News & Events


Posted Oct. 31, 2002
Training Helps Women Fight Back Against Assaults

Fielding helps a student kick
The Rape Crisis Advocacy Project sponsored a self-defense training session Oct. 30 at the Law School.
Fielding taught students to punch.

It's a myth that women are powerless against men in an attack, according to U.Va. police department officer Melissa Fielding, who offered safety tips and real-life defense training to a group of women at the Law School Oct. 30 at an event sponsored by the Rape Crisis Advocacy Project.

Fielding taught techniques promoted by the Rape Aggression Defense Assistance Program (R.A.D.), used across campuses nationwide to teach women self-defense.

"We're going to put a bunch of tools in your toolbox," Fielding said as she began the session. A key to surviving an attack is to avoid panic and remain calm, which will help you better respond to an assault. It's also a good idea to walk through scenarios in your head to think about what you would do in different situations, she added.

Fielding outlined a number of risk-reduction strategies:

Fielding also covered the vulnerable areas of the attacker:

Moderate attack areas include the radial nerve in the mound of the forearm near the elbow, fingers, shins, insteps, and the tops of feet.

Fielding said she does not condone the use of weapons because they can backfire—if you use mace, for example, the wind could blow it in your eyes. Instead, use your own body and things you may have with you as a weapon. Use your head to headbutt the attacker's nose if you are grabbed from behind. Other weapons include hands, elbows, knees, and feet. Items you may be carrying—hairpins, pens, pencils, and keys (which you should carry in your hand as you head to an apartment or car)—can all be effective weapons.

"At the beginning of the assault, it may not be the best time to fight back," Fielding said, either because you are panicked or because of the way they attack. Fielding said it was ok to wait and collect yourself for a moment as long as the attacker does not try to drag you to another location.

If you see someone getting in your personal space in a menacing situation you can prepare for an attack:

To punch:

To strike with your palm, bend your finger at the knuckle and strike the nose or chin. Imagine ramming the nose into the skull when you hit the nose. This could potentially kill the attacker. Fielding warned that "your defense must be proportionate to your attack."

Fielding also covered a couple of kicks. To impact the groin with the knee, grab the attacker, imagine your knee going through the groin, and step back. A sweep kick can connect with the head or groin area and must be fast.

If you are grabbed from behind, you may be able to headbutt his nose, then lift your foot and scrape down the attacker's shin. Or you can try seizing—putting your hands between your body and the attacker's, then seizing the groin and dropping to the ground. Fielding said slap, grab, and pull method or hammering with your fist were also good ways of attacking the groin area. If the attacker has you in a choke hold, be sure to use one hand to keep his arm from cutting off your airway, and keep your chin in the crease of his elbow. Then you can attack the groin area with your other fist or do a shin stomp, but do not use a headbutt in this case because you will cut off your airway.

Fielding said a full R.A.D. course lasts 12 hours and actually runs different scenarios for the students to practice. Additional practice after the initial $5 class is free at R.A.D. training locations. A minimum of 10 women are needed to sign up for a class, which can be held at a time convenient for students. U.Va. police officers donate their time and extra proceeds when teaching the class.
• Reported by M. Wood

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