Event aims at teaching self-defense

By ELIZABETH WILLIAMSON

Eight Pitt students braved the cold Tuesday night in the William Pitt Union Ballroom for an… Eight Pitt students braved the cold Tuesday night in the William Pitt Union Ballroom for an up close and personal seminar for women on self-defense against sexual assault.

Curtis Smith, a self-defense teacher, Pitt police officer and the designer of the self-defense program “Buy Yourself a Minute: The Byam Method of Self-Defense,” instructed the students on how to punch, elbow, kick and wrestle to safety.

“There are a lot of things happening in Oakland,” Smith said. “Oakland is a fun place, but it also can be a dangerous place.”

Smith began by stressing the importance of awareness.

“You must understand your surroundings,” Smith said. “You cannot rely on someone else to save you. You have to respond.”

Smith paired the students and assigned each pair with one of his four assistants, who demonstrated techniques and offered encouragement.

“Just because you’re a girl doesn’t mean you don’t have power,” one assistant said to a student while practicing kicking. “You don’t realize how much power you have.”

The assistants trained the students on methods of using the body as a tool to avoid sexual assault. The women punched, kicked, elbowed and wrestled the four male assistants, at times bearing shields and at other times no protection at all, and two dummies in simulations of attacks.

Peace Ike, a senior majoring in rehabilitation science, and Christina Pro, a junior majoring in communication, both resident assistants in Holland Hall, organized the free event.

“We decided to hold the seminar in February because in a sexual assault seminar for resident assistants, we found out that February is one of the two months in which the number of sexual assaults is at its highest,” Ike said. “The other month is September, and that is because of the presence of the incoming freshman on campus.”

Freshman students Jamie Sardineer and Shannon Thompson stated that they felt not only safer, but also more aware and more confident after participating in the workshop.

“I thought the workshop was helpful, especially since I live in Oakland,” Sardineer said.

Thompson agreed. “Now when I walk back from South Oakland parties, I’ll feel much safer,” she said.

Both students agreed that one class is not enough, and said they would look into taking a self-defense class and other workshops.

Officer Ron Bennett of the Pitt Police urged students to sign up for a self-defense class.

The Pitt Police offers a free 12-hour course to women called RAD, which stands for Rape Aggressive Defense.

Bennett suggests that, in addition to taking classes and attending free workshops, students use common sense.

“Be aware of your environment,” he said. “Look around you, especially while talking on a cell phone – at night and in broad daylight.”

Since most students carry cell phones, Bennett also advises students to program the phone number of the Pitt Police on speed dial (preferably number nine).

“Instead of calling the Pittsburgh Police, call the Pitt Police,” he said. “We’re here all the time, whereas the Pittsburgh Police patrols the entire city. Therefore our response time is a lot quicker.”

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