The news says there is a rapist in the area. What do you do? Do you know how to be safe? Do you know what is an urban myth and what is a waste of time? Some time ago I received a chain email allegedly written by someone who did police work with tips for women. I was suspect of the email to start with, because it had the same sing song cadence all the fake ones have. The information in it ranged from useless and harmless to dangerous, inflammatory and silly. One of the supposed "tips" was not wear hair in a pony tail style. According to the smugly fake email, this was a style that was most often in use when women were accosted, dangerous, allegedly because the perpetrator could "grab" it.

A two minute jaunt to, or can verify the truth on any of these annoying emails. As I suspected this one was totally wrong. Wearing a pony tail has absolutely zero to do with public safety. I asked the woman who sent to me and 20 of her other close friends to PLEASE investigate this stuff before she send it on. She had requested each of her friends to send it to 20 of their friends As Soon As Possible! They wanted to make sure everyone was safe!

I know they meant well. Except what they were doing was actually harmless. If wearing your hair down gives you a false sense of security, you are in trouble.

When I worked at the bank in a mostly white neighborhood I remember a co-worker on the phone with her friend, I couldn't help but over hear her mentioning there was a black man by Fort Tejon. Curious, I asked my co-worker why she called a friend to tell a friend there was a black man by Fort Tejon. "Because there is," she replied casually.

"But why does your friend care?" I asked. And then she explained it said on the news there was a rapist in the area, AND he was black. So she wanted her friend to know there was a black man in the area. Oh. I suppose that makes sense if you are white and live in a mostly white neighborhood. To me it seemed like that same false sense of security thing like the pony tail.

If you want to avoid being raped the first thing to know is that more women are raped by people they know than strangers. So try not to know any bad guys. Seriously. You know a bad guy when you meet one, don't make excuses to yourself about his bad parents or his drug habit, just avoid him. Above all, don't marry him. If the bad guy is a peripheral friend, or friend of a friend, you can avoid him even more easily.

Secondly, don't send mixed messages to men. If you don't want to get raped by a guy, don't go home with him drunk. Ask him to send you home in cab, or better yet ask the bartender to call you a cab, and take it. While a real gentleman won't take advantage of a passed out girl, not every man is a real gentleman. Some guys figure any woman who goes home drunk with them is fair game. Anyway if you are passed out, you may not even be aware you were raped. Not worth waking up and realizing you have contracted an STD or are pregnant. So having a drink is one thing, ending up drunk is dangerous.

Be aware of your surroundings. If you are walking down the street pay attention to who is around you and how they are acting. Walk with a sense of purpose. Walk in the light if there is light, and crowded areas are safer than lonely ones. Park your car close to the building and keep it locked when you are in it and when you are out of it. Don't park next to a van if you can avoid it. Park under a street light if you have a choice.

Carry mace or pepper spray and don't be afraid to use it. Your keys can also be used as a weapon if you ball them in your fist and splay them between your fingers. The vulnerable places to hit someone are in the groin, the eyes and the throat. But you may only get one chance, so make it count. Don't try to be a hero, try to get away. If they want your wallet hand it over, it's easier to replace than your life. If you are being instructed listen carefully to what the perpetrator is saying, don't argue or annoy them.

Get past your prejudices and pay attention on a deep level. Timothy McVeigh killed more people than the average black man. So rather than calling all your friends every time you hear a black man is in the neighborhood, pay attention to what is in front of you. A guy on crack is going to be more dangerous than a "black" man. A man wielding a knife at you is going to be more dangerous than a "black" man, an angry drunk is more dangerous than a "black" man.

Take responsibility for yourself. Having a dog is good protection if the dog is protective. A golden retriever may not do much for you if your home is being robbed, the same goes for some of the companion breed lap dogs. My former husband was so fond of pointing out how his spaniel thought of himself as a bigger dog. That might be cute and all. As protection does he was useless. The little thing could be drop kicked like a football. My wolf dog provided more protection. She was basically a one person dog, although she liked my former husband a lot, when he turned on me – she got in between us. She didn't even have to bite him, she merely feigned left as he went right, and right as he went left mirroring him until he gave up in disgust.