To Blog or not to Blog?

If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll notice some big changes over the past few weeks.  That’s because, after two years of blogging about the personal security of women and girls, we decided to take a step back and review how we could improve our content delivery.  Our site analytics indicated that there was a strong following and potentially even a niche market for our content, however, the blog started as a passion project with limited integration with what we do for a living.

On reflection of how we could incorporate the blog into our actual work, we realized that by continuing the blog we would have an opportunity to keep our research habits sharp while continuing to offer insights about personal security which is something that means a lot to us. So, when we asked ourselves the question “to blog or not to blog?” the overwhelming response was, to blog.

As we work toward creating new content that blends our livelihood with our passion, we hope to provide a deeper look into what we have to offer beyond the blog. In addition to Investigator Girl posts, you can expect to see some portfolio pieces begin to appear on our site.  While it may seem a little unorthodox for knowledge workers to use a portfolio website to display their work product, we believe it may be the best way to tell a wider audience about what we do without giving away trade craft or breaching the confidentiality of our clients.  You may also find the odd blog post that relates to services we offer like environmental scanning, SWOT analysis, or next event predictions.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.  We hope you come back and check out our progress.  We also love hearing from our readers so please feel free to contact us with feedback about our blog posts, make topic requests, and to submit general inquiries.

 

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About Investigator Girl Blog

As with most of the data stories we tell, the Investigator Girl blog began with a question. This post explains how our founder came to ask “who are women and girls talking to about their personal security?” and, why we started blogging about it…

During my studies in the fall of 2014 I was assigned an essay on the topic of “Identity in Contemporary Society” where students were tasked with making a persuasive argument on a controversial issue. Having read Sheryl Sandberg’s (2012) book Lean In over the summer and, still being buzzed by it, I decided researching the evolving roles of women in society would be an interesting starting point. While researching the paper I learned quite a bit about the gender gap and global issues around the advancement of women. This being a widely studied topic, there was no shortage of material to work with. But, what stood out for me most was the prevalent theme that women inhibit themselves.

A short time after submitting my essay, I turned on the news only to find a video of two teen girls literally whipping a man on a bus in India after he had assaulted one of them. I experienced a goosebump moment generated by serious pride for those girls for having the courage to fight back.  Then, the report was concluded with the Newscaster stating “the two girls were then kicked off of the bus”.  Insert sound of needle scratching record here.

Statistics show that in coming years more women will be raising children as single parents and more women will be entering the workforce than ever before. If we pair these stats with the social movement around the advancement of women in leadership roles, we end up with a large population of leaders to protect and empower. After discussing these observations with my friends and colleagues, I began searching blogs and websites geared toward women that covered everything from nail art to applying for a Masters Degree program. Nowhere however, did I find a site dedicated strictly to the personal security of women and girls. So, the question became: Who are women and girls talking to about their personal security?  This question became the genesis of the Investigator Girl blog.

Talking to the authorities about safety and security usually doesn’t happen until something bad does, so my goal with the blog was to create a space where insights about personal security could be shared and safety tips would be offered informally.  And, after two years of blogging, a keen audience for the content was discovered. That’s why the most popular Investigator Girl posts have been left up for you to enjoy while we get on with the business of managing risk.

 

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Girls in Gangs

Last year we wrote a post about dating gang members  Here’s Your Sign! You Might be Dating a Gang Member if…  that turned out to be our single most viewed post to date.  Who knew there’d be such an appetite for this topic? Well, we’ve found that most of our readers are actually searching terms like “dating a girl gang member” which tells us that ya’ll want to read more about girls in gangs and are most likely stumbling upon our post that was intended to warn women about dating the wrong guys.  Never one’s to disappoint, we’re going with audience preference here and have prepared a post for you that explains the situation on girls in gangs.  Here goes…

The percentage of female gang members has been on the rise since the 1970’s.  The issue of gender equality has certainly not been passed-over in gang culture.  It’s been estimated that of the 800,000 gang members in the USA (2015), 70,000 of them are female.  That’s quite a high number considering that when one thinks of gangs or gang activity, girls aren’t typically the first thing to come to mind.  Our research revealed that female gang members often fly under the radar.  The reasons being that:

  • They haven’t been formally charged with any serious criminal offences and no child protection orders have been put in place. Both are typical indicators within the “system” that flag gang-affiliated women and girls.
  • The majority of gang outreach and prevention programs are focused on boys and men.
  • There is a huge gap in research data on the topic of girls in gangs.

These factors result in people (”people” being the police, government, community services etc.) overlooking many girls and women who are in fact involved in gangs and who are most likely trapped in a cycle of abuse.

So, why does a girl want to join a gang anyway? Girls gravitate into the gang lifestyle for many different reasons but the majority crave respect and/or money.  Research on the topic indicates that as girls mature through adolescence they are at an increased risk for physical and sexual abuse as well as higher rates of depression and anxiety than boys. This increased risk becomes especially exploitable when the girl comes from a low income broken home. Many girls who gravitate to gang life are seeking emotional and financial support and are looking to replace their families. Common statements of girls in exploitable situations resemble:

“My mom doesn’t understand me, my family doesn’t care, no-one listens”… meanwhile the gang is telling them “we hear you, we care about you, we’re there for you.”

Alienation, feeling like a stranger and not fitting in are also reasons for gravitating to the gang lifestyle. Girls who haven’t developed strong bonds with family, school, or extracurricular activities look elsewhere and are more likely to isolate themselves from, and reject the main stream lifestyle.  This is why love is a BIG motivator, girls often follow boys into the gang culture.  Relationships are very important to girls and women and many are willing to give up their lives/freedom for the men they love. There have been many cases where the female has taken the wrap for her boyfriend to avoid him being sent to jail.  In the gang mentality, loyalty is more important than staying out of prison. Sadly, the lowest rank in gang hierarchy and those most at risk are the groupies, referred to as “links” or “pass-arounds”.  These are generally the girls with the lowest self-esteem and who are the most desperate to belong.  If the relationship they follow into the gang is not strong/long-term, they are most likely going to be exploited and they probably won’t even realize it.

Another unfortunate reality for girls in gangs, is that in some areas girls are actually groomed or “gassed up” for gang life. Parents have been known to teach their daughters how to fight and shoot and have provided them with weapons to carry instilling the belief that “you can’t stay out of it” so you best be prepared. These young girls are literally raised to be able to recognize any object as a weapon and to appreciate the sense of belonging and perceived refuge provided by a gang.  With that gang affiliation also comes an ability to instill fear which can be very enticing to young people. The gang mentality around fear is that someone fearing you is a form of empowerment.

Women are recruited into gangs for various reasons and are viewed as a particular asset when it comes to carrying and hiding contraband. There is a longstanding belief that the Police are less likely to conduct a physical search of a woman so the females are often tasked with transporting illicit items such as drugs and weapons. (We’d like to point out that the Police are actually most likely to call in a female officer to conduct a search on a female which simply delays the inevitable but, anyway…) Traditionally, the female gang member may be used as a “honeytrap” which means that they would be used to lure males into a compromising sexual situation to provide an opportunity for the gang to ambush. Original female gang members acted as support to the men but that is no longer the case.  More women are doing the dirty work than ever before, particularly in the state of California where there is a three strikes rule now which is putting male gang members away for 25 years at a time, leaving the women to carry out the criminal activities on the streets.

The crimes of female gang members are not petty, they are committing extremely violent acts like robberies, kidnappings, and murders. Female gang members are increasingly regarded by their male counterparts as being able to function just the same as the males do, presenting a “they got guns, they can shoot” attitude. And, shoot they will, female recruits seeking affirmation and respect will work to prove themselves to be just as crazy as the males.

Want more on girls in gangs? Let us know.

 

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The Stalking Series Recap

In observance of National Stalking Awareness Month (#NSAM) we’re reminding ya’ll of the three part stalking series we did last January.  It’s been estimated that more than a million women and nearly half a million men are stalked in the US each year. The overwhelming majority of victims are women, and the majority of offenders are men.  Most victims know their stalkers and, unfortunately, new technologies continue to make it easier for stalkers to track their victims.  Check out part one of our series for the basics about stalking:

Part One: What’s The Deal with Stalking?

Stalking can involve a combination of criminal acts and acts that, in isolation, would seem nonthreatening. It is the pattern and context of the acts that constitute stalking. To help clarify, we scanned the web and traded notes with our most relevant and credible sources. In doing so, we came up with a list of stalking behaviors discussed in part two:

Part Two: Stalking Behavior

In part 1 we explained that stalking is about power and control and in part 2 we discussed the behaviors commonly associated to stalking but, there are also different types of stalkers.  Stalkers come from all different backgrounds and have different personalities. They are, by their nature, obsessive and dangerous individuals. Researchers have developed general classifications of stalkers that can be useful for understanding what the heck is going on in a stalking situation, those types are explained in part three for our series:

Part Three: Types of Stalkers

It is very important to note that stalking is a precursor to more violent acts. We really can’t stress enough that any person who suspects that he or she is being stalked should report all contacts and incidents to their local law enforcement as soon as possible. Stalking victims should document every incident as thoroughly as possible, including keeping videotapes, audiotapes, screen shots of texts and snaps, voice mail messages, photos of property damage, letters/emails received and any objects left by the stalker. It is also highly recommended that victims keep a journal to document all incidents, including the time, date, and other relevant information for each interaction. This is because, as we mentioned above, one isolated incident may seem harmless while all of the incidents combined will demonstrate a intentional pattern of activity.

We hope our stalking series provides you with a greater awareness and ability to recognize stalking if it happens to you or someone you know!

I.G.

 

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Here’s Your Sign! – You Might be Dating a Gang Member if…

When you first start seeing someone new there can often be a lot of excitement and intrigue involved in getting to know them.  We all love a hot new mysterious crush yada, yada. One of our readers recently wrote to us explaining that she started seeing a new guy who runs with a crowd she’s heard is ‘connected’.   Although her date hadn’t out-right admitted to being a member of a gang she was suspicious that his bad boy image might be the real deal.  This convo got us thinking about how many young women (and men) might be wondering what to look for.  So folks, here are the top signs your date may be a member of a gang:

  • Stays out late, even on week nights
  • Has unexplained injuries
  • Is vague about job and income
  • Has tattoos of gang symbols
  • Secretive about social circle
  • Unexplained new possessions and unaccounted for monies
  • Abrupt changes in mood / personality
  • Unable to stick to a schedule, repeatedly reschedules your dates or makes you wait
  • Frequent run-ins with the law
  • Gives generous gifts early in the relationship
  • Evidence of drug involvement
  • Receives calls from unknown people and has last minute appointments
  • Uses slang and nicknames, has a unique language
  • Tests your trustworthiness
  • Gets angry if you look in their glove box or get snoopy around their apartment
  • Carries a weapon
  • Protective of cell phone, laptop and other devices

Depending on where you live there may be other signs like wearing certain colors and refusing to go to some parts of town.  If you do suspect that your date is involved in criminal activity you will want to consider your safety!

Dating a gang member is very likely to expose you to violence so you need to be aware of risks to your safety first.  Next you need to consider if you like this person enough to go down with them.  If, for example, you are a passenger in their car and drugs or weapons are on board and you get stopped by Police, there is a good chance you will be arrested.  The Police will take you in for being ‘guilty by association’ and if you haven’t done anything or had no knowledge of the criminal activity, you still just got arrested.  Even if no charges are laid against you, you are now associated to a gang in the system, not cool. Last but not least, gang member’s girlfriends often get recruited to cut drugs and/or other criminal activity.  Once you are in the fold, it is very difficult to get out!

No date is worth your freedom.

I.G.

 

Related: Girls in Gangs

What the Police Really Want

Calling the police usually means that something has gone wrong.  Your reasons for calling the police could range anywhere from needing to report a lost wallet to reporting a car accident to having witnessed a brutal assault.  Depending on the circumstances you may feel hesitant or intimidated to make the official report for fear that your information may not be important enough to warrant the call.  We’re here to tell you that it is!  Police do rely on information from the public and that’s you, the public.

Making the call can seem daunting especially when you know that you have something to tell them but you don’t know how much to tell or what specifically they need to know.  To help you get an idea of what the police really want from you, we’ve put together a list of basic information to consider before making the call:

  • WHO – be prepared to tell the police who you are and who else is involved. In a perfect world you would provide the name, birthday and contact information of each person.  Obviously the world is not perfect so, if you don’t know the name of one or more of the parties, be prepared to describe that person to the best of your ability.  If the best you can do is describe the person, then give as much detailed information as possible, for example:  he is a white male in his 20’s with short brown hair, he wears glasses, has a tattoo on his forearm and rides a mountain bike.  I would recognize him if I saw a photo of him because I see him at my gym (include name of gym) every Tuesday morning between 7 and 8.
  • WHAT – what happened? Are you calling to a report a theft, kidnapping, missing person, cyber stalking, or maybe a break and enter?  It is ok if you think a crime has been committed but don’t know what to call it, some people don’t know that rape is called sexual assault in Canada for example.  So, just be prepared to describe what has happened in detail so that the call taker can identify what crime or offence category yours falls into.  By being able to categorize the crime, the call taker can assign the correct investigative unit to assist you.
  • WHERE – where did the offence take place?  Again, in a perfect world you will be able to provide an exact address and location.  Sometimes that’s not possible.  Let’s say the offence occurred at a house party in an area you don’t know very well. You might not know the name of the street and house number.  Just try to remember any identifying factors of that house, what did it look like and who was the host?  Do you know their name and if not, does one of your friends know who lives there?  This can get tough when it comes to online offences.  You will need to tell the police where you are and where you think the offender is.  There can be jurisdictional issues where an offence will be considered to have been committed at the originating end, in other words the actual offence is not committed in California (where the victim is) if the offender sent the threatening emails from New York.  This is where IP address searches come in super handy… if you can find out the IP address of both parties, it will help the police assist you.
  • WHEN – You need to tell the police when the offence occurred, having an exact time is best. In the case of a bike being stolen from your backyard in the middle of the night you will have to know the time line of when you last saw the bike and when you first realized it was missing.  This helps the investigator narrow down a timeline to work within.  On other cases there are multiple occurrences, like with stalking where there are repeated communications / behaviors between the stalker and their victim.  It is important to be able to tell the police over what period of time this has been going on.  This is why victims of domestic abuse and stalking are asked to keep a list of all of the things that happen, it provides a timeline and documented account of the various occurrences. The police need this to properly assess the risk to your safety and potential for escalation.
  • WHY – If you have any indication as to why the offence took place, the police want to know! In the case of witnessing bar fight you may have heard the fighters arguing over money or a girl.  This helps police understand why the fight began and may potentially shed light on who the primary aggressor was.  Another example would be in the case of a theft where you overheard a suspect saying that they needed money.  Information that might explain why an offence was committed can definitely benefit an investigation!

Whatever your reason for reaching out the guys & girls in blue may be, we encourage you to think about the Who, What, When, Where & Why.  At the outset of any investigation, this is what the police really want from you.

M.C.K.D.

How Crime Stoppers Works

Let’s face it, thinking about crime and the police can be a little daunting, especially for those of us (the general law abiding public) who’ve had little to no experience with them. The thing is, members of the public are frequently witness to criminal events but because of fear of reprisal and/or apathy they simply don’t make reports, nor do they wish to engage with Police. This is understandable, it’s natural to want to avoid potentially harmful or uncomfortable situations. However, this can prevent the authorities from gaining crucial information about a case. A Detective in Albuquerque dealt with this issue during an investigation into a fatal shooting back in 1976. After publicizing the investigation and asking for assistance from the public on local media, the Detective was able to obtain key evidence from the public that he would not have obtained otherwise. As a result of his success with this experience, the Detective designed a system where the public could anonymously provide details of criminal activity. This system is now an international organization called Crime Stoppers International, you may have heard of it.

What you may not have heard is that Crime Stoppers is separate from the Police. When you provide anonymous information (tips) to Crime Stoppers your information does not go directly to a Police Officer. Your tip is reviewed and assigned a file number by the folks at Crime Stoppers before it is assigned to an investigating agency. Because of this, the Police cannot track the information back to you, their source is Crime Stoppers, period. The investigating agency does assign the tip to an investigating Police Officer within the appropriate jurisdiction. The Officer then conducts an investigation based on the information provided in the tip. After the investigation has been conducted, the investigator sends their report back to Crime Stoppers. This allows a member of the public to provide anonymous assistance to the authorities without being directly involved or named in the investigation, it also satisfies the issue of the source of the information for the courts.

This system was designed to focus on stimulating community involvement and participation by taking advantage of media to publicize unsolved crimes; and by offering cash rewards for information leading to arrests and/or convictions. Turns out, it works pretty well! Since it started back in 1976, Crime Stoppers International has been responsible for over a million arrests. In fact, Crime Stoppers now helps solve a crime every 14 mins somewhere around the world. So, the next time you witness something sketchy but want to keep your name out of it, why not consider making an anonymous tip? This can be done online, from the privacy of your own home. And, if you’re paranoid that Crime Stoppers is going to search your IP, make the report from a public library. Just know that even with forensic science and investigative skills, the Police can’t solve all crimes on their own, information from the public is often critical.

I.G.

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You’ve Been Rejected. Deal With It.

On the heels of the stalking series we thought we should check in with ya’ll to make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to rejection.  After all, how can we expect others to accept our rejection with dignity if we’re unable to do the same?!

Investigator Girl is far from being a dating blog however, dating is one of the ways in which we can make ourselves most vulnerable to potential harm. Because of the interpersonal nature of dating and all of the risks and rewards that come with it, you can count on us to talk more about dating in future posts.  With that, we have a few fundamental beliefs about dating to share so that you know our position:

  • There are many ways to meet your perfect fit, dating is just one way.
  • Dating is a two-way street.
  • Rejection is a potential outcome of dating.

No matter how fabulous you are and how many admirers’ are knocking at your door or liking your posts, dating IS a two-way street. If you put yourself out there in the world of dating, you are letting everyone know that you’re prepared for any outcome… even rejection. The whole point of dating is to learn more about the other person so you can each determine whether or not you are a good fit.  If at some point the other person breaks it off, it is because they do not require further information about you to make this decision. Therefore, the purpose of dating has been met and it’s time to move on. This is a very simple process that we continue to watch people attempt to make complex. Eyes roll.

Yes, we know rejection can burn. But, instead of engaging in a prolonged sulk and self-sabotaging behavior after a hot prospect goes cold, you may want to just be grateful that that other person chose not to waste your time.  By breaking it off, they have allowed you to move on and go find a better fit for yourself.  We think it is a great sign of respect to oneself and to the other person to make a clean break from any dating relationship. It is the honorable thing to do. If you are not mature enough to deal appropriately with this concept, we think a time-out from the dating scene would be a great next move!

Like it or not, rejection is a part of life.  Over the course of your lifetime you will be rejected for many things including jobs you apply for, admissions into programs, financing options, and, the list goes on.  Our point is that if you’re not comfortable with rejection, you might want to think about getting comfortable with it. By being comfortable with rejection you will spend less energy on past negatives and more energy on future positives. We also think that if you form a healthy attitude toward rejection, you will be better at rejecting unwanted things/people from your life – this is an important skill that we touch on in our next post. Stay tuned.

I.G.

PS if you’re one of the millions of viewers who tunes into The Bachelor each week you’ll know what we mean when we say kudos to Jimmy Kimmel for his appearance on the current season. Not only did he make light of the entire ‘bachelor process’ with comedic brilliance, his sobbing exit interview in the back of the limo cast some much needed perspective on rejection whilst making us snort laugh. Well done Mr. Kimmel.

 

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Age of Consent… Its Complicated.

Our gal pals in blue tell us that they often become involved in cases where neither the Complainants (the people who call the Police) nor the Subjects of Complaint (the people who are being reported) understand whether or not a law has actually been broken with respect to sexual activity and teens. We think teenage sex is an awkward enough topic without adding legal concerns into the mix so we looked into it. And, it turns out that the Age of Consent in North America is complicated.

We’ll start off by defining age of consent as:  The age at which a person is considered to be competent to give consent to sexual activity under the law.

A further disclaimer being that Age of Consent laws should not be interpreted as a ‘coming of age’ or an expected age for becoming sexually active. Young people should note that these laws represent the MINIMUM ages for consent under the law. Meaning that, just because the law says you can give consent by a certain age, it doesn’t mean you should go out on your 16th birthday and have sex just ‘because you are legal’ now. These ages are written into law so that when things go badly for young people, appropriate legal action can be taken.

USA

In the USA the legal age of consent varies by state. There are currently 34 states in which 16 is deemed to be the youngest age that a person is mature enough to give consent. In the remaining states the age is either 17 or 18. This may sound straightforward but it isn’t. There are other factors that may influence the age of consent in a state like the “differential ages”. There are also minimum ages for prosecution, and as you may have heard, the term for sex with minor in the USA is Statutory Rape. For more details, we recommend visiting the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website where you will find a clear summary of Statutory Rape state laws as well as an easy to read table where you can look up your own state or one that you plan to travel to.

CANADA

 The Canadian version is no less complicated. According the Department of Justice website the age of consent for sexual activity is 16 years, however, there are exceptions up north too. For example, the age of consent becomes 18 years if the sexual activity exploits the young person in any way. Exploitation can occur if the sexual activity involves prostitution, pornography or a person of trust or dependency (i.e. a teacher, coach or babysitter). There are also exceptions for “close in age” and “peer group” partnerships in Canada. The term for sex with a minor in Canada is Sexual Assault not Statutory Rape. For a more detailed explanation go to Department of Justice

So to break it down, the minimum Age of Consent in North America varies. There is no simple answer. The Age of Consent depends on factors like:

  • Location – which state/country you are in
  • The nature of the relationship between the two people involved
  • The ages of the people involved

Parents should note that generally speaking, teens can consent to sexual activity with other teens depending on the age gap between the two. Guidance around good decision-making comes into play here because teens can (legally) decide for themselves.

What young people need to know is that the laws around Age of Consent are in place for their own protection. These legal age limits mean that no matter how mature and ready you think you are; you actually cannot make this decision for yourself in cases where the other person is much older than you. That older person could be charged with a criminal offence just for kissing you. No intercourse is required for many criminal charges.

Because there is some complexity around Age of Consent, we think it’s a super idea to educate yourselves, your family and your friends about the relevant Age of Consent laws in your area long before there is any opportunity for concern or confusion. Knowing where you stand with regard to the law and being clear about the nature of your relationships may save you a world of trouble when the birds and the bees start buzzing around your household.

I.G.

Link to:: Unicef Child Rights

 

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Easy Targets

In the world of Criminology there have been many theories about why people commit crimes. One of those is the Broken Window Theory. The Broken Window Theory was based on an experiment conducted by Psychologist, Phillip Zimbardo where two unlicensed vehicles were left parked in two very different neighbourhoods. One vehicle was left in a Bronx, New York neighbourhood and the other in a Palo Alto, California neighbourhood. Both vehicles were left unattended with their hoods up. The vehicle parked in the Bronx was hit within minutes of its abandonment and within 24 hrs everything of value had been stripped from the vehicle. Meanwhile the vehicle left in Palo Alto was left alone for an entire week before Zimbardo returned to the vehicle and smashed the window himself. After the window had been smashed, others began to vandalize the vehicle.

What Zimbardo gleaned from this experiment was that in neighborhoods where abandoned property and thefts occurred more frequently (like the Bronx), the community seemed apathetic to the event. He also found that same events could occur in ANY community (like Palo Alto) where a communal sense of regard for property is lowered by acts of vandalism. Others went on to further develop this theory and came up with the general concept that a house with broken windows and unkempt yard is more likely to be targeted by criminals than a house on the same street that is well maintained. This relates to the indication that no one cares about the unkempt property. Criminals think they are less likely to get caught if they engage a target that no one cares about.

Regardless of whether or not you own a car or a house, the Broken Window Theory can be applied to you personally. Take a minute to re-imagine Zimbardo’s experiment had it been conducted with people in place of vehicles. If you consider that your body is your vehicle or your house, you probably wouldn’t leave your yard unkempt or your hood up with the knowledge that it makes you an easy target for a theft or vandalism would you?  Our point is simple. If you show the world that you don’t care about yourself, you are doing yourself a disservice that you may not have considered. You may be making yourself much more attractive to creepers looking for an easy and vulnerable victim to any number of criminal acts.

Given what we know about target selection, one would think that taking care of yourself would make you a much less desirable target.  Something to consider the next time you head out for a night on the town… ask yourself this: how am I presenting myself? And, are you allowing yourself to fall into a vulnerable state, i.e. drinking too much and getting separated from the group?  Please note, we’re not talking about your clothing or how much make-up you put on here, we’re talking about carrying yourself with confidence and refraining from getting intoxicated to the point that you lose control of yourself and your surroundings.  Self care involves knowing your limits and not straying from the people you trust if you’re planning to inhibit your senses.

I.G.

 

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