October is Domestic Awareness month, however, women deal with gender-based violence all year round, but there are a few ways they can alter their routine to help protect themselves against unexpected danger.

Changing your routine can save your life: safety tips for Chilliwack’s women

October’s purple lights to shine a light on domestic abuse, but women still face violence daily

“I’ve had a man follow and film me and my two young daughters while grocery shopping,” said Mikayla Cecylia Gilmour.

One “time I was on a bus and a man sat next to me even though there were empty seats,” said Kate Banham. “He wouldn’t let me off the bus (but) I managed to escape. He got off at my strop and tried to follow me. I ran.”

“At 18, a man grabbed me in the mall while I was on my lunch break. He told me if I went along with him, he wouldn’t hurt me. He tried taking me from the mall (but) I managed to wiggle free and run back to my store,” recalled Laina Rodney.

If you were to ask the women around you about their scariest moments, most will have a similar story, or share something even more terrifying because 67 per cent of Canadians know a woman who’s experienced some form of physical or sexual abuse.

READ MORE: Purple Light Nights in Chilliwack to shine the whole month of October

And although the purple lights and bracelets appearing in town this October are aiming their violet glow on reducing domestic violence, there are a few key things women can do regularly (besides doing things like carrying pepper spray) to protect themselves on a general basis.

When in doubt, “call 911 for any emergency situation where you need the immediate help of fire, ambulance, or police,” said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Mike Rail. “But prevention goes a long way—a lot further than confrontation does.

“Things can escalate quickly … (and) you don’t know the state of the person you’re (dealing) with, (so) it’s important to choose your battles,” said the veteran officer.

Unfortunately, though, not every situation can be solved by merely avoiding confrontation. In fact, sometimes doing nothing only stokes the fire of fury.

“You have to be aware of where you are and what’s going on around you,” said Darlene Wahlstrom, who works for Chilliwack’s Victim Services.

“There are all sorts of steps we as women can take to ensure our safety,” she continued. “Never walk or run anywhere with your headphones in, hold your keys (like a weapon), and look under your (vehicle) as you approach to make sure nobody’s underneath.

“I even check the passenger side of my vehicle before getting in to make sure nobody’s waiting on the other side,” said Wahlstrom.

And after experiencing two separate incidents of road rage that involved her being threatened, Banham says she now drives with her car doors always locked.

“You can never be too safe,” said Wahlstrom.

READ MORE: Our Community: Darlene Wahlstrom – How Do You Do Your Job?

But “there are (not only) lots of ways to keep yourself safe, (but also) safe ways to stick up for yourself within the rules of the law,” added Rail.

If you’re ever in a situation where you feel your safety may be threatened, “Connect with somebody who can make you feel safe,” he continued.

“And stay there until (all danger’s) been removed from the situation. Staying safe is the bottom line, (and) in most cases (people) will leave you alone.”

If they don’t, Rail advises to contact the police. “Things can be investigated after the fact through (video and witness statements). When you involve the RCMP, (the situation) can be safely de-escalated.”

For more information about Chilliwack’s Victim Services and what they provide, please call 604-393-3020. Should you wish to report a crime anonymously to the police, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).


@SarahGawdin
Sarah.Gawdin@theprogress.com

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