Lock the door and keep it locked. Make sure that lock is a deadbolt. Be aware of your surroundings. "Don’t listen to music while you jog." "Walk with a friend." "Don’t go out alone at night." These are some of the safety “rules” people, especially women and seniors, are advised to follow. Then there are more dangerous and stupid bits of advice like “carry a can of mace” or “keep a can of Raid on your desk” (please don’t do that, okay?) The “rules” are supposed to keep you safe.
Except they don’t. Well, not always.
Sometimes a “rule” limits your liberty and does nothing to keep you safe. Sometimes people get a false sense of security because they are following the “rules” and then don’t see existing dangers. You can be assaulted in the daytime, for example. People have been robbed, raped, and assaulted even though they were walking with a friend at 6 o’clock in the evening in a public place. (I personally know of several cases.) Maybe we should just stay home and give up all of our freedoms because the bad guys are running rampant out there. Oh, but wait, the reality is that we’re more likely to be assaulted in our own homes, cars, and workplaces, so maybe we should opt for a solitary padded cell with triple fortified walls on an island. Throw in a few sharks around the island for good measure. Okay, I’m exaggerating and digressing a bit. I think you get the idea.
I’m not suggesting that you don’t follow any “rules”. I’m suggesting you think further and deeper about the “rules”.
There is a difference between feeling safe and being safe.
For example, having surveillance cameras does nothing to prevent targeted violence. Studies confirm this. Studies also confirm that surveillance cameras do deter things like theft from vehicles. An uttered threat is different from a posed threat. The person walking you to your car may be more likely to assault you than a creepy stranger who might happen to be in the parking lot after work. The well dressed woman might be more likely to defraud you than the smelly scruffy guy panhandling on the corner.
Understand the why behind the rules. Then you will understand when you can (and maybe should) bend or break them and when you should add to them. You also have to decide how much risk is tolerable to you. And don’t apologize for that.
There are so many “rules” that it would be impossible for the average person to even know all of them, never mind remember them all. There are so many “rules” that to follow all of them all of the time means not living. Having said that, sometimes “rules” actually allow you to live better and actually be more free. If you’re not safe you’re not free.
My number one rule is this: Listen to your gut.
I’m not saying your gut is always right that there’s danger. I am saying your gut is always right about the fact that you’re missing something and need to figure it out. I am saying that if your gut is telling you that something is off, then examine it. Your gut, or intuition, tells you that you need to pay attention, that you need to question, that you need to think. (By the way, you might not have time to ponder things; In those cases just go with the intuition and ponder it later.) Your gut tells you that your brain has picked up on something and you aren’t fully aware of it yet. Is it a triggered memory or a present threat or both? Is there something about that person’s body language that’s telling you things aren’t as they appear? Was that noise outside a burglar or a racoon in the garbage?
Be careful not to minimize, deny, or rationalize away a real threat. Don`t buy into things like, "You're just being over-sensitive" or "But he's a nice guy". You also don’t have to live in fear. If you’re feeling fearful about something then take action. The action might be to walk away, or take the earbuds out of your ears, or talk to someone, or fight back (or not fight back), or get a locking lid for that garbage can.
Be smart, do the best you can, be aware, keep thinking, trust your gut, and, if something bad happens, remember this:
It’s not your fault.
If something bad does happen, if you are victimized, forget about beating yourself up because you didn’t follow a “rule”. If someone breaks into your house the blame for that rests firmly upon the person who chose to commit that crime.