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The Mindset of Street Smarts
• Trust your intuition, and act on it. When you sense that a situation could be bad, resist the temptation to hope for the best, or to wait for some proof. Our intuition is our internal alarm system, and it alerts us to dangers that are not obvious, but are nevertheless real. Distinguish between intuition and prejudice.
• Protect your personal space. In general, perpetrators want easy access to their potential victims. On the street, our attitude provides a barrier. Displaying a confident and decisive attitude can communicate that our personal space will not be violated easily.
• Maintain a degree of healthy distrust. Make cautious decisions about who you will allow into your personal space. Ask yourself first, do I really have good reason to trust this person?
• Get angry if people try to harm you. You have the absolute right to live your life free of violence. Your anger can help you to overcome fear and has the potential to scare off an attacker.
Prepare Some Plans
Typically, people who perpetrate street violence have a plan. Any planning that we can do in anticipation of a possible threat will give us an edge. Here are few ideas:
• Imagine some potentially threatening situations in which you might find yourself, and visualize some possible escapes. Thinking through some "what if" situations ahead of time gives us some ready-made options to draw on in time of need, and helps keep us out of denial when threatened.
• Identify a safe haven in the neighborhoods and MAX stops that you frequent, and when you travel in unfamiliar neighborhoods, too. Safe havens are refuges where we can use a telephone, wait out a volatile situation, or solicit help from others. Ideal safe havens are small businesses in which it is easy to identify the person in charge, and which have entrances that can be locked quickly. Once inside, clearly communicate what is causing you fear, and what you need.
• Choose a safe person on the MAX train. When you get on the train, use your intuition to choose someone that you feel would be safe to help you. If someone makes you uncomfortable, or you need help, you can ask this person for help by being direct, “You in the red shirt, I need help! Call 911!”
• Breathe! It clears the head and helps calm the nerves.
• Keep moving.
• Look around as you walk or wait on the street or the MAX stop. Checking out what is happening on each side of you makes you appear difficult to catch by surprise.
• Take up extra space when sitting and standing. It defines the physical boundaries that you will protect.
• Make brief eye contact, selectively. It communicates that others are seen, that we belong in a space, and that we are not easily intimidated. To avoid sending a mixed message, keep your face neutral, not glaring or smiling. Break eye contact by looking to the side. Avoid eye contact with those who you believe could misinterpret it as a challenge, or as an invitation into your space.
For information on the WomenStrength self-defense and personal safety program call 503-823-0260.
City of Portland's Advise on Riding MAX safely:
People who are described as being street smart typically do two things: 1) They make efforts to recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations when they can. 2) They leave dangerous situations they find themselves in before those situations escalate. Their actions are based on the following principles.
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