The safety of South Africa’s women and children is an important issue which should enjoy attention and focused action all year long, not just for 16 days at the end of the year.
So believes Charnel Hattingh, national marketing and communications manager at Fidelity ADT.
She was speaking ahead of the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women and Children campaign which stretches from November 25 to December 10, each year.
The 2017/18 Victims of Crime Survey showed how exposed South African women in particular are to crime.
It estimates that women experienced 90, 2 percent of the 36 451 incidents of sexual offences committed over the past year.
The survey, released in October by Stats SA, did not include children as part of their reporting.
“Crimes against our women and children should be rooted out, and this 16 days campaign certainly has value in again focusing our attention. However, our focus should extend to cover all 12 months of the year. We can do this by following basic safety tips and making sure we share these tips with our loved ones, and talk about safe personal habits throughout the year,” said Hattingh.
Many opportunistic criminals will be on the look-out for what they perceive to be ‘soft targets’.
This means that being aware of your surroundings and potential threats is perhaps one of the most valuable lines of defence, she explains.
Hattingh offered the following pointers for women, which she recommends should be discussed and shared far and wide.
Of utmost importance is to trust your instincts. Women have great intuition and should listen to their instincts. If someone or something makes you feel uneasy, avoid the individual and leave the area.
Make contact with your private security service provider and ask them if they offer a mobile panic alarm service, which could be downloaded to your mobile phone.
Tell someone where you are going and the time you expect to return. Save to your mobile phone or memorise the details of the person to be contacted in the event of an emergency.
Be aware of people around you when heading to your vehicle, especially at places such as shopping centres, petrol stations, and the likes. Ensure that you take a moment to check the street before pulling into a driveway, be it your own or a friend’s.
If you are driving, the first thing to do once you are inside your vehicle is to ensure that all the doors are locked. Never drive with a handbag or any other valuable items on a seat or in the view of anyone looking into your vehicle from the outside. Try and make your car a mobile-free zone so you can concentrate on your surrounds and keeping you and your family safe.
“There are also safety tips which we should share with children, to help keep them safe from harm,” added Hattingh.
They must always walk to or from school with a friend or friends. Stick to streets they know and never take short cuts through quiet areas or empty parking lots and never walk with cell phones and iPads in full view.
If they get picked up at school, they should never leave the premises but always wait inside the school grounds for their lift to arrive.
They must never get into a stranger’s car; even if the stranger claims that someone they love is hurt and that they have been sent to pick them up. Remind them that you would never send someone they don’t know to fetch them.
Consider using a password system. If the person coming to collect you from school cannot repeat the password you and your child agreed on, they should not get into the car but immediately ask for help.
If a stranger approaches them, they should not talk to them no matter how friendly they may seem. If someone tries to grab them, they need to fight, kick and shout out that the person is not their mom or dad.
If your child does encounter any suspicious activity, encourage them to get a good look and memorise their physical details and clothing, as well as the vehicle they are in. Listen for any names or other details that might help identify them later.
Make sure your children memorise their full names, address and phone number. Using a play phone, teach them when and how to dial 10111.
Find out from your security company if they offer a mobile tracking app which can be downloaded on your child’s cell phone. This is an effective way of alerting emergency service providers when you need them while also giving them your accurate location.