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How do I make safer choices?

If you become a victim of crime it’s not your fault – no-one has the right to harm you, or to commit other crimes against you, whatever the situation.

Parent helps her son through a safer choices exercise at home

Sometimes people behave in certain ways, or choose to do particular things, which can put them at greater risk of becoming a victim.

This advice will help you think through what risky behaviours are and the safer choices you can make. Hopefully, by following this advice and putting these plans into action, you can avoid becoming a victim of crime in the future.

What are ‘risky behaviours’?

Risky behaviours are actions or activities which can put you at greater risk of coming to harm. That could be becoming a victim of crime, or getting seriously hurt, or ending up in trouble with the police. Risky behaviours aren’t necessarily illegal (although some are), but they are unsafe.

Examples of risky behaviour could include:

  • unsafe internet use
  • offending behaviour such as vandalism, graffiti or shoplifting
  • skipping school
  • staying away from home for long periods of time – maybe even for several days – without telling your parents or carer where you are
  • using drugs or alcohol
  • spending time with a friendship group who are doing risky things or committing crimes

These are just some examples, there are many more activities or choices that could be classed as risky behaviour. In some cases risky choices are fun, but they only stay fun for as long as you are safe. So the important thing is to take some time to think about what you’re doing, work out whether you are putting yourself at risk, and be able to make the right choices.

Making a safer choice

It’s not always easy. Sometimes there will be a lot of peer pressure to do something – your friends or peer group will try and persuade you, bully you or force you to do something which could put you at risk. In some cases your risky behaviour actually might be because you are trying to keep yourself safe – for example, running away from physical abuse or sexual abuse at home, or being part of a gang because it feels safer to part of it than not. But you need to know that there will be better choices you can make to keep yourself safe.

Even if you are doing something risky, and something happens to you, it’s not your fault – but you’re too important to not try and keep yourself as safe as you can. By taking some time to think about what you are doing, choosing safer choice, and having a safety plan in place, you will be able to avoid risky behaviours, and stay safe.

Questions to ask yourself

One way for you to make a safer choice is to ask yourself important questions about what you are doing (or thinking of doing), listening to the ‘early warning signs’ and trusting your own judgment, and then developing the skills to keep yourself safe.

If you try to answer some of these questions about the way you’re behaving now, or something you’re thinking of doing, it will help you to understand whether you’re choosing risky behaviours or making safer choices. 

Have I thought about the risk I'm taking? 

It’s easy to follow others or react to events without really thinking about what you’re doing, and whether you are putting yourself at risk of being hurt or becoming a victim of crime.

How do I feel?  

Taking notice of your own feelings is important. You will know the difference between what is fun – even if it is a bit scary – and what is dangerous or too risky. So what is it that you feel; fun or fear?

Am I choosing to do it or is someone making me? 

It can be difficult to resist peer pressure, but if people are good friends, they won’t pressurise or force you into doing something that you don’t want to do.

Do I have any control in this, and if it stops being fun will I be able to get out of it?

Even if you’re making a behaviour choice without being put under pressure by other people, it’s important to think about where that choice could lead. If it could result in a situation which could leave you hurt or at risk of real harm, and one which you can’t escape from, you need to seriously consider whether that choice is safe or not.

Does a safe adult know where I am? Will they take action if they are worried about me? Can I get help if I need it?

If you are taking part in activities or behaving in a way that you’re unsure about, it’s really important that you have an adult you trust who knows where you are and what you’re doing, in case you need their help.

It can be difficult to think about some of these things from your own point of view, so try thinking about it as if it was a friend who was behaving in this way. What would you say to them? Would you think they were making a safe choice? How could it be made safer for them?

Putting in safety strategies

There several steps you can take towards making safer choices. These include:

  • Building a safe circle of adults and friends who you can trust, and who you know can and will help you.
  • Understanding that you have the right to be safe and no-one has the right to hurt you in any way.
  • Knowing that you can help someone who is not safe by taking action, and talking to your safe circle.
  • Talking to your safe circle about your safety plan, which will help you to identify the places you can go and the people you can turn to if you are in danger, at risk or need help.

Asking for help

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