With your head up, eyes focused, keys between the knuckles, you scan the parking garage as you make your way alone to meet your friends for a night on the town.
It’s supposed to be a fun night with your girlfriends—maybe some drinks and dancing—why all the vigilant behavior?
Most people don’t expect things to go wrong during a fun night out with friends, but as a woman, this scenario is something we’ve all gone through before. We’re taught at a young age to be aware of our surroundings and be cautious. Because when we aren’t, we could be potentially opening the door to being a victim of a crime, assault or accident.
Violence against women, a global and national concern
“The World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 3 women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime,” said Saira Kalia, MD, a psychiatrist at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson. “In the U.S., 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.”
While you should never let the threat of an attack keep you from having fun, it’s a reality many women must remember when they head out with friends or alone at night—and even during the day. Being aware of the possibilities can help keep you safe from problems and let you enjoy your time out.
Tips for women to stay safe on a night out
If you’re planning a moms’, ladies’, or friends’ night out in the future, Dr. Kalia has helped us put together nine important safety tips to ensure you have the best and safest night out you possibly can.
1. Stay together
To keep yourself safe, keep your friends close, and your girlfriends even closer. Whether on the subway or on the dancefloor, using the buddy system is an excellent way to make sure everyone stays safe. Walk your friends to their car and make sure they get inside their homes safely. Remember: there’s always safety in numbers.
If drinking is involved, make sure you have at least one person as a designated driver who can help ensure everyone gets home safely. It may not be any fun “babysitting” your friends, but having at least one sober person can deter others from taking advantage of anyone in the group.
2. Be aware of your surroundings
If someone is creeping you out or you aren’t feeling comfortable in the place you’re at, let a friend know and move to another location.
“Some of the main things to remember are to be aware of your surroundings and to trust your instincts,” Dr. Kalia said. “Being courteous isn’t more important than safety, so trust your gut and be comfortable not giving details about yourself.”
3. Guard your drinks
When you’re out dancing and having a good time, it can be easy to forget about your unattended drinks on a table or bar. Unfortunately, this is a great opportunity for someone else to slip a drug into your drink—making you an easier target for sexual assault.
Make a habit of taking your drinks with you or buying a new one each time. Don’t accept premade drinks from strangers. If someone wants to buy you a drink, go to the bar and watch the bartender pour it for you.
4. Recognize the signs of being drugged
There are a few drugs, often called “date rape drugs,” which when placed in a person’s drink can lead to sedation and reduced inhibitions. Things like Rohypnol (nicknamed roofies), GHB and Quaaludes can be slipped into your drink without you even knowing or even detecting.
“Sometimes there are a few indicators that your drink has been spiked, such as a color change, excessive bubbles or a cloudy appearance, but most often you will not see, smell or taste a difference in your drink—you’ll only feel the difference,” Dr. Kalia said.
If you or a friend think you’ve been drugged, head to the hospital. If you’re out alone or on a date, call someone you trust and get to the hospital. “Most of these drugs leave the body within 48 to 72 hours, so early testing can help clarify what happened.”
5. Drink responsibly
This should go without saying, but pace yourself when you’re out drinking with your friends. Make sure you’ve eaten something beforehand and stay hydrated (with water!) throughout the night. Such measures can help you stave off a hangover the next day.
6. Watch what you post on social media
Don’t post on social media where you are going or where you are at currently. Wait until you have left to post photos or videos. Posting where you’re at is like an open invitation for others to come and find you.
7. Download a personal safety app
Whether your date isn’t going as expected, your car breaks down or you’ve lost your friends at the club, here are some free apps that can keep you safe, protected and connected with those you love:
- Circle of 6: Allows you and a circle of six friends or trusted people to quickly call on when you’re in danger or need help. With one touch, you can ping your contacts or emergency services for help, along with your current location.
- Watch Over Me: You can tell the app how long to watch over you until you reach your location. If you fail to reach your destination, it sends an emergency alert to your chosen contacts.
8. Use ridesharing with caution
While ridesharing is super convenient and an efficient mode of transportation, there’s always a risk when riding with a stranger. “In 2019, Uber released its first crime report, which noted 3,045 sexual assaults related to rides in 2018,” Dr. Kalia noted. “Ridesharing is quite a helpful addition to our lives and there are things we can do to make sure we are safe while using this service.”
If you’ll be using a rideshare, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Always match the plate, photo and name of the driver with what is on your app.
- Share status in the app to a friend or family member.
- If you’re alone, sit in the backseat and keep all your belongings with you.
- Get familiar with the child safety locks in the doors and check to see they are set to “off” before getting in.
- Pay attention to your route and if you feel uncomfortable, ask to be dropped off at a nearby safe location and for the ride to end.
9. Have fun!
There are many things to worry about in life, but don’t let them ruin your evening plans. With some awareness and self-confidence, you and your friends can make the most of any night out together.
For other tips, check out:
- 7 Hangover Myths You Need to Stop Believing
- Sleepy? Think Before You Get Behind the Wheel
- Is Wine Wednesday Normalizing Alcohol Abuse?
- Can 31 Days Without Alcohol Boost Your Health?