The Norman Transcript

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November 24, 2013

Empowering women: Program teaches women more than self-defense

NORMAN — If there were any passerbys in Norman Region Hospital’s Education Center on Saturday they may have been alarmed by the occasional screaming and yelling reverberating through a small classroom, but the noise was necessary as part of a program designed to help women empower themselves.

A group of 11 women gathered in the classroom with Norman police officers for part of a program titled “My Body... My Life... empowering women through awareness, education, violence prevention and self-defense techniques”.

The department holds regular classes on the program to empower women of all ages to understand violence against women in its many forms, address each form of violence in an immediate and appropriate way, understand and addresses inappropriate relationships and protect her body and her life.

“It’s your body. It’s your life,” Sgt. Bob Moore, a developer and instructor of the program said.

The group was taught about how to be aware their environment and their boundaries. The women practiced saying the word “no” in a firm and direct manner, as well as learning and practicing how to escape someone grabbing their wrist.

Grabbing a woman by her wrist is a common impulse a perpetrator may have when trying to keep a woman from leaving after she has told him “no”.

“So no, walk away and report,” was a message Moore and Master Police Officer Mark Savage repeated throughout the day.

The women also learned four self-defense techniques they could use if someone was trying to engage in a sexual act with them that was unwanted. Moore said a rape can be from someone you are acquainted with, whether it be your husband, boyfriend or fiancé.

Seventy percent of all rape that occurs is date-acquaintance rape, Moore said, meaning that you know the person who rapes you.

The techniques taught would only cause the perpetrator temporary pain, but it is enough pain to get the man’s mind off of sex for the time being, Moore said, adding that it’s nothing that would send someone to the hospital.

Each woman stood in line as the techniques were performed on them to know what kind of pain would be inflicted on the person in the event they used them.

Some yelped, many hands grappled the officer’s arms as it was demonstrated on them, but each went away knowing exactly where they need to press with just one finger to make him think twice about what he’s doing and make him back off.

At that point, Moore advised the women to run. Get away from the situation and if it is your husband, spend the night somewhere else because you can always talk to him the next day. The important thing is to remove yourself from the situation immediately when he backs off, he said.

When women are out and about, it’s also important for them to remain aware of their environment and the people around them. Moore said perpetrators don’t attack when there is light, noise and people around because they don’t want to get caught.

Light can provide someone a better view of the perpetrator and something like a flashlight or camera flash on a cell phone could get someone’s attention. A woman making noise also gets a lot of people’s attention, increasing the risk of the perpetrator getting caught. A lot of people also increases that risk, which is something the perpetrator would not want.

“People don’t say, ‘I think I want to go to jail today,’” Savage said.

Perpetrators choose who they think are prime targets in prime conditions so they will not get caught. In the event someone even points a gun at you and tells you to get in their vehicle, don’t do it, Savage said.

If someone is already committing a felony and you get in the vehicle with them, you will be the only person who could put that person in jail so why wouldn’t they just kill you, he asked. In the event you do get shot, your chances of survival are great.

Norman has hospitals and the medical technology available now increases those chances of survival, he said. But even then, a perpetrator may just be trying to intimidate you and not want to shoot you because everyone knows what a gun shot sounds like, it causes unwanted noise and unwanted attention, he said.

Women were also taught “stop, drop and flop” if anyone tries to physically take them somewhere. Much like stop drop and roll, the women dropped to the ground on their backsides screaming, kicking and flailing their arms to keep a perpetrator from taking them.

If something does occur you also want to remember as much as you can about what the person looked like, what they were wearing, what kind of car they were driving, what direction they took off in and even their tag number if possible, Savage said.

Savage also taught the “breakfast cereal of self-defense”, which included three serious self-defense techniques that could seriously injury a perpetrator. He dubbed the three techniques the Adams Apple Crunch, Ear Pops and Lucky Charms.

The women lined up to practice on a dummy for two of the techniques, yelling again as they practiced the techniques.

Savage told many stories about young women and older women who survived sexual assault, analyzing where they made poor decisions leading to the assault.

Several of the stories dealt with the most commonly abused substance – alcohol. Drinking alcohol not only changes the decision-making process, but also inhibits a person from being able to fight back when in a sexual assault situation.

However, even if someone puts themselves in a situation like this, it is important to remember it is not your fault, Moore said.

Savage told a story about a woman who felt guilty because she was an alcoholic, had been drinking when a male from her Alcohol Anonymous called and ended up coming to her house to “talk” to her. He ended up raping her.

The woman had blacked out because she had drank so much and didn’t remember what happened, but remembers how she felt and the evidence left in her home the next day, Savage said. The woman also received a call from someone telling her the man was showing a video he took with his phone of him raping her.

Both officers repeated throughout the class that when a woman gets raped, it is not her fault. She didn’t ask for it to happen and she didn’t want it to happen.

Often times it is the man, or perpetrator, who projects that the woman “wanted it just as much as he did,” Moore said.

The women returned to the dummy for the last time, this time with “beer goggles” provided by the police to show how alcohol can affect trying to keep a perpetrator away, still using their vocal chords to draw attention to the simulated situation.

The officers also talked about the dangers of technology including Internet and texting interactions, as well as a short self-esteem lesson.

Both encouraged the women to practice the self-defense techniques often so they could be developed into muscle memory, because in stressful situations it’s not likely you will be able to perform them, the officers said.

The two also encouraged the group to tell other women about the program so they too will be informed and empowered.

For more information about the program, visit mybodymylife.net or contact Sgt. Bob Moore or Master Police Officer Marcus Savage at the Norman Police Department by calling 321-1600.

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