How to Avoid an Attack if You Think You're Being Followed

One of the creepiest and scariest experiences ever is the sense that someone is following you. A sixth sense can cause you to become alert about the foot fall, snapping twigs, strange sounds or other sounds that seem to keep occurring behind you, especially when it seems that nobody else is about. To avoid attack, use your common sense, quick wits and a few good tried and true methods as outlined here. The sooner you react in a self-protective manner, the better.

Note: This is not a substitution for a self-defense class––it's a guide for deflecting someone following you with as little interaction as possible.


  1. Image titled Avoid Attack if You Think You're Being Followed Step 1
    Stay alert at all times. Whenever and wherever you're out walking, jogging, taking the dog for a walk, etc. and you're by yourself, keep your wits about you the whole time and stay observant. Your first defense against anyone who might try to attack you is to be aware of their presence.
    • Take the time to glance around you and behind you now and then. Try to do it every 30-60 seconds. Is anything out of place or is there anything of possible concern? In much the same way you intuit that someone is "checking you out", it's also very usual to be able to pick up on someone--or something--not being right, including being "checked out" for all the wrong reasons.
  2. Image titled Avoid Attack if You Think You're Being Followed Step 2
    Determine whether you are precisely being followed. If your intuition/instinct/reason informs you that you are likely being followed, then it makes sense to test your guess. A few ways to do this include:
    • Cross the street, pretending that you actually need to cross the street, and see if the person does the same.
    • Speed up slowly and see if the person does the same.
    • Don't assume that just because the person hasn't quickly copied you that they're not speeding up to keep up––bring your instinct into play as well. If you consider that this person has been following you for several minutes or you feel rather unsafe, then it's time to act. Never ignore your feelings.
  3. Image titled Avoid Attack if You Think You're Being Followed Step 3
    Use positive self talk. This is not the time to panic––you need to think clearly so that you can put yourself out of harm's way. Tell yourself: "Okay, calm down and don't panic. I can deal with this right now." If someone continues to follow you, do not panic. If you panic, you could miss details that may save you. Have a look around you to check your surroundings and keep looking where you're going.
  4. Image titled Avoid Attack if You Think You're Being Followed Step 4
    Quickly assess the situation to see if it's possible to get yourself out of harm's way. If there is a group of people you can slip into and stay very publicly observed, this is a good first option. Look for people at a cafe, in a gallery, waiting in a queue, shoppers in a store, etc.––anywhere that a group of people is situated and where a potential attacker wouldn't be able to make a move without being seen. Also, don't try to be too obvious that you want to get away from the stalker. Just start speeding up a little bit from time to time, like it says before. Then, start jogging. At least you are somewhat getting further away from the stalker. If you run, you could get yourself in a big trap with the stalker. If there is a police or fire station, ambulance building or similar place with authority figures at work, run in there for safety.
    • If it's nighttime, and you really feel scared, stop at a well-lit public place, such as a restaurant or hotel. Call the police or family and friends and ask them to escort you to your home, or stay with them (either police or family and friends) for a while.
    • Never head for a dark alley, through fields or woods, or anywhere that could be a dead end. Always head for open public spaces, well-lit if night, and wherever there are the most people around.
  5. Image titled Avoid Attack if You Think You're Being Followed Step 5
    If the previous step isn't going to prove possible, you'll need to find other fast solutions. Never be embarrassed about turning around and looking to see if the person is getting closer. By confronting the situation head on, you immediately alert the potential attacker that you're fully aware that he or she is on your tail––for many a follower, this can be enough to cause the person to stop. However, don't hang around too long doing this––you can't stare down an attacker in most cases.
  6. Image titled Avoid Attack if You Think You're Being Followed Step 6
    Take action. Consider stopping dead in your tracks and throwing your hands in the air. Avoid dropping any possessions that you might be tempted to retrieve, as this could place you in a vulnerable position. It could also lose you potentially good defensive weapons, such as your keys. Then, scream loudly! For example, yell something like: "Stop following me! I don't want anything to do with you! Go away!" If you can't think of anything else, yell "Fire!" really loudly. The odds are that the the person following you, whether or not they mean to do harm, will leave you alone, also if you yell "fire!" really loud someone could think there is a real fire and go see what going on, so yelling fire is a good choice.
    • If you have a personal alarm or a whistle, use it to make as much noise as possible.
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    Continue yelling. Draw as much attention to yourself as possible when around any other person than the follower. Make people look at you to see what is going on. Your attacker does not want to be seen, let alone get caught.
  8. Image titled Avoid Attack if You Think You're Being Followed Step 8
    Run or get away. If you're fit, start running. Putting distance between yourself and the potential attacker is the best thing you can do. As stated above, run to where you know there will be people.
  9. Image titled Avoid Attack if You Think You're Being Followed Step 9 EDIT
    If you have a cell phone, call the police at the same time as continuing to walk to somewhere safe. Announce that you're calling the police. While you're calling, remember to watch where you're going and continue to draw attention to yourself. Follow the directions of the operator.
  10. Image titled Avoid Attack if You Think You're Being Followed Step 10
    Take your keys out of your purse or pocket. Hold on to them tightly if you don't have a cell phone, and the person is still following you. Keys can make an excellent weapon if you're forced into having to defend yourself. Also, any registered weapons should be taken out if you have them. Then drop your purse and keep walking––it may be all the person following is after, some money and valuables. If this feels like a terrible thing to do, consider whether hanging onto it is worth your life?
  11. Image titled Avoid Attack if You Think You're Being Followed Step 11
    If you've done everything and the person is still following you, it probably means that the person plans on harming you. But chances are if you do all of this, a person won't still be following you. Most followers run away after someone screams and draws attention to themselves, afraid of being caught and recognized. If you are actually attacked, use your keys, fists, fingers, or anything else you have as a weapon and yell loudly as much as you can. Poke the attacker's eyes, kick their genital region, scratch and bite. Do anything to get away from their grasp, all the while screaming if you can.
    • If you know self-defense, use it. However, don't try to do martial arts poses when you haven't a clue about them. You're much better off attacking with your wits and drive to survive than your imagination.
  12. Image titled Avoid Attack if You Think You're Being Followed Step 12
    Don't go straight home. This will show the person where you live and is especially dangerous if you live alone. Try to go to a neighbor's house, a friend's house or another family member's house, where you know there will be other people to answer the door and take care of you.


  • If you're out by yourself a lot, it's a good idea to carry a personal alarm, especially if you're female, you're elderly, you're frail or you're easily fearful. It might even be a good idea to learn self defense.
  • Do not panic. It won't be any help. Stay alert and aware.
  • Don't wear headphones or ear phones, especially if you're walking alone. It makes you vulnerable and puts you in an immediate disadvantage. Yes, this includes when you're jogging.
  • You could also go into a store or market and tell a cashier that you're being followed!
  • Do things to draw attention to yourself: Yelling is recommended if other people might be around, scream if nothing else works.
  • Run/jog toward where there could be help if possible (not into a dark area, alone unless you know the terrain perfectly); loudly shout warnings clearly ("Fire!" for example) to make people curious to come out to see; immediately report to the authorities about: who, where, when, what, how,...
  • If you've been followed before, in the event of a recursion, tell someone about it afterwards and find ways to prevent it from happening again.


  • See the police and explain what happened. While this may have been a one-off, you may find out that there is an attacker on the prowl that the police are aware of, or you may want to ask for help in relation to possible future follow attempts if this is someone who might be stalking you.
  • Be very careful about ever allowing a stranger to use your phone when you're out alone, especially at night. It could be a ruse to get you to come closer and then hang around to get your "valuable" returned to you. This can place you in a vulnerable position for attack. It's one thing to help someone make a phone call when others are around, quite another thing down a deserted alleyway––use your common sense and trust your instinct.
  • Make sure you get far away from the person you think is trying to harm you. Sometimes help doesn't get to you as fast as it should, even if you have called the police; keep screaming.
  • Don't let doubt hinder your instinctual fear; if you don't feel right in a certain situation, get out! Your gut instinct is usually right when it comes to personal safety.

Things You'll Need

  • Whistle or personal alarm - anybody out alone -- walking, walking the dog, jogging, etc.

Sources and Citations

  • Kathleen Baty, A Girl's Gotta Do What a Girl's Gotta Do, (2003), ISBN 1-4050-6722-5 - research sourcer

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