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Woman shares safety hack for apartment living after chilling late night incident

‘My lights are only on in my bathroom now because it’s the only room I have with no windows,’ she wrote on TikTok after the incident

Amber Raiken
New York
Tuesday 25 April 2023 20:47 BST
Related: NYC basement apartment safety concerns

A woman has shared a safety hack for living in an apartment: Leave your lights off for a bit when returning home.

Mary, who is a singer and songwriter, shared a video on TikTok last month about an experience that made her see the benefit in people not “immediately” turning their lights on when they walk into their apartment.

“Especially if people can see the windows of your apartment from the street,” she says in the video, adding that if “someone’s following you home, they’re going to know what apartment you’re in.”

The singer told viewers that when she got home that night, she noticed a man she’d never seen before getting stuff out of his car.

After noting that the unnamed man gave her “bad vibes,” she recalled how he tried to “make conversation with” her as she was leaving her car. He told her that her car’s headlight was out, to which she told him that she was getting it fixed.

Mary noted that she didn’t continue talking to the stranger and instead went into her apartment. Upon entering her home, she said that she opted to keep her lights off when she walked in before checking the Ring camera on her door. It was then that she noticed the stranger through the camera lens.

“He’s standing in the street, which is very close to my apartment building,” she said. “[He was] staring at my building, and he did not leave for like five minutes. I mean like, halfway through he left the empty parking spot and hid behind a car. But he waited to see.”

She continued: “Now he knows what car I drive and where I live, just not my apartment. So, don’t turn your lights on.”

In the caption of her TikTok video, Mary explained which lights she kept on.

“I’m so tired of feeling like prey !!” she wrote. “My lights are only on in my bathroom now because it’s the only room I have with no windows.”

Speaking to The Independent, Mary revealed that after this incident, she purchased some automatic light bulbs. “I bought some light bulbs from Amazon that I can control from my phone and now turn them on before I get home,” she said. “This hack is something that I naturally thought about. I have always wanted to live alone but am very aware of the risks that come with that being a woman so I am extra cautious.”

She also shared a follow-up video about the incident on TikTok. She explained that when she called her landlord, he told her that the man lived in the apartment complex and was moving out the following month. She also claimed that she now has the man’s name and number.

She then explained that while her landlord described the man as “such a good guy,” she noted that there’s “no way to say that standing in front of someone’s apartment and staring at it” is “not weird”.

Mary shared that she later saw the man a second time as she was leaving her apartment and that she walked in the opposite direction to avoid him. However, according to Mary, he proceeded to follow her.

“He followed me until I took out my pepper spray, unlocked it, and called my brother very loudly,” she said. “So that made me very unsettled.”

She noted that she spent that day with her brother and his girlfriend, who walked her back to her apartment when she returned home. Despite how safe she said she feels inside her apartment, she noted she she’s staying aware of her surroundings.

“I’m really glad I know who it is. I’m glad everyone in my life knows who it is,” she said about the unnamed man. “But it’s still kind of creepy. S***’s still unfolding. I’m still being very cautious.”

As of 19 April, Mary’s two videos have more than 24.4m views, with TikTok users in the comments praising her for sharing this safety tip and sending her messages of support.

“Amazing advice, that I guarantee so many don’t think about…. I didn’t until you said something! Thank you!” one wrote.

“So scary. Always trust your gut. I swear it’s always right,” another added, while a third wrote: “OMG…thank you much! I just moved to a new flat and I wasn’t aware of this.”

Other viewers shared some of the safety hacks that they recommend.

“Get a light timer,” one wrote. “Then they’ll think your apartment is active 24/7 or leave your lights on.”

“Life hack, don’t turn your lights off at all! Lol never walk into a dark room and always seem like you’re home,’ another agreed.

“Please make sure for the next week you switch up your schedule and don’t return home at the same time multiple days in a row, stay safe!” a third wrote.

Speaking to The Independent, she also urged women to stay aware of their surrounds at all times. “It is unfortunate and unfair that we need to be this careful in this world, but it is so important to do everything we can to maintain our safety,” she said. “Never ignore your intuition, trust it because it is an instinct that we have as humans that is meant to be used as a tool to keep us safe.”

According to the US Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimisation Survey, nearly “3.7 million household burglaries occurred each year on average from 2003 to 2007”.  65 percent of the burglaraies were committed by people who knew the victims, while 28 per cent of them were committed by strangers.

Additionally, the Department of Justice’s report on Female Victims of Violence found that in 2008, females who were 12 or older ​ “experienced about 552,000 nonfatal violent victimizations by an intimate partner”. These victimisations included “rape/sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated or simple assault”.

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