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"It doesn't just happen in the movies," warns Richard Hart's book 139 Ways to Prevent Sexual Assault of the dangers of parking lot abductions. In fact, the common preoccupations of women (chatting on a cell phone, searching for the car in a crowded mall parking lot) are habits that assailants seek out in a victim, making it easier to startle or catch them off guard.
While constantly being aware of your surroundings seems an obvious rule of thumb when in a parking lot, it's often ignored in the hustle of daily errands.
To help refresh your safety skills and shed light on predator tactics, Hart offers the following tips to women:
Don't approach your vehicle if a van or other large vehicle with tinted windows is parked next to it. Find a security guard to walk you to your car; they are paid to do so. If a security guard isn't available, look for a nearby couple walking to their car and say something like, "That vehicle wasn't there when I parked. Would you mind making sure I get into my car safely?" Most people would be happy to lend a moment and ensure your safety.
Walk with purpose. Multiple studies have shown that a quick, purposeful walk sends subconscious signals to predators that you are not an easy mark. They typically decide to wait for another victim.
Keep one hand free at all times. This at least gives you the opportunity to attempt to fend-off a would-be attacker.
Have your key ready to open the car door. Never stand next to your car searching through your purse. Robbers, car-jackers and sexual predators all watch for this type of distraction.
Once in your car, lock the doors immediately. This is the time that a bystander could quickly and simply open a car door and let himself in, a frequent tactic since it doesn't attract a lot of attention from passersby.
Get moving. Don't sit inside of your vehicle adjusting the stereo, rummaging through shopping bags or your purse, or talking on your phone, especially if the lot is not well populated. Instead, drive to a well-lit area and stop the car (but leave it running) and then search for the item, make a phone call, etc.
If you have an unlocking button or keyless entry system, make sure you unlock only the driver door. Most keyless systems let you unlock either the driver door or use two punches to unlock all doors. Unlocking all doors allows a predator to simply slide into your car from the passenger side and do whatever he wants.
Make sure that your dome light is always functioning properly. As you unlock your vehicle at night, glance into the back seat and make sure that an attacker has not gained access to your car.
Lastly, never approach your vehicle if a single male is loitering anywhere near it. Period.
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