If someone tried to grab you – attack you – when you have nothing to defend yourself with, would you know what to do?
Would you be able to think clearly enough to know what to say?
“We’re one of the most vulnerable populations, because people look at women and say, ‘I can overpower her,’ because we’re a lot smaller than men,” said Deputy Olivia Bozek of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
As women, our strength is often underestimated and we may not be aware what we’re capable of.
“I don’t think it’s as natural for us. I think it’s more of a man thing, they’re built to protect,” said Misty Monroe of Apple Valley.
The “Lady Be Aware” course at the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department arms women with the tools to protect themselves in dangerous situations using just their bodies.
“It’s imperative for women, especially women my age to learn to defend themselves,” said Stephanie Ripple of Highland, who took the class in October.
“You kind of have to have that plan: what are you going to do if something bad happens?” Bozek said.
The hands-on course starts with the basics, but before the ladies learn any cool jabs they’re trained on the power of their voices.
“If you get attacked and you say, ‘Oh please, leave me alone,’ are you a hard target or hard victim?” said Corporal Tim Jackson, one of the class instructors.
“What we don’t want people to do is have people scream and you don’t know what they’re saying,” Bozek explained.
Why are those fighting words so important? In a world of cell phone videos, the last thing you want is for a witness to say it was you who did the attacking.
“You proceed to woop the snot out of somebody, all the while you say nothing, if that was on a cell phone video does that not look like you’re the attacker?” Cpl. Jackson pointed out.
You also want to your shouting words to have a purpose so people don’t ignore the noise.
“When’s the last time you guys heard a car alarm go off? What did you probably do?” said Cpl. Jackson. Most of the women responded saying they shrugged the sound off.
“You need to make sure you’re verbalizing, ‘Help, call 911, he grabbed me, get away,'” Bozek said.
But don’t just say it. Project it. Scream it.
After a lesson in fighting words, the women are ready to throw some punches, first with some basic palm strikes.
They’re taught never to use the front of the fist to hit. It’s the easiest way to injure and disable your hand. In addition to using their palms, they learn the bottom fist strikes, acting as if their hands are holding daggers.
“So we’re not going to do boxer style stuff, we’re going to come down on our suspect at a 45 degree angle like I’m trying to stick my daggers or ice picks through his neck,” Cpl. Jackson said.
“You can kind of go nuts, like you were in kickboxing,” said Becca of San Bernardino.
“You kind of feel stupid at first, but then once you get the adrenaline going you realize you can hit as hard as you want to,” Ripple said.
But what happens if your attack comes from behind? That’s when elbow strikes come in handy.
If someone comes up behind you the first thing you want to do is drop your center of gravity to loosen yourself from their grip. Then use your elbows to hit his stomach or his groin as hard as you can while shouting your fighting words.
“The big thing is to just get out of the situation. So if you break free, just run. Run and call for help,” Bozek said.
The class also teaches how to effectively use the force of your lower body with knee strikes and shin kicks.
Having all these skills at your disposable can help you create distance with your attacker and escape.
And what better way to practice than by finishing the class with a simulation exercise.
“They come at you front ways, behind,” said Becca.
“He had a mask on he sounded like Darth Vader, because he was like ‘I think I know you.’ It was intense and scary,” Ripple said.
So,if someone were to grab you, would you know how to defend yourself? Now all the women in the Lady Be Aware class do.
“This is what it could feel like. It could be real and the intensity of it is like nothing else,” Ripple said.
And with that comes a level of confidence, many haven’t felt before.
“This empowered me as a mom and as a woman in general just that I don’t have to be a victim,” said Becca.