By Shelby Patterson, Guest Writer

There have been a lot of disturbing and tragic stories in the news recently. The disappearance Mollie Tibbitts, a University of Iowa student, gained national attention this past Summer. I personally remember sharing her picture on Facebook. Somehow I was feeling a deep sense of sadness and fear for her safety and I had never even met this girl. Every time I saw her picture with the word “MISSING” in bold letters across the top, I was suddenly concerned with the life of a stranger.

These feelings led to concerns for my own safety and the safety of my family and friends. While watching a news conference one day I was brought to tears as I found myself imagining how her mother must have felt. I think that I felt just an ounce of her pain because I could connect to her as a mother myself. I have two daughters of my own who will undoubtedly venture into the world one day as independent women, left to their own devices without me there to protect them.

Entire communities came together time and time again to search for Mollie, only to eventually discover the worst case scenario. She had been followed, attacked, and murdered in cold blood. She was out for a run in her safe small town, just as she had done so many times before.

Just last month in September, which was just shortly after Mollie Tibbits had been laid to rest and Iowans’ nerves finally began to settle, Iowa State student Celia Barquin Arozamena was brutally killed while she was playing golf. A man had snuck up on her through the trees and stabbed her to death.

These stories made a lot of people; women in particular, question their personal safety. These disturbing murders had something in common. These young women were both college students who were alone at the time of their attacks. As college students these stories can cause a lot of uncertainty and fear, they simply hit too close to home for so many.

How could this happen in our safe communities? Unfortunately, there are some very bad people woven into the fabric of our society. It is up to us as individuals to protect ourselves. How can we prevent more of these terrible cases happening in the future?

The first step to protecting yourself is to be mindful. Always know what is going on around you. The military calls this “Situational Awareness” or S.A. (We all know how the military loves their acronyms! Instead of focusing on our phones when we are out and about, we need to look around us and be more mindful of our surroundings. It is fun to listen to music and scroll through social media, but these things are distracting and make you an easier target.

Also, always follow your gut instincts. We were given a very powerful biological tool that is meant to be used for personal safety, it is a primal instinct that is there for survival. If you have a bad feeling about a person or a particular situation, TRUST YOUR GUT! Get away to a safe place or a group of people. Predators seek out people who are alone and are much less likely to attack groups of people.

If you are aware of your surroundings you will be much more likely to sense someone who is coming after you or following you. You will have more time to get to safety. If someone is following you, look at them! Most predators don’t want you to see their face. If they keep following you and you have a bad feeling, call the police and make it loud enough for that person to hear you.

What if you are attacked? Run to safety. Scream and yell. If they grab you then scratch their face. Hit and kick. Fight them with everything you have and they will most likely give up and go away. Predators usually like an easy target.

We need to acknowledge that there are bad people lurking around our communities, waiting for an opportunity to attack their next victim. There are also a lot of good people who are willing to help you if you feel scared or threatened.

Be prepared and have a plan! Do not let yourself become the next victim.

Attend a free Self Defense Readiness Event:

Wednesday November 7th at 1:00 pm. Building 5 Room 1240 D. Refreshments will be provided courtesy of the DMACC Honors Program.

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