually get afraid much though.

Brandy / August 3, 2007 4:28 PM

Like Shasta said:
Walk with purpose.

No headphones, alert. If I'm really on guard, I'll put my keys between my finger making a fist you do not want to mess with.

Honestly, I don't go out at night much.

And I'm very glad I'm less than two blocks from my el stop on a lighted street.

All that being said, I'm always aware and very rarely scared.

skafiend / August 3, 2007 4:49 PM


I do that phone thing not to avoid being mugged but to deter panhandlers, nutsos and those now-annoying kids on the street hustling for some starving kid in South Amerca or PETA or Greenpeace or whatever they're hawking these days. Between that and the ol' iPod, I'm good to go.

"What? ... Huh? Sorry, can't here you. Gotta go..."

That sorta a safety thing, right?

vt / August 3, 2007 4:58 PM

I'm fairly solid for a 5'8" woman, so if I feel unsafe around people at night, I'll make a fist with my right hand and casually slap it into my left hand. Also, I'll wrap the carabiner hook from my keychain around my knuckles in case I actually have to punch someone.

I keep meaning to take Krav Maga classes, too.

But I second the idea of not listening to music at night and walking on well-lit streets.

Ben / August 3, 2007 5:02 PM


In regard to your comment about how your friends viewed Hyde Park, I think I should offer another perspective. While I was going to UofC 3 years ago, I lived for 8 months in Woodlawn (62nd and Woodlawn) which is certainly a much less affluent and much more dangerous area than Hyde Park.

However, to say that Hyde Park is a safe neighborhood is an out and out lie. In safe areas, people are not mugged at 1 in the afternoon at the corner of 55th and Blackstone! In 8 months, 3 people I knew were mugged. Also, the University gave out an advisory warning that groups of teenagers were attacking men walking alone in Hyde Park.

So is it racism that makes your friends so suspicious of Hyde Park? Maybe. But maybe it has to do with the fact that it is not as safe as other affluent neighborhoods

Ben / August 3, 2007 5:48 PM

I should also add that despite everything that I listed above I never felt unsafe walking home by myself, but I do understand why some people would.

skee bop / August 3, 2007 8:38 PM

Again, does anyone have a recomendation about where to get some pepper spray or mace?

rory / August 3, 2007 8:44 PM

All I can say is that just because someone touches their bag doesn't mean they are afraid of you or a biggot. I have often grasped at my backpack b/c I thought my cell was going off (on vibrate) or to make sure I didnt forget my keys, and someone walking toward me has given me off putting looks. Even if I look back to see if someone is really following me, and it's not just my imagination, doesn't mean I am afraid or racist. It means I want to know if its the wind or if I should stop walking in the middle of the sidewalk and move over to let you pass. Sometimes I think we are so fixated on what others think of us, in this situation and many others, that we forget that maybe they just want to see whats going on. Get over yourselves.

Mo / August 3, 2007 9:43 PM

skee bop,

I got my pepper spray at Ace Hardware. It was a while ago, like 5 years ago, but you can check there. You can also buy online.

tk / August 4, 2007 1:28 PM

skee -
I got mine at "U-spy store" (really) in the mall thingy on Touhy just west of the Edens. The store is just east of Best Buy. the web site is

steven / August 5, 2007 11:27 AM

Thanks for the U Spy store link, but I think this is the actual link: Uspy

steven / August 5, 2007 11:32 AM

Though I'm a guy, I still feel weirded out sometimes while walking home late. It really kicks in once I'm in the courtyard of my building, since my door is towards the back. It's well-lit, but they have plenty of bushes to hide behind. Just to keep myself on edge and alert I walk expecting someone to be there and have no problems acting like a 90 year old lady if I think something's up, i.e. checking the bushes, walking around the area to check things out.

Also, it doesn't help that I saw blood on the ground in the back alley a few months back. Strange shit happening after dark..

Cheryl / August 5, 2007 2:14 PM

skee bop, I bought my pepper spray at the spy store at Lincoln/Belmont/Ashland.

Imelda / August 6, 2007 10:04 AM

You can buy pepper spray at your local police station too.

I smoke and swing that burning hot coal around in case anyone missed it.

At home, it's nice to live on the third floor. I've never known anyone who lived in a garden apartment who hasn't had a breakin.

I know three people who got mugged in a really brutal way (multiple fractures including skull, hospital time) crossing parking lots. Don't cross parking lots.

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