Late Night Safety Tips in the Wake of the Esme Barrera Murder

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It's been pretty well documented how big of an impact the passing of Esme Barrera has had on not only the Austin community, and not only the state or region, but on the nationwide live music scene as a whole. There are planned benefits all the way out in her native El Paso, in Austin (of course), here in town, and as far away as Brooklyn! There's even a digital comp in the works with proceeds going to her family. It goes without saying that this was a tragedy under any circumstances, but when you're actively involved in the underground music community it strikes a few extra disharmonious chords with music fans. Think Mia Zapata. Think Brian Deneke.

When I first heard the news, I called my mom to share the story. My mom didn't know Esme, heck, I had only met her a handful of times on trips to Austin, but I was faced with a feeling that I wasn't sure how to process and I needed my mommy. And when my mom called me back after reading the article she told me "she sounds just like you." Then it hit me. I was terrified. Not just for myself, but for my friends and loved ones, sweet and amazing folks whose social, work, and performance hours push far into the night -- kids that are returning home long after the rest of the city has gone to sleep. I had similar feelings six years ago when the young women was carjacked and thrown into her trunk walking back to her car from the Proletariat. But in that case, the brave girl escaped relatively unscathed.

So while trying to figure out this best way to address this event, I contemplated just addressing the circumstances, or focusing on the wonderful benefits being organized but I landed on something much different. I've decided to talk about being safe. A lot of the times it just takes a couple seconds of thoughtfulness, but sometimes it takes some preparation. And I love y'all so much, I just want to make sure I've done what I can to protect you and help you protect yourself when I can't be there.

We've all been in these circumstances: walking to our car (or home or bike) late after a show and arriving at home alone to a dark house or apartment with all the neighbors down for the count. We do it without incident so often we start to take our wellbeing for granted. Then things like this happen and we can't help but reevaluate some of our habits.

Personally, in the past I've at least as gone as far as putting my keys between my fingers and psyching myself up to kick an attacker in the balls, and then upon reaching my destination laughing with relief at my attempts at self-defense. And I'm sure you've done similar things. But how effective are they? Maybe keeping ourselves secure is worth some research and practice. Here's a few things to think about today as you get ready to go out tonight.

Roll deep. Have your crew meet up to pre-party and one of your places. Pack into whoever will let you smoke's car and then hit the club. And then, if you can, post-party, crash on the couch, or stay up 'til sun's up. Back in '09 when I lived at Awesome Street, I was always glad that there buddies constantly around, if I ever felt at risk, I had homies right there. You never sleep so soundly as you do with Funboy on your couch.

Have a party pal. If you plan on meeting up with your friends at the show, make arrangements with another one to keep an eye on each other. Let each other know when you're on your way and when you get there. And then if you leave at different times, make sure to text each other when you get home. I've done this in the past, but usually if a friend is especially sleepy or drinky, but I think it's worth implementing full time.

Stick around for a minute. This is something I do absolutely EVERY TIME I drop a friend off. It melts my milkshake every time I witness someone not do this, in fact, my husband is probably sick of me reminding him when he's the one driving. It just takes about 30 seconds and is such a simple gesture. Make sure your friend has his or her keys ready then stick around until he gives you the signal. I usually tell my friends to flip the light on and off so I know it's all clear.

Carry something you can defend yourself with. As I mentioned earlier, I've done the keys between the fingers, which is a legitimate technique and nothing to scoff at. But there are better ways to go about it. Just recently my husband bought me a pepper spray key chain. I've been carrying it for a week or two but never gave much thought to how I would dig it out, unlock it and then deploy it until this last weekend. The habit I'm working on is having it ready in my hand anytime I'm walking alone. I got a chance to practice it walking to and from my car at Fitzgerald's the other night. Some folks might go as far as to get a CHL, and if you go that route, I urge you be very knowledgeable on both gun use and safety. Research the different personal protection options and see what's best for you.

Take self-defense classes. It's one thing to daydream about warding off a potential attacker with your bare hands, and you might have a killer combo in a bar fight, but if someone catches you off guard and is possibly armed and looking to harm you, all bets are off. There are organizations here in town that offer free classes. Make a thing of it, get some friends together and then afterwards have a self-defense dance party, practicing the moves to your favorite songs. You might feel like dorks at the time but think about how it would feel if saved one of y'all's lives?

To donate to the Barrera family to help cover expenses you can visit: http://forouresmeb.blogspot.com/

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