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Question
Okay, without making a big deal about this or making it obvious to my co-worker that he makes me cringe, how do I keep myself safe?

He barely contains his hostility when he's on the phone with me.  We have to communicate over the phone so that he can pick up kids and bring them to the clinic.  He is our only driver.  
His voice raises and I can't think of anything more specific than that.  It's a gut feeling that he's seething below the surface.  

He's never called me not related to a work issue.
He's never called my cell phone at inappropriate times, though he has my cell phone number.  He only knows the general direction of my house.  

Answer
You are smart to be aware of his hostility, and to be taking steps to ensure your safety.  Here are some ideas for you to pick and choose from:

Keep a log of your observations of him; date, time, what he says, how he says it, your concerns.  This will help you document for yourself and others whether his behavior is escalating from "concerning" toward "dangerous."

The best protection you can have is awareness.  Especially when you are outside your home, keep your head up and your eyes open.  Look around frequently.  When you see nothing that causes you to worry, tell yourself that you do not need to be anxious.  You can stay alert all the time without being anxious or afraid all the time.

For example, think about the places you go to on a regular basis (home, shopping, work, school, friends, etc) and plan where you would go if trouble started to develop while you were there, or in route.  There are usually many places you could go to be in "public" or where other people are around to help: police stations, fire houses, 24 hr convenience stores, hospitals, fast food restaurants, gas stations, and so on.  If you know where those sorts of places are, you are never far from help.

Do you think the kids he is driving might also be receiving some hostility when he is alone with them?  If so, you can talk with whoever is responsivle for their safety, and report your concerns.

If it is legal where you live, you might consider getting some pepper spray.  It is inexpensive, and a very useful self-protection tool.

The best thing you could do to increase your safety and decrease your anxiety would be to take a good self-defense class for women.   In most places around the country, you can find good programs that teach you how to fight against a mock assailant who is wearing protective padded gear so he can be kicked and hit full force.  For this sort of unarmed physical fighting, try to find a course that is about 20 hours long, not a single day or evening.  

One such program, Impact, has a decades long history of students who proved capable of defending themselves.  Check out the chapter list at http://www.impactchicago.org/resource.html or  http://www.impactboston.com/links.htm.  If there is none where you live, call the closest and ask if they can recommend an instructor in your area.  

A newer group is Rape Aggression Defense (RAD), which is popular on many campuses (http://www.rad-systems.com/).  

Another good resource is the American Women's Self Defense Association, http://www.awsda.org/ ; they have a database of self-defense instructors around the country.  

A good self-defense class will give you a lot of information and skill regarding how to deal with potentially dangerous situations successfully.  You will be amazed at what you can learn!

Good luck, and stay safe!  

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Lyn Bates

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Are you being stalked? I can help evaluate the amount of danger you are in, and can provide very specific suggestions for increasing your safety, and for managing your situation. As a founding member and the current Vice President of AWARE (a volunteer, nonprofit organization), I have helped thousands of women learn to protect themselves from crimes ranging from minor harassment to serious assault. I am currently writing a book on safety for stalking victims. I have lectured at annual training meetings of the American Society of Law Enforcement Training, Women in Federal Law Enforcement, the International Women Police Association, the American Society of Criminology, and the American Women`s Self-Defense Association. In 1997, the American Tactical Shooting Association gave me their annual Tactical Advocate Award for teaching and writing.

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