Traveling alone after the sun sets can be a dangerous venture. Here’s how to protect yourself.

There are some things that we are taught and some things that are instinctive.

From an early age boys and girls are taught stranger danger. It is particularly high profile in Queensland with the hard work of the Morcombes in our schools. But for women, it is a life lesson; to be cautious when travelling, exercising, dating and socialising. With the recent death of two young women in our city — Eunji Ban and Sophie Collombet — Brisbane City Council has an action plan to increase our safety.

In a perfect world we wouldn’t have to be worried about our safety, but ultimately it is our personal responsibility.

First-hand terror

bmag journalist Laura Brodnik recently experienced the dangers of night public transport for herself.

“I was catching the train home from the city one night when it was halted at Central station due to an intoxicated passenger who had passed out,” Laura says.

“So it was very late when we arrived at Bowen Hills where the train terminated, instead of going to Nundah Station where the timetable originally said it would stop. I was forced to get off the train alone. As I was going up the station steps an intoxicated person jumped out in front of me and said I wasn’t allowed to pass,” she says.

“I had to calm them down before I was able to pass and make my way to the nearest main road where I hailed a taxi, only to be told once the cab was moving that the driver wanted to go to a ‘special’ petrol station to fill up – which was nowhere near my house.

“I jumped out of the cab and had no choice but to walk the rest of the way home.”

Laura says the situation got worse. Alone on a dark street, the walkway leading to her street was blocked by a group of drunk men. “I had to go the other way which meant walking under a dark, isolated bridge.”

What the stats say

Are we spooking at shadows, or is there danger in being out alone at night? The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that 31 per cent of people reported feeling unsafe when walking through neighborhoods and catching public transport alone at night — almost three quarters of these were women. Yet Queensland Police Service statistics show 59 per cent of assault victims were male.

What the experts say

South Brisbane district crime prevention coordinator Senior Sergeant Janelle Andrews says you should take safety seriously, but don’t let the threat of violence overwhelm you. “Be aware and alert but not concerned while in public areas,” she says.

Adam Wilson, master instructor at BTC martial arts centre, agrees and adds that confidence is key to avoiding an attack. “People tend to think that you’re randomly chosen to be attacked and that’s actually not true,” he says. “Most of the time attackers specifically select someone because they think they’ll be an easy target – but it’s about a perceived easiness, not an actual easiness.”

Adam says you don’t have to be big, strong or fit to defend yourself and you can learn at any age. “Women can defend themselves against men,” he assures me.

To see for myself I went down to BTC for a beginner class in Krav Maga, a self-defence style that builds on instinctive reactions with techniques from a melting pot of disciplines. After only one session I did feel more confident, geared with the knowledge that I’d have a fighting chance against an attacker.

Tips from self defence class

  • Hit what’s in front of you. Try to get an opponent off-balance
  • Don’t ever turn your back to an attacker
  • Running away is usually your best option
  • Thumbs are the weakest point for breaking someone’s grip
  • Don’t be afraid to claw or scratch at eyes and face – your life is on the line
  • Avoid becoming a target – look confident, stand tall with shoulders back and make eye contact
  • Turn your iPod volume down so you can hear movement around you

Taxi travel tips

  • Book or hail a taxi from one of Brisbane’s reputable taxi companies who regularly screen their drivers
  • Take note of the fleet number inside the front windscreen and sight the taxi driver’s “Authorised Qld Taxi Driver Display Card”
  • Don’t get in if the driver makes you feel uncomfortable or is not in uniform
  • Sit where you feel comfortable/safe
  • The driver can illuminate the path to your door with his taxi lights if you ask

Tips for public transport safety

  • Try and wait in a well-lit area or with other travellers
  • Be alert to who is near you or gets off at your stop
  • Emergency phones are available on most platforms (train)
  • Blue and white safety zones (striped lines) are at some train stations which guarantee safety features like surveillance cameras, emergency phone and enhanced lighting.