Self Defense

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 20, 2006

Selma’s Second Annual Rape Prevention Seminar

By Cassandra Mickens

The Selma Times-Journal

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Selma’s Second Annual Rape Prevention Seminar proved to be useful to its modest and mostly female audience Monday night at the Taekwondo Center on Broad Street.

Sponsored by the Selma Police Department and Sabra Sanctuary, Inc. – a domestic violence shelter and sexual assault crisis center serving Dallas, Perry and Wilcox counties

– the seminar aimed to make citizens aware of potential assailants during the holiday season, said Taekwondo Center Chief Instructor Lee Green.

“This is not just the season to be jolly. This is the season to protect yourself,” Green said.

Green, co-instructor Myers Hawkins and assistants Peggy Shaw and Sharmika Ragland demonstrated basic self-defense moves. But before inviting the audience to practice the simple and seemingly effortless techniques, Sabra Agee of Sabra Sanctuary and Officer Evelyn Ghant of the Selma Police Department provided suggestions on how to protect oneself during a sexual assault.

According to data from the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center, 1,115 women reported being raped in Alabama in 2005. Agee said a common misconception surrounding rape is that many regard rape as sex.

“(Sex) is not the first word that should come to mind when you think of rape. It’s an assault,” she said.

“Rapists rape because they want power or control over another person. It has nothing to do with sex.”

Agee continued, “We all have to understand as women that women are potential rape victims. You have to be psychologically ready. You need to believe that you could be a rape victim. Be on the alert all the time.”

Agee urged the audience to purchase a security system for their homes, to install peepholes in their front doors and to carry an easily accessible can of pepper spray while out in public day or night. Other weapons Agee suggested include a pistol

– if comfortable

– and sharp objects such as car keys to fend off assailants.

She also advised women who live alone to cut back the bushes around their homes, which assailants utilize as a hiding place.

“If you do have bushes, have thorny bushes to make it difficult for the perpetrators,” Agee said.

Agee added it is wise to invest in a cell phone if an assailant cuts a potential victim’s home phone line. Then “you have a way to call out,” she said.

In addition to securing the home, Agee said women should take precautions behind the wheel too.

“Don’t pick up hitchhikers, always keep your car doors locked and park in well lit areas at night,” she said.

Agee said women should always look in the backseat of their cars before getting in and “never let your gas tank get below a fourth of a tank.”

“If someone is following you, go to where a lot of people are,” she said. “Drive to the fire station or the police station.”

Lastly, Agee said a woman should “use common sense” if attacked.

If an assailant has a knife or a gun, it may be wise not to resist. “It’s not worth dying for,” she said. Agee said some women have avoided being raped by telling their assailant they had AIDS, throwing up on their assailant or defecating on themselves.

“If you can keep them away…whatever works,” she said. “And whatever you do, never ever get into a car with them.”

Affirming Agee’s tips, Officer Ghant said it’s also a good idea to implement neighborhood watch programs to easily identify suspicious characters.

“People say that their neighbors are nosy but let me tell you, they’re the best neighbors to come across,” Ghant said.

Ghant also provided the audience with information sheets to describe assailants, citing their age, weight, height, hair color, eye color, clothing, marks (i.e. scars, tattoos), facial hair, accent, strange or distinctive odor, and their car.

“The only way we can stop the crime is if all of us work together,” Ghant said.