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Personal Safety on the Anniversary of September 11

Last modified: 3/13/2012 2:17 PM

After September 11, 2001, hundreds of people of color including Sikh Americans, Arab Americans, East Africans and Muslims of all ethnic backgrounds experienced personal attacks and harassment across the nation. Their attackers lashed out because of confusion, fear, prejudice, ignorance and lack of emotional awareness.

According to the American Red Cross, the "anniversary effect" can cause intense feelings and reactions. People may experience a resurfacing of emotion, the intensity and nature of which will vary. Some may feel no change in emotion or behavior while others will re-experience feelings of anxiety, fear, anger or grief like those felt a year ago. Not only will victims of abuse potentially suffer from this effect, but the risk of repeat attacks rises as the general population, aided by mass media, re-lives the experiences of September 11.

We do not wish to exacerbate the fear already felt by so many targeted communities. We are urging caution, not anxiety. However we are aware that risks are heightened at this time. We are therefore distributing a list of commonsense precautionary safety measures. We hope you will find them helpful.

A hate crime is targeted activity, usually motivated by prejudice based on perceived personal characteristics of the victim. Hostile or hateful speech and actions motivated by prejudice are termed hate or bias incidents. These motivations may include race, religion, ethnicity or national origin, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation. Hate incidents become crimes only when hate or bias directly incites perpetrators to commit violence against persons or property, or if they place a potential victim in reasonable fear of physical injury. In either case we must thoroughly document evidence in all hate incidents. Together, all of us - law enforcement, schools, business, religious institutions, citizens - can diffuse potentially dangerous situations and prevent hate motivated criminal behavior by responding to and document all hate incidents and behavior.

Stay Alert
Be aware of your surrounding, the people and activity around you. Awareness is your best self-defense. Carry a cell phone with you.

Avoid trouble: try not to walk alone at night. Use well-lit, busy streets. Walk with friends or in a group or call your community service offices for an escort. If necessary, request police patrol of your building when working after hours. If you do go out alone, let someone know where you will be going and when you will return. Avoid shortcuts, dark alleys, deserted streets and wooded areas.

Trust Your Instincts
Don't assume a false sense of security because you are either surrounded by people or in a remote area. If you think something is wrong, remove yourself form the situation. Trust your gut - if it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.

Project Confidence
Walk as if you know where you are going. Stand tall. Walk in a confident manner and hold your head up. Keep your hands free and keep them chest high in heavy crowds.

Carry A Whistle
If you feel threatened, blow your whistle, bang garbage cans, honk your horn or shout "fire" to attract attention.

Have Everything You Need Ready
Hold your keys when going to and from your car, home and business. This will save time and give you some security in having protection. Any device you carry for protection may be used against you. Select such security devices carefully. Don't carry more money than you will need, but always have emergency change for a phone call. When parking, park in a well lit area and lock you car. Look around before you exit your car. When returning to your car, have your keys ready to open the door, and look inside before sitting down.

When taking public transportation, time your arrival at the bus stop so that your wait is short. With in a well lit area. Try to sit close to the driver, and watch who gets off the bus with you.

If You Feel Threatened
Cross the street, change directions, go to a place where there are other people, or walk closer to traffic. Step out in the street on the other side of parked cars. If you think a car is following you, turn around and walk quickly in the opposite direction. Try to memorize the license plate number and car description. If you think you are being followed on foot, turn around to let the person know that you have seen then. Immediately cross the street or go quickly toward a place where a number of people will be.

Do Not Open The Door To Strangers Without Verifying Their Identity
Make strangers show you a picture ID and make police officers, INS or FBI show you formal identification. You do not have to allow them inside unless they have a warrant and they show it to you. Check locks on all doors and windows.

Do Not Give Personal Information Over The Phone Or To "Wrong Number" Callers
Instruct children, visitors and/or extended family to do the same.

Avoid Confrontations
If you are insulted or challenged to fight, respond in a peaceful manner and contact the police immediately. Do not resort to physical or verbal abuse. Ensure that your children know what steps to take to avoid confrontation. Make sure your child's school has implemented an anti-discrimination policy, a safe school policy and a hate crime documentation and investigation policy. Ask if your child's school has a peer mediation program.

Change The World
Make your home and your neighborhood a safe haven. Talk to your children and listen to them. Reach out to anyone who may be targeted. Let them know that you are available to help. If you feel you may be a target, talk to your neighbors or workmates about it. Get to know your neighbors: a simple smile and a chat can go a long way toward making everyone feel more at home in their neighborhood. Many Mosques, Gurudwaras, Temples, Synagogues and Churches have established committees and developed plans to safeguard their members since September 11. Familiarize yourself and your family with these plans and people.

If you feel you may be a target, call (408) 792-2304. We may be able to help you organize support or a safety plan.

Post HATE-FREE CAMPAIGN POSTERS in your home and workplace, particularly up to and including the week of September 11, 2002. You can download one or more of our posters from our website or by picking up a copy(s) from the Network for a Hate Free Community.

If you are the Victim of an attack:
Dial 911
for emergency assistance. Try to get a clear look at the person so that you can accurately describe physical build, distinguishing marks, clothing and mannerisms.

  • DOCUMENT everything: names, dates, times, badge numbers
  • FILE a police report
  • KEEP A COPY of all records
  • CALL THE NETWORK… It is essential that these incidents are recorded or we, and the state and federal agencies working with us, will not be able to prevent them in the future.