Teen safety includes topics like driving, drug use, and violence prevention. It also includes being aware of surroundings. In the city, we routinely hear about robberies and assaults on college age students who may be out at 2 am while leaving a party, but may also just be walking home from a study group. In many of these cases, the victim was traveling on foot alone, after dark, and I wonder if they would have been attacked if they had been with a group of peers.

I want to mention that most sexual assaults/rapes involve someone the victim knows, so our advice may not protect from attacks by people known to a teen. This post is focused on attacks by strangers. In Kent, WA this past week, 2 separate attacks occurred involving teenage girls who were walking along a major road. The girls were raped by a young attacker, who police are still searching for (see police sketch here). Both of the girls were walking alone, around the time of a busy a high school football.

Attending social events, like football games and parties, is an absolutely normal past time. As adults, we may be less likely to leave an event on foot, and usually have access to a car, ride with a friend, or public transportation. With experience, we may notice a suspicious person and cross the street, or go into a local store to avoid a confrontation, but teens may be less likely to take notice of these nuances.

After the attacks in Kent, police and news crews have echoed the advice given by parents for decades: travel in a group of 2 or more for safety. Traveling in groups may not prevent an assault or robbery, but not being alone ensures there is at least one more person to witness an event and be able to call for help. It can also be a deterrent for an assailant who is acting alone.

Here are some more safety tips:

  1. If you have someone available to pick you up, use them
  2. Park in well-lit areas
  3. When walking to your car, don’t talk on your cell phone or send text messages. Be alert to your surroundings
  4. Walk to your car with your keys in hand. Fumbling through your bag for keys can leave a person off guard. In addition, keys can act as a sharp object you can use against an attacker
  5. Use security guards/attendants to your advantage. If they are available, ask them for a ride or as an escort to your car or the bus stop
  6. If you get a gut feeling that something is wrong, run. Don’t worry about looking weird