A sampling of recent news headlines confirms the worst fears of many women as they go about living each day and occasionally travel.
“Woman attacked at popular park in broad daylight.”
“Woman injured in shooting after man tries to break into car.”
“American kidnapped on safari in Uganda and held for $500,000.”
Shelley Klingerman, the author of “Vigilance: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Personal Safety, Self-Protection Measures, and Countermeasures,” told WND she understands why some women don’t want even to think about the topic.
And she’s not deterred by some people who think her estimation of the need to “prepare, prevent and protect” is an overreaction.
“I see it as being empowering rather than cynical or fearful,” she told WND. “I feel so much comfortable and calm because I know what to do.”
For nearly two decades, Klingerman said, she was fortunate to avoid making news as she maintained an extensive domestic and international travel schedule.
“Looking back on my solo travel days (in the early 1990s), I was really lucky and very naive,” she writes. “I gave entirely too much information about myself to complete strangers. … I was way too trusting and not plugged into my surroundings.”
Times have changed.
“Back then I didn’t feel I had to be switched on, with my radar scanning at all times, when I was by myself. However, it’s no longer an option NOT to take proactive measures to keep yourself safe.”
In 2006, she produced a documentary titled “Terror in American Schools: Are Your Kids Safe?” that prompted her to work with law-enforcement and anti-terrorism experts to develop strategies to improve her personal safety.
In fact, she draws some of her philosophy and tactics from the training of Navy SEALs, who practice visualizing themselves in various scenarios.
“They train so often that they sometimes can do some of their exercises with their eyes shut,” Klingerman told WND.
“You have to see yourself in a situation and getting out of it. That it a tremendous help in giving you confidence to act.”
SEALs are known for being vigilant, she noted, embracing the watchword, “Look up and look around.”
“In today’s society we are so heads down, looking at our phones with our ears plugged, that we have no idea what is going on around us,” said Klingerman.
Meanwhile, predators are for looking for such people, typically relying on the element of surprise.
“We’ve basically incapacitated all of our God-given senses to protect ourselves,” she said.
“We have made it much easier for them to surprise us, because we aren’t using our vision, our hearing, we’re distracted mentally,” she added. “The one person who is a little more tuned in and looking around, and doesn’t have her ears plugged, is more of a hardened target.”
‘That’s not going to happen here’
Klingerman said that when she was doing the documentary on equipping schools – it was before the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre – she got a lot of pushback.
People told her: “Oh, you’re overreacting, that’s not going to happen here. You’re just fear-mongering.”
Since then, schools are much further along in protecting themselves.
“But we still need to talk about this,” she said, and many schools have regular drills but discover only when there’s a threat that they aren’t adequately prepared.
Case in point: Her daughter’s school went on lockdown.
“It ended up being a hoax but felt as real as you can imagine,” Klingerman said.
Around the dinner table, using news events as “teachable moments,” she had been engaging with her daughter in ongoing training.
“In that situation, she knew that she should barricade a door,” Klingerman said. “But the teacher was freaking out and was telling her not to do it.
“Well, that is exactly what you want to do. Barricade when it’s still active.”
The student and the teacher “were not on same page,” Klingerman said, emphasizing the importance of establishing a protocol and good communication.
“Panic comes when you don’t know what to do,” she said.
‘Innovative, fluid person’
Klingerman said the objective is to become an “innovative, fluid person who can react in any scenario.”
“The more savvy you become, the more you innovate and are able to think on your feet and react,” she said.
“Talk about it, be comfortable with it, learn more. Layer these habits and start doing one thing differently.”
One habit that takes little effort is to begin parking your car under lights.
“I’m now telling my kids, I don’t care if every spot is open,” Klingerman said. “It may be day time when you go in, but if it’s nighttime when you go out, you’re at least walking toward light, which makes you a less attractive target, exposing a possible predator.”
She pointed to the horrific murder of an Uber customer, a University of South Carolina student, in late March.
The student got into a car she mistakenly thought was her Uber ride, police say, and later was found dead in a field.
Klingerman posted a video on Facebook after her book came out in which she presented basic preventative tactics for anyone in a ride-share situation.
One is simply to make sure, by asking certain questions, that the person inviting you in the car is the driver you ordered.
Another is to glance at the side of the door before you get in and see if the doors already are locked. The South Carolina student apparently got locked in by the driver.
“You don’t think to do it, but it could save your life,” Klingerman said. “And then teach your kids.”
These are not hard things to do, she said, but they are habits, which take time to hone.
And as for scaring kids by delving into a horrible subject?
“I’d rather my daughter be a little afraid,” she said, “than a lot dead.”