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Crime Zone: Your Home

Even street-savvy women let their guard down at home. Former US sex-crimes prosecutor, Linda Fairstein explains how to protect yourself.

Most women know to watch their backs when out at night, taking particular precautions in dark garages and on empty streets. But being at home feels different. It's easy to let your guard down, whether it's leaving your door unlocked or opening the door to strangers. Many men whose first criminal behaviour is peeping into windows, trespassing, or breaking and entering are sexually motivated, and are working their way up to far more dangerous and often deadly sexual assaults. All they need is an opportunity. Thankfully, there is plenty you can do to help make sure those opportunities never arise. Read on for the lessons I've learned as a prosecutor about how you can best protect yourself in your own home from even the most resourceful of assailants.

LESSON 1: High Rent Doesn't Necessarily Mean Safe I interviewed a 30-year-old businesswoman who had been raped the evening before. She had gone down to the laundry room in her building after work, wearing the chic outfit the police were now examining for evidence. While putting clothes in the tumble dryer, she was accosted by a young man who held a gun to her neck and pulled her into the bathroom, where he forced her to perform oral sex. Throughout the horrifying minutes of the attack, she was pressing the panic button in the bathroom and counting on the fact that there was a surveillance camera above the laundry-room door. She was shocked to learn later that the buzzer had been disconnected due to false alarms and that the camera, having been deemed too costly, wasn't working either. Not only that, but the building's rules were also partly to blame for the attack. Her description of her assailant matched that of a delivery boy who had signed in minutes before. Building policy required that deliveries be made through the basement instead of the main entrance so the perpetrator was alone as he walked past the laundry room, saw his attractive prey and went back to his car for his weapon after making the delivery.

She lived in a reasonably nice area. Never again would I assume that a fancy neighbourhood or high rent guaranteed me better security. You still must be cautious and check with the management or your landlord to make sure that the safeguards they promise are actually in service.
LESSON 2: Always Lock Your Doors... and Windows
LESSON 3: Don't Trust Anyone at Your Door

Author: Linda Fairstein
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