OPSEC (Operational Security) can be broken down simply as “Protecting information that can be used by an adversary against you”. It’s best to think of these bits of information as “puzzle pieces”, that when put together can give a complete picture (or close to it) of your movements or situation, thus exposing vulnerabilities.
PERSEC (Personal Security) can be looked at much the same way, however in this case those “puzzle pieces” are your personal information such as name, address, place of employment, etc. These items can be used to easily identify a person and target them.
While both of these are military terms we used in the Marine Corps, to protect troop movements and such, they can easily be applied to civilian life. Practicing good OPSEC and PERSEC can keep you and your’s safe!
Why “for women”? Well, there are a few reasons I felt the need to address this specifically to women. First and foremost, the most treasured people in my life happen to be women (my Daughter, Mother, Sister, Grandmother, Girlfriend, Ex-Wife, Aunts, Friends, etc). Therefore, I feel compelled to share any information I may have that can keep them safe. Secondly, my personal observations and experiences have been that women I have known are much more likely to share personal information or put themselves in harm’s way to avoid being perceived as “rude”, “a bitch” or “paranoid”. Third, my girlfriend watches ID TV and all the true crime stories around the clock (very slight exaggeration) and in the majority of those stories, there is (to me anyways) almost always some OPSEC or PERSEC violation made by the victim that could have likely helped to prevent them from being victimized. Finally (this one may be a bitter pill for some of you to swallow), a lot of the information out there for women regarding self protection or crime prevention has either been watered down by “political correctness” or is written by womens’ groups that sometimes let their politics dictate how the information is presented. They often justify dangerous behaviors because women have a “right” to participate in these activities or worse yet; they totally avoid discussion of certain behaviors out of political correctness.
Below are some Do’s and Don’t’s that can help increase your OPSEC and PERSEC making you less likely to become a victim:
Do: Trust your intuition. If your “gut” tells you that someone or something isn’t right, TRUST IT! That is many years of evolutionary instinct for survival at work.
Don’t: Ignore warning signs. If things don’t look or feel right, remove yourself from the situation. If someone’s story doesn’t quite add up or something in your surroundings is off… Just leave. Being polite or giving an acquaintance or some stranger the “benefit of the doubt” is not worth your safety.
Do: Maintain situational awareness. Know your surroundings and be aware of anything unusual. Also be cognizant of changes in peoples’ behavior around you.
Don’t: Become too intoxicated or distracted. Doing so can cause you to lose your situational awareness. It would be foolish to suggest that you never become intoxicated, but when you do partake, do so with trusted friends or family and have a Plan “A” and a Plan “B” to get home safely. Smartphones are a great tool to have, but don’t become so involved in playing games or apps that you are walking around with your nose buried in it.
Do: Know the difference between acquaintances and friends. This is tough for some people. Friends are people you know and trust, they know and trust you as well. Other people that you have met, but don’t really know, are acquaintances. Keep acquaintances at an appropriate distance until you know them better. 82% of rapes are perpetrated by “non-strangers”, the vast majority are categorized as acquaintances.
Don’t: Suffer from “Pollyanna Syndrome”. ANYONE can become a victim of violence, don’t be foolish enough to think that it could NEVER happen to you. Be prepared and maintain a state of readiness at all times.
Do: Set your social media profiles to private. Be very aware of who can view your personal information and be aware that an estranged person in your life may have friends in common with you on social media sites. If they gain access to a common friend’s account, they now have access to your information as well!
Don’t: Give personal information on social media posts. Never post where you are or are not, that you’ll be alone all weekend while your significant other is away on business, what time and/ or what school you’ll be picking the kid up at, etc. If you feel an uncontrollable desire to share all of your daily movements with the world, do so in past tense. If you share things that have already happened, you should be relatively safe (unless it reveals a pattern to your activities). I am not aware of any cases where someone has traveled back in time to victimize someone.
Now some of you may be thinking, “I don’t do careless things that could put me in danger”. In response to that, I am going to share some of my personal experiences where women have done things that would give me a heart attack if any of the women in my life did them. There are two different things that I specifically did, just to study how the women would react and how they would rationalize their decisions. The first was to offer women that were walking alone at night a ride (in fairness, a couple of them were actively hitchhiking). The second was actually for research on another blog, where I had set up a profile on a online dating site with the intent of going on 30 dates in 30 days and writing about my experiences (I lasted a week and became so disturbed by the situations these women put themselves in, that I decided not to proceed any further). The other scenarios have just been things that have happened over the years, in several different states, in both urban and rural areas.
I used to have an hour and forty-five minute commute to work. After learning to speak Polish during this time, I came up with the idea of seeing what was going on with women that I would see almost every night hitchhiking on my route through the desert. Why the hell were they in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night? I decided that the next time I saw one, I’d offer them a ride and interview them to figure out why they would do it. The first one was not what I expected at all. I saw a woman quickly walking on the shoulder of the road away from an 18 wheeler. There was a guy hanging out of the passenger window talking to the girl that looked terrified and was clearly trying to get away. I pulled ahead and stopped. As soon as I did, The passenger began yelling profanities at me and the girl was running to my truck. Realizing that this may be a bad situation and that the guy may follow through on the threats he was yelling at me, I unholstered my firearm and had it at my side. The driver saw my gun and started yelling at the other guy that I was a cop (I am not). They then pulled onto the highway and went past me shouting some choice words. I just kind of stood there for a second trying to process what just happened and nearly forgot about the girl. I then realized that she was sitting in my passenger seat. I opened my door and asked if she was ok. While she was telling me that she was and that those guys creeped her out, I stood right in front of her and re-holstered my .45. I asked where she was headed and proceeded on my way. Before I could speak, she immediately began nervously chattering that I must be an angel and that she could tell I was a “good guy”. I don’t know why, but I just looked at her and asked, “are you trying to convince me, or you?” Prior to that and since, I have never seen someone press themselves so hard against the passenger door while riding in a vehicle. When I got to her destination, she said, “I’m so glad it was someone like you that picked me up. Last time I hitchhiked, the guy took me in the desert and raped me. Thanks!” and she walked off into the night. WTF? She had been raped before doing this and was doing it again? Jumping into a vehicle with a clearly armed strange man? Two of the others were headed to their boyfriend’s house (two separate occasions). Over 30 miles through uninhabited desert, they were walking/ hitchhiking to see their boyfriend. If your boyfriend will let you do this, he’s a total shitbag. Another one told me she was on her way to get gas… to burn her boyfriend’s house down (uh… OPSEC)! No shit. All of these women obviously had some kind of issues and would not qualify as “normal” in my book.
Then there was the online dating thing. Five different women, all of which told me who they lived with, where they lived and worked, invited me to their homes (only knowing me online) and a plethora of other information that no stranger should know (kids, prior relationship issues, sexual desires, family status, where they grew up, etc), complete violations of both OPSEC and PERSEC. Three of the five expressed a willingness to have sex with me (a stranger) on our first meeting. Now, if I were a serial killer or rapist these women could have been in great danger. Also of note, every one lied about their physical appearance or marital status, one even using someone else’s photos. I imagine this could set off someone that is willing to cause them harm, but I really have no frame of reference for this. All of these women seemed to be “normal” folks that were maybe just lonely or trying a new way to meet someone. They still however, put themselves in a position where they could have been victimized. One even told me during our meeting for coffee that no one knew she was online dating or meeting me because she was embarrassed. Talk about info that you shouldn’t tell a strange man you don’t know!
The last thing I’m going to share is quite personal and I really didn’t want to share it. If it can keep one woman from doing it, though then it is worth any embarrassment it may cause me. As a disclaimer, though, I want to make it very clear that I do not live this kind of lifestyle anymore. At a couple of points in my life, I could be considered as quite promiscuous. During these times I met a lot of women that brought me home or came home with me without knowing anything about me (in some cases, not even my name). These women ranged from students to professional women to housewives and single moms. They brought me (a total stranger) into their homes, many times where their children were without knowing anything about me with maybe an hour or so of conversation. Some of them just jumped into my car and left with me, not knowing where I was taking them or who I was! I’m not the best looking guy, I’m not famous or rich, these women put themselves into what could have been a very dangerous situation with a total grayman. Watch some of those true crime shows and see how many of the victims are women that leave a bar or meet up with a stranger and are never seen alive again. My girlfriend watches them and is shocked that women actually do things like that. Unfortunately, it is VERY common, too common. Yes, women should be able to have sex as often and with whomever they wish. However, going home with or bringing home strangers puts you (and your children if you have them) at risk. Most groups won’t address promiscuity as it seems sexist and that is a shame. If you’re going to tell young girls that they have the choice to live how they choose, you should also point out the consequences of their choices.
In the above situations, these women practiced poor OPSEC by by letting me know where they lived, when they would/ wouldn’t be at home or work, where they worked, etc. They also displayed poor PERSEC by giving me their personal information, that could be used to stalk or find them if I was so inclined. ALWAYS be aware of what information you are giving and to whom. Would you want your loved ones to give that information to a stranger under similar circumstances? Then you shouldn’t either!
In short, be diligently aware of what information you are putting out there for people, protect your personal information and maintain your personal state of readiness by employing the principles of OPSEC and PERSEC. You have one life and one family, protect them!