“Situational awareness is a huge factor in anyone’s personal safety,” said Pine County Sheriff Jeff Nelson when asked about safety tips he would share with young women in the wake of Mollie Tibbetts abduction and murder. “Knowing who and what is around you helps you make better decisions.”
Molly Tibbetts, a 20-year-old Iowan college student, disappeared from her small town of Brooklyn, Iowa in mid July, having been last seen alive out on her regular evening run. Her body was found in a nearby field last week on Tuesday, August 21, more than a month after she was reported missing. The killer of Tibbetts led investigators to her body and confessed to the murder of the college student.
According to the complaint posted on the Des Moines Register, the dark colored Chevy Malibu “can be seen numerous times driving back and forth in the area”. The killer admitted to “making contact with a female running in Brooklyn” and that he “pursued her in his vehicle.” The killer stated that he “parked his vehicle, got out and was running behind her and along side her”. The killer also stated Tibbetts grabbed her phone and said, “I’m gonna call the police.” The killer then panicked and got mad, according to the complaint, and said he “blocked his memory” which is what he does when he gets very upset. He stated that he doesn’t remember anything after that until he came to an intersection where he made a U-turn, drove back to an entrance to a field and then drove into a driveway to a cornfield where he later left Tibbett’s body. The killer later described Tibbett’s clothing and that she was wearing an earphone or headphone set.
Most people have hesitancy to call 911 thinking their situation may not be worthy of police attention, but in reality, police are accustomed to getting calls of “suspicious behavior”, in which anytime someone is following, circling or drawing in close proximity is considered suspicious behavior.
“Not being afraid to call 911 earlier than later, can be a deterrent,” said Sheriff Nelson. “You have to raise the awareness sooner for it to help sooner. If you try to call for help too late, the call may not go through or there may not be time to convey a message. If a ‘bad guy’ heard that someone is already on a 911 call and aware of it, this would potentially act as a deterrent.”
“I would encourage people to look for training in self defense whether it is armed (many different levels of weapons are available) or unarmed,” added Sheriff Nelson. “Predators can pick their victims as well. Being oblivious to your surroundings, impairment, an air of weakness or lack of confidence can signal vulnerability to those who look for that. Prevention starts with a potential victim removing themselves from a pool of potential victims.”
Other nationally noted
tips to stay safe include:
• Be aware of your surroundings.
• Get off your phone but keep it handy (Don’t be so tied to it that you can’t be aware of what’s going on around you, but have a button on your phone to dial 911 immediately or have 911 dialed and ready to push).
• Don’t carry a purse (this makes you a more likely target for burglary).
• Lock the door behind you.
• Speak up (don’t be afraid to yell for help or speak loudly to someone coming near you so that you can get the attention of others nearby. Even if there is no harm, what is a couple minutes of embarrassment compared to being harmed?).
• Park safely (when parking, choose spots that are well-lit, amongst other cars, close to the main entrance, and away from densely wooded or areas with thick shrubs that an assailant could hide in. Lock your door quickly, and keep your keys handy in case you have to get back in. Be aware of someone loitering near your car but do not approach them, and always check in and around your car before entering. Always keep keys handy and do not fumble in your purse for them.).
• Stay in well-lit areas at night even if it means taking a longer route.
• Cross the street when you see men who look like they might be drunk. Late at night, cross to the other side of the street when anyone is walking towards you.
• Text a friend before going out for a run or on a date with a stranger.
• Identify the person at the door, but don’t open the door (Recent activity states that more and more, burglars are doing home invasions assuming that if no one answers, it’s safe to go in. Answer with a call asking “Who’s there?” and let them know that you’re on the phone or won’t be answering the door. NEVER actually open the door, even for a service person you are expecting until you confirm they are who they say who they are)
• NEVER get into an attacker’s car if he pulls a gun and orders you to get into his vehicle. Most attackers don’t want to shoot you: they want you to get into the car so that they can drive you to a deserted place and do God-knows-what-else. Do not comply, and instead run away screaming. It is MUCH more likely than not that he will just move on to an easier target.
• Trust your instincts (if you feel something is weird about a situation, get out of it).
• Learn how to use a weapon whether it’s a handgun or mace or a self-defense class.
• Don’t make yourself a target (hold yourself confidently, act wisely, and don’t be a target).
• While driving, NEVER pull over if someone driving alongside you points at your car pretending something is wrong. If this happens, drive to the nearest well-lit and populated gas station and look the car over yourself (or ask an attendant). Believe it or not, many women have fallen for this for fear of their car spontaneously exploding in the middle of the road. Not likely.
• ALWAYS lock your car doors while driving. There are several cases where an attacker simply walks up to a woman’s car while she’s at a traffic light and jumps in with his gun or knife drawn.
• Only give the attendant your car keys, when having your car serviced, and detach the keys to your home. They have key duplicators readily available, and generally have your address on file.
• Don’t trust someone based on looks. Just because a stranger may look innocent and clean-cut, doesn’t mean you should trust them.
• Back away if you return to your car and it has a flat tire. Return to wherever you came from (restaurant, store, etc) and call for help. Once assistance arrives, approach your car. If someone comes up to you (even if they are a woman) and wants to offer help, politely say, "No, thank you." If a man, he could be a predator. If a woman, she could be the lurer.
• Dress to Kill. Clogs, high heels, and tight skirts are hard to run and fight in, while scarves and long necklaces are easy to grab. If possible, modify your fashion style or wear comfortable clothing when walking alone. You can always change into dress-up clothes later.
• Make Eye Contact. It may be your first instinct to lower your gaze as you walk to your destination. But looking straight into the face of potential enemies is the better option. "Eye contact may scare off attackers because they fear you will be able to identify them," says Mary Ellen Burns, a spokesperson for the Boston Police Department.
• Be Lazy, Take the Elevator Over the Stairs. And when in the elevator, stand in front of the doors, then if someone you feel uneasy about engages with you, you can step off immediately.
• Fight Your Inner Woman. Experts say that women tend to be sympathetic — don't be! History has shown that serial killers and other criminals often play on the sympathies of unsuspecting women to lure them into dangerous situations. If someone asks for the time, directions, or help in or around their car, be as courteous as possible but keep moving. You can always assist the stranger by making a phone call to police from a safe location or by finding others to go back and help you.
• Change It Up. Regularly change your walking routine. Plan out a few different routes that you can take and mark out "safe houses" in your mind at intervals along the way. In the event of attacks, you can stop at these shops or homes where you know you will be safe. Try to incorporate these houses every time you vary your route.
• Be Paranoid and Suspicious. It is always better to be safe than sorry. When in a parking lot, look at the cars parked on either side of your vehicle. If a male in a vehicle is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, or if you are parked next to a van, always enter your car from the side opposite the strange vehicle. If the parking lot is particularly dark or deserted, it may be wise to go back and find a friend or guard who can walk you to your car.
• Be careful on social media. Decide not to open Facebook or other social media messages from unknown men, who could see the message has been “Read” and become hostile and harassing. Do not accept friend requests or follows from those you don’t know well.
• Lock your door between trips. When bringing heavy bags and packages into the house or apartment, lock and unlock the door with every trip.
• Be cautious on public transportation. Avoid getting off at your bus or train stop if a man who has been staring exits at the same time.
• Never leave a drink unattended at a party.
• Make sure you have enough cell phone battery life before leaving one location to last until you get to another.
WHEN IT'S TOO LATE:
If you have gotten yourself into a violent situation, the most important thing is to react immediately.
• Run, Run, Run. If the predator has a gun but you are not under his control, take off. Experts say the predator will only hit you, a running target, four out of every 100 shots. And even then, it most likely will not be a vital organ.
• Stay Put. Do not let your attacker take you to an abandoned area. If he does, the likelihood that you will be seriously injured increases tenfold, says Burns, spokesperson for the Boston Police Department. You do not want to get to "crime scene number two" so do whatever it takes and never give up.
• Hit the Attacker Where It Counts. The eyes, knees, throat and groin are very vulnerable, good places to gouge and kick. But listen to your instincts and try to determine if a counter attack by you is the best approach. If you do decide to fight, make sure your first move is as forceful as possible. It may be your only hope.
• Try Anything and Everything. Additional approaches are offering your wallet, jumping out at a stoplight, doing something to cause an accident, or signaling to other drivers. If you are thrown into the trunk of a car, experts advise you to kick out the back tail lights, stick your arm out the hole, and start waving wildly. The driver won't see you but everyone else will. This trick is said to have saved lives.