Women step up, take charge of their safety

Last weekend seven women stepped out of their comfort zones, got physical, and educated themselves on self-defence.

Lisa Moore throws a well-aimed punch at a soft practice pad. The punch is one of four self-defence hand techniques Moore learned at the Rape Aggression Defence self-defence course for woman.

Last weekend seven women stepped out of their comfort zones, got physical, and educated themselves on self-defence.

On Nov. 24 Ponoka Victim Services hosted another Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) self defence course to teach female participants the basics of saving themselves against growing trends: assault, sexual assault and rape.

The primary instructor for the course, Ed Rifo, has been teaching RAD since 1999, and while the course and self-defence are serious subjects, he was able to inject just the right amount of fun into the course to keep the teenaged girls and women from getting scared and intimidated.

Over the course of the day the participants who took the course — the “victims” — were taught a series of hand, leg and other body movements that can be used in self-defence.

Unlike keys or pepper spray, body parts are something you never put away and for that reason are sometimes the best weapons.

After the basics were taught, the victims were run through three scenarios. “These scenarios are going to be stuff you do on a daily basis,” said Rifo. An example he used was being attacked in a bank.

The first scenario was taped and then reviewed by the instructors and the victims. That way they could see what they did right and what they had to work on. Rifo said watching themselves builds technique and confidence.

“It’s nice to see that progression from the first scenario to the third one,” said Rifo.

Confidence can also sometimes act as a deterrent to an attacker, who’ll usually look for an easy victim that won’t put up a fight. Awareness is another risk reduction.

Risk reduction is a good strategy for women to follow, said Rifo. “There’s no type. They’re just looking for an opportunity. They want control and they want to get their kicks.”

Rifo told a story about a female post-secondary student who would run early in the morning before her classes. She always took the same route and she ran alone. The woman realized she had developed a routine that was easy to recognize and made her a target.

However, this was the only time of day she could run. In an effort to protect herself she always ran with her head up and carried a golf club with her.

“All this stuff about awareness. It’s wonderful to have all these techniques but hopefully you never have to use them, it’s about being aware,” Rifo told the victims. “Really what this course is about is trying to empower you.”

Volunteer peace officers from around central Alberta, who acted as the aggressors, tried to get the victims riled and angry so they’d experience what could happen in real life and know how to react.

Scenario 2 was a psychological attack. The woman would have to close their eyes while aggressors taunted them both verbally and physically. Only after the attack began could they open their eyes and defend themselves.

“You have to make those punches and those kicks count because you get tired quickly. Put them down as quickly as possible,” warned Rifo.

The third scenario was about being confronted on the street. The victims had to take town their attackers as quickly as possible and get to a designated safe zone.

If they were too slow getting there the attacker would get up and they’d have to start over.

The course also touched on social media safety and other ways to be safe when dealing with personal information. “By sharing a lot of information you allow people to get to know you in a way you don’t want,” said Rifo.

He also said other ways to stay safer are to put your business card in a luggage information tag. He’d said rather have lost underwear show up at his office someday than be attacked or have his house raided.

Another story Rifo told was about a mother and daughter. The daughter wanted to keep her privacy but the mother wanted her to stay safe.

They devised a system where when the daughter was going out somewhere she’d leave a note and tell her mother when to expect her home. If the girl was late the mother could open the note to find out where she’d been.

This gave the girl more security than sneaking out would have and also provided an incentive to be home on time.

RAD is a self-defence course taught across North America. It was established in 1989 and designed specifically for females.

The next RAD session in Ponoka will be held at the Air Cadets Hall on Jan. 26 and 27. The course is free and available for female participants ages 13 and up.

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