Situational Awareness for Women: The RAR Method

Situational awareness is a topic Women Who Fight Back  promotes heavily and discusses regularly because it is extremely important. Learning, practicing, and incorporating situational awareness in our everyday lives can help protect ourselves and those around us from threats. Having and using situational awareness applies to any and every woman who wishes to avoid threats, recognize threats, and defeat threats. Face it, threats are everywhere, regardless of a person's status in life.

When we talk about threats, we don't want there to be an implication that we strictly mean threats from other people. Not every threat is human. For example, not every threat involves a stranger walking directly towards a woman who is alone, downtown, while it's late at night. Underneath this umbrella term of "threat", we have a slew of different types of threats that can be equally as dangerous to our wellbeing. Some other examples of threats to security include natural/environmental threats, cyberthreats, terrorist threats, intentional threats, unintentional threats, mental threats, and emotional threats. 

Threats are everywhere. Even sitting in a house alone browsing social media involves risk. Chances are the risks incurred by scrolling social media are far less than a woman going out on a jog by herself at 5am; however, this is not always the case depending on the unique situation of the individual. This is why having situational awareness is so critical. 

So, what is situational awareness? Situational awareness is essentially vulnerability and risk management. It is understanding, without ego, our deficits and weaknesses that potentially can be taken advantage of by an outside force. Situational awareness involves understanding that the world we live in cannot be trusted entirely. Of course, there are places safer than others, but we find that many women have a false sense of security because they have an expectation of what the world "should" be like instead of what the world actually is. 

We see this in non-platonic romantic relationships as well. A woman often ignores the many red flags that are presented at the beginning of a relationship because there is a deep-rooted natural human desire to feel wanted and loved by another human being. There is this hope some women have that they might actually have gotten lucky and their fairytale life is finally becoming a reality. Despite seeing first hand all of these red flags and perhaps experiencing the abuse, the woman refuses to leave. She will make up excuses as to why things aren't that bad and why her partner is just chronically having a "bad" day. "Oh, I promise he didn't mean it. I promise he's not like this," she will say to her friend on the phone. Unfortunately, the longer the woman stands by in these types of relationships, the riskier it is for her and the more damage the other partner can cause her. Now, this is a very simple example void of many details. It surely doesn't reflect every relationship in the world. There are some relationships where the threat of getting hurt in any way is very low. 

Theoretically, if humans were void of emotion, could process external and internal data logically, and could respond to that data robotically... the woman in the previous example would have left the moment she witnessed these red flags because those red flags would have indicated a threat to her wellbeing. We believe the more a woman practices situational awareness, the more neurological pathways will be created in her brain that will connect the data extracted from using the situational awareness method with the proper action in romantic relationships. 

Now, let's break down another common example where using situational awareness can protect ourselves and those around us. In this scenario, we have a woman named Susan. Susan is coming out of the grocery store, texting with one hand, and rolling her cart (full of groceries) to her vehicle. She nearly collides with a car that fails to stop at the stop sign that helps customers cross the road from the storefront to their cars. Susan throws her arms up and starts cursing at the driver. After about 15 seconds, Susan continues walking to her car. When she arrives, she is angry and agitated. She doesn't understand how a driver could be so careless. "People shouldn't be able to drive when they are idiots," she grumbles. She open her car door and throws her purse in the passenger's seat and starts the engine. She furiously text her friend what happened as she unloads the shopping bags into her car. She hears car doors open and close around her and without looking around, she says, "Those people better watch out for the drivers in this parking lot!" She returns the cart and reads the reply messages from her friend. When she gets in the car, she starts driving back home. When she arrives at her home, she goes to grab her purse from the passenger seat and realizes its not there. After looking through every bag and all over her car, she gives up. That night, she looks at her bank account and sees multiple transactions she did not make from various stores around town. She then realizes her purse had been stolen.  

What Susan failed to have that day was situational awareness. She believed that the world should be full of good drivers and that people in that grocery store parking lot were honest and good people. There are three main elements to situational awareness. The first is recognition. Recognition is being cognizant of what is going on around you at all times. By being attentive, a woman can more easily notice something that is out of the ordinary that could potentially be a threat. In the example with Susan, she failed to recognize the car not slowing down before the stop sign because she was busy on her phone. Susan failed to notice the stranger staring at her from his car as he watched her angrily throw bags into the back of her vehicle. She failed to notice him get out of the car as she went to return the cart and steal her purse from the front seat. She also failed to remember her purse should have been next to her before she drove back home.

The second element is assessment. Now, the only way a person can assess the unusual situation is by recognizing there is an unusual situation occurring in the first place. Without recognition (element one), assessment is impossible. If Susan had not been distracted by her phone, she would have noticed the car driving too quickly in the parking lot and could have quickly assessed the situation. An assessment can take 30 minutes or half a second depending on how immanent a threat is. An assessment is simply analyzing a situation and preparing response options. Two responses that come to mind are that Susan could have chosen to stop walking and let the car pass or she could have chosen to slow down as to not collide with the vehicle. Responses derived from an assessment based on situational awareness are those that ensure survival. These responses are produced from a sound and reasonable brain. We aren't going to get into what "reasonable" means in this article; however, note that it varies from person to person and each person's theoretical view on the world. 

After the options are produced, Susan must respond. The third element of situational awareness is response.  Response is generally the physical action taken that increases a person's survival rate; however, mental actions are often an option as well. Susan should have responded by stopping or slowing down. She was very lucky that she missed getting ran over by the car but the threat could have been eliminated by having situational awareness in the beginning. Susan has what we can call a "lack of situational awareness." This means, due to distractions (phone, anger, putting groceries away), Susan was unable to recognize a threat, assess it, or respond to it in a way that would allow a smooth and safe life. 

To his credit, the man was able to steal Susan's purse because he was extremely situationally aware. In order to survive, this man has made it a habit of stealing from others who look like an easy target. He might have a more darwinistic view of the world which would mean that, in his mind, it was a "reasonable" response to steal from others, so he acted on it. He found someone vulnerable to being stolen from because she was distracted in so many ways from what was actually occurring. Susan was caught up in her emotions and physically distracted by grocery bags and her cell phone. She never looked around to see who was opening and closing doors around her, Susan believed that people wouldn't dare steal from others in a busy parking lot. Susan is an idealist. She views the world as what it "should" be versus what it actually is. The man saw how she reacted when she was almost hit by the car while crossing the road and he saw how furious she became. He saw she was not carrying any weapon. He saw she put her purse in the passenger seat and left the keys in the ignition. All of these factors prompted the man to carry out his crime with little fear of being detected.

What are some ways Susan could have handled coming out of the grocery store differently? What are some ways of preventing others from seeing Susan as an easy target? These are all questions that can be reflected on and answered. The more women who create a habit of being situationally aware, the easier it will be to protect themselves and those they care about the most.