Being safe is being prepared

Whitney Cale

Staff Writer

Self-defense is about much more than a gun or a knife. When it comes to defending yourself, the No. 1 principle to remember is awareness.

“The most important aspect of self-defense is not a physical technique; it’s simply being aware of your surroundings,” said Jennifer Duncan, assistant coordinator of the Student Counseling Center and self-defense instructor. “That’s the first thing we teach our students.”

I had the pleasure of sitting in on one of Duncan’s self-defense classes, and I was amazed at what I witnessed. The intensity was high, the techniques were rigorous and the motives were challenging.

“I’ve taught this class for 10 years,” said Duncan. “I’m very passionate about the topic because the idea of sexual assault infuriates me.”

According to Duncan, the knowledge of self-defense is incredibly important, especially on college campuses. Females are at a greater risk of sexual assault on a college campus, so knowing how to defend yourself is crucial.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. More than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.

“We usually receive about three sexual assault reports per year,” said John McCall, chief of University Police. “Of those three, maybe one of those are by an unknown attacker.”

According to McCall, and supported by NSVRC statistics, the majority of reported assaults are by an acquaintance.

While many students are quick to assume that carrying a weapon of some sort is the best line of defense, it is important to know the university’s policy on what is allowed.

“Firearms of any kind, tasers, stun guns, etc. are completely prohibited on campus,” said McCall.

“While our written policy states that pepper spray and Mace are also prohibited, we have allowed females to carry it on campus for when they’re alone at night or walking from their car. They just can’t carry it into any events.”

McCall also stressed that pepper spray can be used only in self-defense situations.

What will you do, though, if your attacker takes your weapon from you? That is why it is important to have something an attacker can never take: knowledge.

“Everyone should know how to protect themselves at all cost,” said Kourtney Frye, a sophomore history major from Monroeville. “It’s essential to have the comfort in knowing that if you were faced with sexual assault or robbery, you can defend yourself.”

Chief McCall stated that among the informational brochures placed in the dorms and presentations given to sororities and fraternities, Troy’s RAD (rape aggression defense) classes are the biggest promotions of self-defense/awareness.

Our knowledge of self-defense may not prevent attackers from pursuing us, but it can better equip us to fight back and prevent the attacker from achieving his goal.

“Criminals are going to be motivated whether or not we have knowledge,” said Duncan. “But by being aware and knowing the proper and effective techniques, we can protect and defend ourselves against their attacks.”

Perpetrators of sexual assault act for gratification in the present moment. But survivors of sexual assault deal with the effects for years after the incident.

In an effort to eliminate or diminish those lifelong effects, Troy is providing a number of resources to empower students, such as having a Student Counseling Center, offering basic and advanced self-defense classes, providing informational brochures, and sending out periodic reminders via email about safety and awareness.

After observing Dun­can’s self-defense class, I am determined to enroll in a course as soon as possible.

While learning and knowing self-defense tactics now cannot erase the traumas I have survived in the past, I find comfort in knowing that should I find myself being attacked in the future, I will be prepared to fight back and defend myself.

The No. 1 lesson I learned just from observing Duncan’s class is that I do have a voice. And you do, too.

Throughout every technique I watched in class, Duncan had her class shouting, “No!” repeatedly.

Do not rely on a weapon to save you from an attacker. I encourage you to sign up for a self-defense class before you graduate.

You have a right to say, “No.” You have a right to defend yourself.

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