Safe Campus, Safe Community

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month and SUU’s ROTC partnered with the Utah Army National Guard to host a three-session event of free self defense classes for women as part of the ROTC’s “Safe Campus, Safe Community” initiative. This initiative is intended to help promote “safety in our schools and safety in ourselves.”

Sergeant First Class (SFC) Mathew Raines said that the defense strategies he taught “are not to get you to go out there and straight up ninja, but to empower you should you encounter a situation where these skills may be needed.” Raines is a former professional MMA fighter that currently teaches hand-to-hand combat in the army. He also teaches jiu jitsu at a local gym and is a certified sexual harassment representative in the National Guard.

The course began with presentations by the Canyon Creek Women’s Crisis Center, the Women’s Wellness Center on campus and a sales representative from Damsels in Defence, a company that promotes defensive gear for women. These presentations set out some pretty disturbing statistics, stating that 1 in 3 college freshmen in Utah are sexually assaulted. Additionally, 85 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.

These centers also encouraged women to seek support for anything that made them uncomfortable, they will not force anyone to press legal charges or reveal the name of their attacker. They simply want to help the victims through the trauma. They even have programs to support those who have not been personally affected, such as an educational course on what healthy relationships should look like and what consent means for each individual person.

Thomas Tobin of SUU’s ROTC program said, “We don’t want you to live in fear.” This is why these organizations are trying to get this program to become a more regular occurrence. The goal is to hold this type of self-defense seminar at least once a year, but they are hoping to get to the point where they can host it at least once a semester.

Raines taught a variety of escape maneuvers from many different positions, such as a front attack, choke hold, being grabbed from behind and how to get away while on the ground. Many of the exercises were modified from the jiu jitsu martial arts form such as the defensive stance with the non-dominant hand held in a fist against the forehead, shoulder rolled in to protect the side of the face and the other hand held in a protective striking position against the ear. (pictured)

“Self-defense doesn’t always mean fighting, kicking or punching, but simply taking the least amount of damage,” said Raines as he taught SUU students and faculty how to protect themselves. He does not recommend punching as it may cause more damage to the woman than her attacker; instead, he suggested striking with the palm aiming for the nose or jaw, either of which will stun the attacker long enough to get away.

“The goal is to get space between you and him and to use that space to get away. Most attacks will be of opportunity, you want to take away that opportunity,” said Raines.

As a woman, this class was particularly insightful as I learned that several of the defensive techniques I had been previously taught were actually ineffective in a real situation. Having this class taught by experienced professionals really made a difference in my feelings of preparedness. No man or woman should have to live in fear of attack, but the reality is that many people will be directly affected.

Learning self-defense or buying tools such as pepper spray can help, but they are each only single layers of defense. One of the people involved stated, “The goal is to have several layers, like a police officer has many tools in his belt, we want to have several layers of defense.”

Photo and Story By
Alexis J. Taylor for SUU News