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Mar 14, 2013

Unsafe in public places? Healthy Living has tips to keep out of harm’s way

Earlier in the newscast, we told you about the staggering crime figures plaguing the country. Since the start of the year, there doesn’t seem to be much promise for a change in urban violence. Petty crimes such as burglaries, robberies or jacking are the norm and do not usually make it to the police blotter. But there is another offence that has become all too common; that is harassment. And this week, Healthy Living speaks with a counselor and self defense instructor, who has five tips to maintain your personal safety in public areas.


Renee Wentz, Counselor and Self Defense Instructor

“People are not really cognizant of what they are doing when walking on the streets. Because of my teaching I watch a lot of people, in the car, or in the bus and I see people behaving in ways that are dangerous.”


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Renee Wentz is a counselor and self defense instructor. She has trained women and children in self defense for years. Living in Belize for over ten years has made her very aware of some of the habits women make when moving in public spaces; errors that can jeopardize their personal safety.


Renee Wentz

Renee Wentz

“There are things we would have never would have imagined happening here in Belize, we would have said that’s a lifetime movie. Somebody kidnapping a woman and her baby, stealing her baby and then pretending that she had this baby for someone else and then murdering a young girl – that’s unheard of, but it happened just a couple of years ago here. A young lady waiting for a bus to go to school getting chopped up from a villager; oh it would never happen, but it happened a couple weeks ago. So if it’s just one person, its one person too many.”


While we may have less control over the state of crime or the safety of our streets; we have far more control over how we walk and maneuver ourselves in public. With this in mind, Renee shares some tips on how to move around the streets safely.


Renee Wentz

“The number one thing is to pay attention. Pay attention to what’s going on around you and your own behavior. Know how to carry yourself, know what you are projecting, know what you are showing and know who is around you. There are many times you can see something about to happen if you pay attention. If you may see somebody pass you more than one time on a bicycle, they are probably checking you out to see what you have and are you paying attention and does it look like is it easy to take what you have.  The next tip that I think we had down there is to trust your instinct. Really we have some innate qualities or characteristics that tell us that something is wrong. And it is usually a feeling you get. So you may start to feel a little bit sick to your stomach, your heart might start to beat a little fast, you might feel a little jittery; your hands might get cold, you might get cold sweat. But you will definitely feel that something is not right. Somebody’s behavior is just a little bit strange, looking at you funny or passing you; it just seems odd. You know I’ve seen this person a lot in the past week and I’ve never noticed them in my neighborhood before. If you feel someone is following you they probably are.”


Pay Attention. Trust Your Instincts. And when you get that funny feeling, don’t ignore it.


Renee Wentz

“If you don’t pay attention to it and almost all of us can think of a time where we thought something was gonna happen and we said oh you’re overreacting, emotional, acting crazy. Something has happened and you said oh shucks I knew something was going to happen; I should have paid attention. It’s much easier to pay attention to something and be wrong. There is no problem if I turn around and said good morning to somebody or good afternoon. I haven’t done anything wrong. If that person isn’t following me, the person would say good afternoon and we go about our business. There is no harm done. But if I don’t do anything about it, then there is a possibility. And you know the famous saying it is better to prevent than lament. Look them right in the face and say good afternoon; very assertively—not overly friendly or aggressive—but letting the person know that I see you right there and making eye contact. One of the biggest thing about attackers is not to get caught. And the more that you can recognize them or identify them to police, the less likely they are going to attack you.”


Another tip is to walk with a purpose; don’t become too distracted; scared or show that that you’re in an unfamiliar territory. Simply look like you know exactly where you’re going.


Renee Wentz

“When you look frightened and when you don’t look like you know where you are going, well you certainly make for an easier target.”


Marleni Cuellar

“How do you walk with a purpose?”


Renee Wentz

“You walk like you know exactly where you want to go, like you’re late for an appointment. You are going to look around; hold your head up, look around—not like you’re terrified, but that you see this over here and I see this over here.”


How about this bit of advice: Don’t feel that you must be polite.


Renee Wentz

“You have to come up with an excuse. There is nothing wrong in saying I’m not interested in talking to you. And we have to get past that we have to be polite to everyone and accept every comment without telling people that it is rude. You don’t have to comment on how my body moves, or the size of my body parts; you don’t have to tell me to smile. I’m not on the street for your entertainment…I’m moving to do what I have to do with my day The way I see it if someone responds to me in a respectful manner I’ll respond in a respectful manner, but if you’re disrespectful then there is no excuse for me to have to be polite to you.”


Just as women must abandon the need to be polite when being disrespected; they must also abandon the fear of calling them out. The next tip: Don’t be afraid to make noise


Renee Wentz

“We’re socialized not to make a big scene, many of us. And one of the best ways to get away from a person who is harassing you whether verbally or physically threatening you is to make a lot of noise. Most of the times if you make noise the person will leave you alone. They’ll leave the area or run away because they don’t want to get caught. Calling attention to someone’s rude behavior or to somebody’s aggressive behavior is one of the best ways to keep yourself safe.”


In the end, while we have a right to feel safe, we do need to take some action to ensure this. Men also have a responsibility as well. So Renee’s final advice is to the men and their behaviors.


Renee Wentz

“As much as women can do things to protect themselves, we actually shouldn’t have to. I mean if we all treated each other with respect; there would be no reason for self defense. Think before you speak or think before you move. If you would not want somebody to behave that way to speak that way to your mother or your auntie or your granny or your eleven year old daughter, then don’t say it to a woman you don’t know.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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2 Responses for “Unsafe in public places? Healthy Living has tips to keep out of harm’s way”

  1. Storm says:

    Well said, sound advice.

  2. Renee Wentz says:

    Thanks, Storm. You can find out more or find out where/when I will be giving self-defense at this link on Facebook:

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