By Brittany Miller
Today’s media portrayals of women’s self defense may conjure to mind images of females with boxing gloves and black belts, with beefy male instructors shouting, “Go for the groin!” With options for women’s self defense education on the rise, women may decide it is important to learn how to stay safe. Staying safe does not always require physical defense, despite how media may portray it.
So what can women do to stay safe in Humboldt county?
“Women are smart,” said Zan Mendonca, an evidence technician for the HSU campus police. “The best tool they have is their brain.”
Every two months, Mendonca coordinates a two-hour long women’s self-defense workshop on campus through Student Affairs. It has led her to believe that women’s cognitive ability to keep aware of her surroundings is pivotal to staying safe.
“Be aware of your surroundings,” Mendonca said. “Take your earbuds out if you go for a run. If you go to a party take a buddy who will have your back.”
Mendonca isn’t the only woman who thinks self-defense is an important thing for women to learn. Cassie Sanchez, 23, is a recent transplant to the Humboldt county area. She came from San Francisco, where she says she actually felt safer. She read that Eureka’s violent crime rate is higher than most cities in regards to population size.
“I read the FBI’s crime statistics,” Sanchez said. “I’d like to learn how to defend myself, or at least prevent myself from becoming a victim. I don’t want to be one of those statistics.”
Other young women in Humboldt county seem to share the same conviction.
“One in four women will experience sexualized violence in their lifetime” said Peach Lathe, a 22-year-old HSU student of Women’s Studies. “I just try to be aware of my surroundings.”
Since she’s had two experiences in Humboldt where she felt unsafe, she is conscious not to put herself into any situations where she thinks she couldn’t defend herself.
“Both experiences were after the bars had closed and everyone was drunk,” she said. “I try to stay coherent and in contact with my ride throughout the night, if I’m out.”
With parties and drinking being a staple of college culture in America, Mendonca thinks being cautious with alcohol is a very important component of staying safe as a woman.
“Alcohol is a big deal,” she said. “You lose your ability to make an informed decision. Statistically speaking, it’s not usually the creep that jumps out of the bushes perpetrating violence. It’s someone you know, the person who lives down the hall.”
Don’t think it’s just men that perpetrate violence either.
“I’ve had a girl follow and harass me,” Lathe said. “It would have been scarier if it was a guy, but it still freaked me out.”
There are a lot of options for women who want to do physical practice of self defense.
“There are resources available,” Mendonca said. “You can take the class through student affairs. There are police escorts that will take you to your car or dorm if you feel unsafe.”
Even the best preparation can still fail. If a woman ever finds herself in a situation where she’s forced to defend herself.
“Remember the critical striking areas,” Mendonca said. “Eyes are great equalizers, no matter how big the attacker is.”
Being vocal is also crucial.
“Basically you want to be super high maintenance when you are in a situation where safety is compromised,” Mendonca said. “Draw attention. Our voice is a powerful tool. Use clear commands. Say NO.”
Ultimately, it’s up to women to protect themselves. Taking an interest in self defense is empowering and can be vital to a woman‘s survival.
“Unfortunately, we don’t live in a Utopian society,” Mendonca said. “Self defense is an insurance police that we hope you’ll never have to use.”