Understanding Safety & Security

Okay, let us dive right in! As you begin your journey learning about safety and how you can best keep yourself, your family, friends, and your property safe, we must first understand what safety is, what makes you feel secure, and what in the world you are trying to protect yourself from! Throughout this course, we will be providing you with a holistic look at safety. You will learn concepts, techniques, and general tips on how you can improve the odds of protecting the people and things you love. 

First, you must take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. To make sure we drive this point home, you must worry about YOURSELF FIRST! This requires us to look at both your physical and mental wellbeing. Remember to actively participate in the Module Critical Thinking exercises as they are important for you to help to engage your mind as we build concepts.

Let’s get started by looking at your personal definition of what Safety & Security means.

Module Exercise 1:

  1. Write down and answer the following question: what is your personal definition of what safety is?
  2. Define security and what that looks like to you.

What is Safety & Security?

Now that you have taken a moment to really think about your own personal definition of safety and what security realistically looks like for you, let us compare your definitions to some current universal and historical definitions of safety and security. Good old Merriam Webster defines safety as “free from harm or risk, secure from threat of danger, harm, or loss.” Okay! Well, that was general and unhelpful…  let us look at another source.

Safeopedia, a leader in providing professionals with workplace safety resources and support much like OSHA, has a good definition. They define safety as; “Safety is a concept that includes all measures and practices taken to preserve the life, health, and bodily integrity of individuals.” This definition of safety is fairly good even if it was originally directed toward workplace safety. Some synonyms of safe include protected, healthy, certain, or secure. So, let us see if we can define the word secure or security, since we all associate security with being safe.

Once again, we will reference one of the gold standards for providing definitions, Mr. Webster. He defines security as “The quality or state of being secured: such as a freedom from danger or freedom from fear or anxiety.” Perfect, that really helped me! How about you?

            The truth is, after several hours and- we mean tons of hours- of researching for these answers, the fact is that it all comes down to relativity, situations, and one’s own personal prospective.

You can look at different resources, different demographics, or diverse cultures and you will find lots of various answers. For example, obviously someone’s views can become quite different after going through a traumatic event than that of a person who has not. Those that have unfortunately been attacked, suffered long term verbal or physical abuse, or have simply witnessed something traumatic happen to someone else, may be more cautious and have a heightened sense of situational awareness. They will be less trustful, may avoid personal contact or intimacy, and these individuals are experiencing some level of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, which we will discuss in more detail later in this course.

Sometimes though, someone’s safety and security definition can be influenced by much lesser traumatic factors. Simply based off the general knowledge of living in the city compared to an individual who grew up in the country for example, we can easily see how different their experiences might be and how that might influence their outlook on safety and security. In the city, your neighbor is directly beside you or right on top of you! So naturally, in the city, people are more likely to lock their doors than those that live a half a mile or more from their neighbor. The general feel of the openness of the country makes us feel more relaxed in comparison to the hustle and bustle of city life. In the city, people are more likely to turn their security alarm on as they leave their home or automobiles. In contrast, a farmer may be more prone to defend their property and family via a rifle or shotgun, though the trend to carry a firearm is growing rapidly everywhere. Do you have a gun or other weapons you carry that make you feel more secure?

Security can also be achieved through simply having a J O B or some $$$ sitting in the bank for a rainy day. Those small life accomplishments can have deep impact in our daily lives, providing peace of mind, confidence, and security. I mean, who does not feel more confident, or walk with a pep in their step with a stack of extra cash in the bank? And, especially these days, having a job is so empowering, especially for a person with a disability.

Here’s another perspective to consider: how about having a disability compared to those without one? You have a unique angle on what safety is for you compared to those who do not have a disability. For example, as blind individuals, something as simple as confirming your Uber driver is for you, takes a few extra steps just to confirm that we are placing ourselves in safe and secure places or areas.

People who grew up in or currently live-in poverty compared to those with more means most definitely have a difference in their interpretations of safety & security. Just like our example above having the means to buy food, live in a decent neighborhood, purchase a home, or securing medical and life insurance can seem so basic, but is so important to someone who does not have the financial resources. Crime in low-income neighborhoods is extremely high and psychiatrists have said for years that people with their backs to the wall will resort to crime, or even violence to meet basic needs or to lash out over their perceived injustices.

Unfortunately, decades of racial and social injustices have led to different approaches to safety & security when it comes to one’s ethnicity. African Americans clearly have concerns regarding interaction with police. This is evident through recent events that has fueled the social unrest over the last few years. Others that have an Arab nationality still feel animosity and racial discrimination regarding misdirected anger over the attacks of 9/11. So certainly, their guards are always on high alert for potential violence or confrontations.

As has already been shown in this module, there are so many factors that influence our personal view of safety & security. Sure, in a comprehensive Safety Education course such as this, you automatically think about physical safety, but a deeper look at the subject will reveal that there are factors of emotional, locational, situational, demographic, ethnicity, and many other factors that go into each individual definition of safety & security. An individual’s experiences shape his or her definition of safety & security and that is exactly the way it should be! That is why here at SEED, we acknowledge that safety & security is a personal perception and must be viewed as such both on an individual level, as well as society. We must not only understand what makes us all feel warm and fuzzy when it comes to Safety & Security, but we also need to understand that other people have their own definitions based on their own situations and factors. Can we all get along? Nope, not a chance – not until we start listening, understanding, and start acknowledging each other’s individual uniqueness!

All right, what makes Us Feel Unsafe? So, we have acknowledged that producing a definition of safety is all by someone’s personal perception. Now we need to talk about what makes us feel unsafe. What are those things that make you uncomfortable? What are those things that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up? In other words, what makes your Spidey senses go off, screaming warning, warning, something is not right? Chances are you have lots of things. This is especially the case when it comes to personal safety. For some, it is something as simple as being around someone who is raising their voice in anger or frustration. For others, it is being in unfamiliar places and that horrible feeling of being lost and isolated.

No matter your background, your demographics, or perspective on safety & security, we can all agree that violence and abuse is a universal thing that makes us all uncomfortable and is certainly not safe for anyone! So, let us take a moment to look at what is a violent crime and what are the diverse types of abuse. This knowledge is essential in our study of Safety Education & Defense.

Violent Crimes

In general, a violent crime is when a person or property is either harmed or threatened with some type of violence. These crimes include robbery, assault, rape or sexual assault, and murder to name a few. The offense is considered more severe if a gun or weapon is used, and if the person committing the offense has a prior history or not. Some crimes are federal, and others are prosecuted on a state/local level. Additionally, some violent crimes can be charged by a prosecutor and others can be indicted during civil court proceedings.

Let’s break this down for a better understanding. To make sure that we are all on the same page, and it is clear for all of us, let’s look at some legal definitions of crimes that fall under Violent Crimes. You will find links to where we found our definitions in case you want to look further. Laws and legal definitions do vary from state to state, so please do your own research!

  • Robbery – the direct taking of property (including money) from a person (victim) through force, threat, or intimidation. Robbery is a felony (crime).
  • Assault – the threat or attempt to strike another, whether successful or not, provided the target is aware of the danger. The assaulter must be reasonably capable of carrying through the attack. In some states, if the assault is with a deadly weapon (such as sniping with a rifle), the intended victim does not need to know of the peril. Other state laws distinguish between different degrees (first or second) of assault depending on whether there is actual hitting, injury just a threat. “Aggravated assault” is an attack connected with the commission of another crime, such as beating a clerk during a robbery or a particularly vicious attack. Assault is both a criminal wrong, for which one may be charged and tried, and civil wrong for which the target may sue for damages due to the assault, including for mental anguish.
  • Aggravated Assault – the crime of physically attacking another person which results in serious bodily harm and/or is made with a deadly or dangerous weapon, such as a gun, knife, sword, ax or blunt instrument. Aggravated assault is usually a felony punishable by a term in state prison.
  • Assault & Battery – the combination of the two crimes of threat (assault) and actual beating (battery). They are both also intentional civil wrongs for which the party attacked may file a suit for damages.
  • Rape – The crime of rape generally refers to non-consensual sexual intercourse that is committed by physical force, threat of injury, or other duress… The victim’s lack of consent is the crucial element. A lack of consent can include the victim’s inability, because of drugs or alcohol, to say “no.” To convict an offender of rape, some form of nonconsensual sexual penetration, however slight, must occur. Each instance of penetration can serve as a count of rape, as well. The most generic form of rape is forcible rape, in which an offender uses violence or threats of violence to force a victim into sexual intercourse. In most states, however, rape can also occur with other forms of duress, such as blackmailing the victim. Prosecutors can charge rape when an offender and victim have a preexisting relationship (including so-called date rape), or even when the offender is the victim’s spouse. In some states, rape is classified as first-degree sexual assault. The term sexual assault is broader than rape and covers an entire range of nonconsensual sexual contact.
  • Sexual Assault – Specific laws vary by state, but sexual assault generally refers to any crime in which the offender subjects the victim to sexual touching that is unwanted and offensive. These crimes can range from sexual groping or assault/battery, to attempted rape. All states prohibit this type of assault, but the exact definitions of the crimes that fall within the category of sexual assault differ from state to state. The laws share some basic elements, but the structures, wording and scope of offenses vary considerably, so always check your local statutes for specific questions.


The word abuse is a broad word that covers many diverse types of cruelty. Below, we will discuss several of these types and their legal meanings. To add additional context, you will also find potential signs of each type of abuse. You must, however, understand that not all signs are listed, are not always what they may seem, and trauma affects every person differently.

  1. Child Abuse– Any intentional harm or mistreatment to a child under 18 years old is considered child abuse. Child abuse takes many forms, which often occur at the same time.
  2. Physical abuse. Physical child abuse occurs when a child is purposely physically injured or put at risk of harm by another person.
  3. Sexual abuse. Sexual child abuse is any sexual activity with a child, such as fondling, oral-genital contact, intercourse, exploitation, or exposure to child pornography.
  4. Emotional abuse. Emotional child abuse means injuring a child’s self-esteem or emotional well-being. It includes verbal and emotional assault — such as continually belittling or berating a child — as well as isolating, ignoring or rejecting a child.
  5. Medical abuse. Medical child abuse occurs when someone gives false information about illness in a child that requires medical attention, putting the child at risk of injury and unnecessary medical care.
  6. Neglect. Child neglect is failure to provide adequate food, shelter, affection, supervision, education, or dental or medical care.

More times than not, child abuse is perpetrated by a family member or close friend. Children who are experiencing abuse may express feeling guilty, ashamed, or confused, possibly making them afraid to tell anyone, especially if the abuser is a parent, other relative or family friend. Potential warning signs may include:

  • Withdrawal from friends or usual activities
  • Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility, or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance
  • Depression, anxiety or unusual fears, or a sudden loss of self-confidence
  • An apparent lack of supervision
  • Frequent absences from school
  • Reluctance to leave school activities, as if he or she doesn’t want to go home
  • Attempts at running away
  • Rebellious or defiant behavior
  • Self-harm or attempts at suicide

We will go more in-depth during a future SEED Course. However, since this type of abuse is so prevalent in our society, we felt it important to provide an introduction in our Safety Ed 101 course.

  • Physical Abuse – Any intentional act causing injury or trauma to another person or animal by way of bodily contact. Some examples include slapping, pinching, choking, kicking, shoving, or inappropriately using drugs or physical restraints. Warning signs may include:
  • Cuts
  • Bruises
  • Burns
  • Restraint or grip markings
  • Black eyes
  • Unusual pattern of injury; repeated trips to the emergency room

Though physical signs can be easy to spot, some behavioral patterns can also be signs of physical abuse, though they are sometimes harder to pinpoint and are less obvious. These signs may include:

  • Name-calling and put-downs; overt anger; threats; attempts to intimidate by the abuser
  • Restricting the victim’s movements (preventing them from attending work or school, controlling what they do or say)
  • Restricting the victim’s access to money
  • Overt jealousy or possessiveness over the victim
  • A delay between the time of injury and the seeking of treatment – this may be because the victim is unable to leave the house for treatment or due to the shame felt over the abuse
  • The victim’s noncompliance with a treatment regimen such as missed medical appointments or an inability to take medication due to lack of access to money                                        
  • Verbal Abuse – One of the types of abuse that people widely and easily can find themselves a victim of is verbal abuse. No one is immune to it, and it happens both deliberately and most generally unintentional, it is easy to understand how it is considered to be the most common type of abuse. Verbal abuse happens every day at work, at home, at school, on the bus, or walking through a park. In fact, you could experience verbal abuse alone at home because if your self-talk, the voice in your head, diminishes you or your belief in yourself in any way, then you subject yourself to verbal abuse. Bad inner critic!!

The Different Dictionaries define “verbal abuse” as “blatantly offensive language designed to humiliate and gain power over another person.” Notice in the definition the word language that was used. Well, don’t forget before we all learned to speak, we watched and learned expressions, gestures, and behaviors that can easily be interpreted into essentially body language. Anyone that has received or eagerly presented the one finger salute has no problem deciphering the translation. A knife being pulled out and clicking into place is loud and clear that there is a threat. Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!

What is so crazy is that you yourself may have verbally assaulted someone today, or even in the last hour for that matter. You may say, “well, I am a nice person. I would never do that on purpose.” That is exactly the point! Sometimes, verbal assault can be communicated without us knowing, or our communication attempt could be misinterpreted.  

Verbal Abuse is not a crime per say, however, keep in mind when you threaten to commit physical harm that person can file charges on you for assault or battery. Even if you say it out of anger. Remember your mom saying, “words matter”?

  • Sexual AbuseSexual abuse is nonconsensual sexual contact (any unwanted sexual contact). Examples include unwanted touching, rape, sodomy, coerced nudity, sexually explicit photographing. 

     A legal Definition of Sexual Abuse is the infliction of sexual contact upon a person by forcible compulsion, or the engaging in sexual contact with a person who is below a specified age or who is incapable of giving consent because of age or mental or physical incapacity.

It is horrible to think about a child being sexually abused, yet this is the first thing most people think about when they hear the word. However, keep in mind, sexual abuse can happen to adults and have some of the same effects. Physical warning signs for children or adults might include:

  • Pain or itching in the genital area
  • Bruises or bleeding in external genitalia
  • Venereal disease
  • Nightmares or other sleep disturbances
  • Frequent stomach illness with no identifiable reason
  • Loss of appetite, or trouble eating or swallowing
  • Frequent genital or urinary tract infections or irritations
  • Torn, stained or bloody underclothing

Behavioral or emotional indicators might be:

  • An increase in physical complaints
  • Problems with bedtime or fear of going to sleep
  • Fear of certain people or places (example: not wanting to be left alone with a babysitter)
  • Regression to infantile behaviors such as thumb-sucking or bed-wetting
  • Abnormal interest in sex or knowledge of sexual matters inappropriate for the child’s age
  • Preoccupation with their body or masturbation
  • Bedwetting — especially if it begins in a child who has been dry
  • Sexual activities with toys or other children, such as simulating sex with dolls or asking other children/siblings to behave sexually
  • Using new words for private body parts
  • Refusing to talk about a ‘secret’ he/she has with an adult or older child
  • Unexplained fear or dislike of certain people or places depression or withdrawal
  • Lack of confidence
  • Sudden mood swings: rage, fear, anger, or withdrawal
  • Psychological Abuse- This type of abuse is also known as mental or emotional abuse.

     Emotional and mental abuse involves a person acting in a way to control, isolate, or scare somebody else. The form of abuse may be statements, threats, or actions, and there may be a pattern or regularity to the behavior. Physical and sexual abuse may be easy to spot with marks, bruising, or bleeding however psychological abuse can be harder to recognize by both the person going through it and someone looking in from outside the situation. Typically warning signs can be subtle and can be easily dismissed. They might include:

  • making demands or orders and expecting them to be fulfilled
    • making all decisions, even canceling another’s plans without asking
    • continually monitoring another person’s whereabouts
    • insisting on regular calls, texts, or pictures detailing where the person is, and even showing up to these places to make sure they are not lying
    • requiring immediate responses from calls or texts
    • exerting financial control over the other, such as by keeping accounts in their name or only giving the other person an allowance
    • treating the person as though they are a child, including telling them what to eat, what to wear, or where they can go
    • yelling, which is frequently a scare tactic and can be a way for an abusive person to let the other know who is in control
    • using the other’s persons fears; abusive people will often manipulate a person’s fears to control them
  • Neglect – Neglect is another type of abuse that typically is associated with children, but is just as prevalent among adults including seniors and people with disabilities.  Neglect occurs when a person, either through his/her action or inaction, deprives an individual of their care necessary to maintain physical or mental health. Examples include not providing basic items such as food, water, clothing, a safe place to live, medicine, or health care. Parents, caregivers, spouses, and other family members may directly or indirectly preform this type of abuse. Also, those who have been abused long term or who suffer from mental health conditions may self-neglect themselves. Warning signs for both adults & children may include:
  • dehydration, malnutrition, untreated bed sores and poor personal hygiene
  • unattended or untreated health problems
  • hazardous or unsafe living condition (e.g., improper wiring, no heat or running water)
  • unsanitary and unclean living conditions (e.g., dirt, fleas, lice on person, soiled bedding, fecal/urine smell, inadequate clothing)
  • inappropriate and/or inadequate clothing
  • Elderly or Vulnerable Adult Abuse – This type of abuse encompasses all of the above types and is usually perpetrated against the elderly and people with disabilities. They are usually abused by caregivers or family members. Signs that should raise all kinds of red flags are all of the above as well as:
  • Medical indicators of over or under medicated
  • Sudden changes in behaviors of either the individual or their custodian
  • the caregiver or family member’s refusal to allow visitors to see the individual alone
  • being abnormally emotionally upset or agitated
  • being abnormally or extremely withdrawn and non-communicative or non-responsive
  • nervousness around certain people, especially the caregiver or family member in charge of their care

Understanding Statistics

As we explore safety education and protecting ourselves from unsafe situations, we must understand what is happening within our communities; both to those with and without disabilities, and what this means regarding our own risk of violence. Whether you have been a victim of physical, verbal, or psychological abuse or not, it is easy to only see things from our own perspectives. That is kind of the way the brain works! We are sure, after looking at the statistics, you will easily see that if you have been a victim of violence and/or abuse (you’re certainly not alone) or if you have not experienced these types of abuse, it certainly would be irrational to think it would never happen to you. What is so scary to think about is that it happens sometimes without us even realizing we are even in the situation. This is especially true with regards to verbal or psychological abuse or any of the abuse of children. So, what do the statistics say?

First, let us reiterate that the subjects of safety and self-defense have aspects that are not comfortable to discuss or think about. Looking at the cold hard facts can be overwhelming and downright depressing. Our goal of talking about the number of abuse cases is not to scare or upset you, it is to educate you for a better understanding. It is simply a sad, uncomfortable reality for even our veteran SEED instructors.

Did you know that on average twenty people are physically abused every minute in the United States? According to the data collected in the National Intimate Partner & Sexual Violence Survey reported by both the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the National Center for Injury Prevention & Control, over ten million men and women are physically or sexually abused each year in the United States. This report goes on to say that 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of assault ranging from a slap, pushing & shoving, all the way up to the most severe attacks. This abuse is usually done by someone they are intimately involved with! Fourteen percent of reported cases by women result in bodily injury, and four percent of cases reported by men result in bodily injury.

If that was not sad enough, the National Child Protective Services estimate 700,000 children each year are abused or neglected. In 2018 alone, CPS agencies across the United States addressed 678,000 unique cases of abuse. To make it worse, they say that most cases of abuse or neglect are never ever reported!

Then we come to people with disabilities. It is so unfortunate that when you go to look at statistics on violence against those with disabilities, studies are outdated and not reported on by the Department of Justice and other prevalent national agencies. So, there is that! However, after doing the research, we did find that the Center for Disability Rights reported that in 2015, people with disabilities were 2.5% more likely to be a victim of a violent crime than those without a disability. Those more serious violent crimes such as sexual or physical assault as well as robbery were even more lopsided, being three times more likely to be perpetrated against a person with a disability. These stats are just for people living at home. They do not include the homeless and those that are institutionalized. As a result of the fact that people with disabilities are perceived to be vulnerable throughout our society, the CDR estimates from several studies that 90% of people with developmental disabilities will experience sexual abuse sometime in their life, and 49% will sadly experience this abuse at least ten times. Those with intellectual disabilities are 7% more likely to be sexually assaulted than their non-disabled peers. When you add in the characteristics of being a woman the percentage of being more likely to be sexually assaulted than a non-disabled peer is believed to rise to 12%. This is all very alarming to say the least!

What Does the Statistics Tell Us?

Well, as we said the truth is that when you go to look up stats on violence and abuse for people with disabilities the research lacks consistency. The frequency and concentration on disability specific statistics need to improve drastically. Does the lack of consistent yearly studies mean that violence against us or that people with disabilities are simply dismissed in value? That’s going to be a personal call there that we will let you make the decision for yourself. We encourage you to do your own research using our links or finding your own. We also encourage you to share your finding with us, so that we can improve our information being disseminated.

There are plenty of resources for general stats that look at violence and abuse in mainstream society. Most are generally widely accepted. We tried to site those in this course.             The reality about statistics is that there is this thing called research bias. There are stats out there showing how research bias works. To make sure you get what you want as an answer for your research there are a few things that are factored in. 

  1. How is the data collected – Researchers find all sorts of ways to gather their data? From questionnaires, to witnessing the subjects, to researcher bias on the topic they are working on. In some cases, it can be how their mood is when reading answers how it is recorded. 
  2. What is your definition of statistics? – We read it every day one in five have such and such, but did that come from a Facebook post or out of a magazine or was it conducted in a controlled environment? 
  3. Perspective is everything – From the participants point of view to the researchers’ thoughts on the topic and ending with whomever is reading the report after it is all said and done. We tend to focus more on parts that may lean towards a belief we already had on the topic.

These are just a few that seem to be the most common when it comes to research bias.  If you spent time thinking about it, we are sure you can add some to our list here. We just want you to keep this in mind when looking at statistics.

Our hope is that this information will empower you to take a moment and look at all sides. There are so many ways in our modern world we need to take just a moment and think about the perspectives involved. There is that word again! We will discuss in future modules how this becomes more important when it comes to your safety and security. 

Strengths & Areas of Development That effect your Journey to Safety & Security

            Let’s take a moment and look at some other things you might want to consider when looking at developing new safety and security definitions.  First what are some of your strengths? Now we’re not talking about your strength is playing poker. We want you to look at some things you already have going for you on the safety and security side. 

  1. Experience – Whether it’s a safety education class or you took that karate class one time it all goes here. 
  2. Willingness to learn – this strength will get you far in life and will certainly assist you on your safety and security journey. Some of us love learning and it comes easy to us while others struggle. If you love learning you will pick up information faster than other students. 
  3. Positive Mind set – When you are starting off with having a positive mindset when it comes to your safety and security, then you are starting off with a strength. Perhaps you are someone who grew up around people who talk to you about safety and security as a part of life. You know the talk that father figures like to give about fighting or wrestling with cousins. Depending on how those interactions went gave you either a positive or negative attitude. 
  4. Communication Skills – If you are good at speaking up, your way ahead of most of us, so consider it a win right here. Often, we struggle with communicating what some of our safety and security issues are, so communication is key. 

            These are just a few we came up with to get you started. We strongly encourage you to take a moment and write down what your strengths are. 

Now that we have talked about strengths, there is a flip side. What sort of things are staying in the work in the progress category? As humans we all have strengths and areas of development. That’s just how we are built! It’s important to look at both sides of the coin. Some of those things can be worked on and developed. 

Here are some non-positive sides to look at. Think how they could affect your safety and security.  It is the same list as above just in reverse. If you don’t have any experiences whatsoever in these categories, then that is an area of development to work on. You can take classes like the SEED Safety Education course and our Hands on Self-defense Training (HOT), or you can read a book on whatever area you feel needs work. If you have a negative mindset its more than likely previous experiences you may have went through. 

            We are not saying one side is better than the other. What we are saying is all these different items directly affect how you define your safety and security. We ask that throughout this entire course you keep an open mind about what you’re learning and take the time to answer the questions. It is not for our benefit, it is for yours as well.

Module Critical Thinking Exercise

Now that we have taken time to break it all down for you, we would like you to take a moment or two and answer these questions before you go to the next module.  This exercise will help you summarize this module and prepare for the next.

  1. How can you work your strengths and areas of development into your definitions?
  2. Does knowing your strengths / areas of development effect your perspective?
  3. How does reading statistics change your perspective?
  4. Did your definition of safety change?
  5. Would your definition of security look any different now?