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Students learn the basics of self-defense during a course in Santa Fe.

Keep your keys between your fingers.

Carry pepper spray with you at all times. Make sure someone always knows your location. Don’t walk home alone at night.

Growing up, I always heard tips like these; I wasn’t fazed by hearing these reminders regularly. Like many other girls, I followed these rules everyday, because they were repeatedly ingrained in me as a child. I, like so many others, change my daily routines in small ways to help ensure my safety.



When I get into my car, I check in the back and under the car to make sure it’s safe.

And I notice other girls doing the same things, too. I notice how we make sure that everyone gets home safe, and I notice that for so many women, simply being out at night, especially if it is alone, is extremely dangerous.

Recently, I saw a TikTok video reminding women to clean out their purses regularly, because some kidnappers liked to put trackers in purses or backpacks.

It’s yet another task to add to the ever-growing list of things so many women have to do to stay safe — we change so many aspects of our daily lives and routines, all while the actual problem goes unaddressed. To this day, I have never been out alone at night, and when I hear about loved ones having to be out late, a pit of worry forms in my stomach.

When I moved to college earlier this fall, these tips became especially relevant. People advised me to take self-defense classes, told me to buy pepper spray and reminded me to not walk alone at night around campus.

But why does it have to be this way? Why do so many girls across the world have to live in fear of being kidnapped, assaulted or worse? Why is it that the actual problem of kidnapping and assault isn’t being addressed, perhaps by increasing punishments on such crimes or raising awareness about the prevalence and existence of such crimes? Why is it that when victims come forward, they often have to “explain themselves” or fight claims of falsehood?

Recently, it seems, things have been becoming better in terms of ensuring women’s safety. There is more awareness about the fear and sense of danger that so many women face on a regular basis, and there is more activism surrounding the fight to promote women’s safety. But we still have a long way to go. Maybe one day, we won’t have to constantly check our surroundings or update our friends on our locations. Maybe one day, we won’t have to carry pepper spray or our keys between our fingers, and maybe, taking a walk at night will be safe.

Niveditha Bala is a freshman at the University of Texas at Dallas. Contact her at balaniveditha@gmail.com

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