My daughter is only 7 years old, but already she can make that sound - "harrumph" - which implies she hasn't the faintest intention of listening to me; a situation that I fully envisage will continue when she hits her teens.
Since this is now the season when Daily Mail journalists polish their camera lenses and lurk around the many pubs in St. Mary Street in Cardiff (or any other busy city centre) on Fridays and Saturdays hoping to catch party goers in less than dignified positions (i.e. spark out on the floor, face down in the gutter, etc), I found myself wondering what advice I'd give Caitlin in the years to come on how to stay safe on a night out.
I suspect that very few of us have personal safety at the top of our agenda for a good night out. Most of us are more concerned about whether our dress looks good and we can actually walk in those heels. But safety IS an issue, particularly at this time of year.
According to the Home Office, more than 300,000 women in England and Wales are sexually assaulted and 60,000 raped each year - a truly staggering statistic. This means that in the month of December an average of 25,000 women will be sexually assaulted and 5,000 women raped, without allowing for any seasonal fluctuations in statistics due to the party season.
So, below are some tips it would do all of us, male and female, well to read and inwardly digest before stepping into that taxi.
Before You Go
- Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged.
- Carry a personal alarm with you - men as well as women - as statistics show that men actually stand a higher chance of being attacked in the street.
- Keep some money separate from your purse or wallet. A friend of mine shoves a £20 note down her bra!
- If you're using public transport, find out the times of the buses / trains so you're not waiting about too long at the bus stop / station and know what time you have to leave so as not to miss the last one home altogether.
- Make sure you have the taxi firm's number in your phone.
- Let someone know where you are going and roughly what time you plan to be home.
- Don't get too tipsy before you leave. It's tempting to have a few glasses before you go to get you in the party mood (and to avoid the hefty prices some clubs charge for drinks), but you're likely to end up drunker than you might otherwise have been much quicker.
And, on the subject of drinking ...
- Don't drink on an empty stomach - the levels of alcohol in your blood will rise quicker, which means you'll be drunk quicker. Try to at least have a high protein snack - some cubes of cheese and some crackers, or even a bowl of cereal will be better than nothing.
- Try to control your drinking - set yourself an upper limit and stick to it.
- Avoid drinking in rounds - it puts you under pressure to both drink and spend more. The Government advises 3-4 units of alcohol a day for men (equivalent to a pint and a half of 4% beer) and 2-3 units a day for women (equivalent to a 175ml glass of wine). And there's always someone who manages to avoid paying for a round, isn't there?!
- Watch your, and your friends' drinks - take turns to watch each other's drinks when you go to the toilet or outside for a cigarette. One of my girlfriends drinks bottled beers and advises keeping your thumb in the top of the bottle when you're not drinking.
At The Club / Party Venue
- Stick with people you know - and try to go home with them.
- Don't get drawn into problem situations or arguments - just walk away.
- If you still don't feel safe then call the police.
Getting Home Safely
- Book a taxi before you go out - and make sure the taxi firm's number is on your phone. I'd have the number of two or three firms to be on the safe side. And if possible get them to identify both the model and registration number of the car which will be collecting you. The taxi firm I prefer to use here in Cardiff, Premier Cabs, will send a text to your phone with this information when your taxi arrives.
- Make sure you have enough money for your journey - and use a reputable firm who won't take the mickey by grossly inflating the fare. Another of my girlfriends was recently asked to pay £75 to go from the centre of Cardiff to an address on the outskirts - a journey which should have cost £15 - £20. She had not been drinking on that particular evening and was able to tell the driver where to go! But it is obvious that there are unscrupulous drivers out there who see tipsy revellers as fair game for a financial fleecing.
- DO NOT TAKE AN UNLICENSED MINICAB! Only licensed taxis are allowed to pull up at the kerb. You have no idea who you might be getting into a car with.
- Use your gut feeling - if the driver starts to ask you inappropriate questions or if it's clear you are being driven the long way round or along a route you do not recognise, ask to be dropped off at the next available bus stop / shop / anywhere open and full of people. Better to wait for another taxi than to put yourself at risk.
- Sit near the driver on a bus and in an occupied carriage on a train.
- If you HAVE to walk home, try not to do so alone - and use well lit, busy streets and main roads wherever possible.
- Take a pair of roll-up flat shoes with you - companies such as Rollasole and Tipsy Feet make roll up ballet flats which you can take in your bag so you can walk home comfortably without having to teeter in heels. It's much easier to run in flat shoes too.
A lot of this is common sense, but it is human nature to assume that "it will never happen to me". Avoid using the body language of a "victim" too. Stand tall, walk swiftly and with purpose. Look like you know where you are going. It is illegal to carry weapons of course but I like to carry my house keys in my hand. There are also numerous apps now which allow you to use your mobile as a torch but, since mobile phone theft is so prevalent it would be better to keep your phone to hand but concealed. Do NOT stop in the middle of an empty street to take a mobile phone call or answer a text.
With these tips in mind, you can enjoy your night out without compromising your safety. Then all you'll have to worry about will be the photos of you dancing on tables appearing on Facebook the next morning.