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10 Real-World Self Defense Tips — From A Lecture By A Survivor

On Wednesday, September 13, 2017, I was fortunate enough to hear a lecture by sexual assault and domestic abuse survivor Dr. Sophia Marjanovic, on the subject of self-defense for women.

Also in attendance was Tori Garten, assistant instructor at the Barton Mixed Martial Arts Studio in Glenmont, MD. She teaches self-defense for women on a regular basis, and has a special understanding of its psychological benefits.

The class ran for two hours and was extremely informative. Though it is impossible to capture everything that was said (and demonstrated physically), here are some key points:

  1. People who commit sexual assault are predators. They are not normal.
  2. Predators are generally not strangers. They are people you know and who are close enough to get into your space, gain your trust and disarm you sufficiently to attack.
  3. Predators are generally Caucasian and they are male.
  4. Predators tend to attack over and over again. You are not special — they do not love you — they only want prey.
  5. Predators use an array of tricks that can be identified and avoided. One example is telling you too much about themselves when they first meet you — getting much too close too soon. Another is “teaming” with you against the world. A third is telling you that “you’re a bitch” or “you’re so stuck up” in order to get you to act the opposite, and succumb to their pressure. Remember, if they can pressure you then they don’t have to use force. But the behavior is predatory nevertheless.
  6. You’re not paranoid. If you get a bad feeling, avoid the person.
  7. Predators will do anything not to get caught. So they prefer to work alone and get you alone. Don’t go to isolated places with someone who gives you a bad feeling.
  8. Law enforcement and other authoritarian professions attract predators. Women who are stuck in domestic abuse situations with police officers are in a living hell of assault and inability to escape someone who lives off of controlling every aspect of their lives, to the point where they will even follow them to the women’s shelter.
  9. The court system is not set up to favor the victim.
  10. In every scenario, your best defense is avoidance. If you spot predatory behavior, avoid the person, avoid being physically near them, and run away from them if you can. However, if you cannot avoid a problem and you are being attacked by a predator, know that they can overpower you by sheer force of adrenaline. Be ready to gouge their eyes out or worse. You don’t want to do it, but if your life is at stake, know that and be ready to save yourself.

A single session obviously isn’t enough to convey all the training a person needs in order to protect themselves. So it’s worth it, if you can, to take the time and learn how to deal with an attacker physically.

I personally found the practicing portion to be very upsetting — especially the part where Sophia and Tori showed us what to do if someone is dragging you away (wrap your leg around their calf from the outside so they can’t walk). But the discomfort is all the more reason to get educated.

Someone pointed out that it’s important to know who will help you in times of crisis. I thought that was a great point. It isn’t just about defending yourself, but also about finding a network and a community of supportive people.

At the end of the day, we have to look out for ourselves, and one another.

This isn’t a theoretical matter. It is the real reason why God put each of us on this Earth.


All opinions my own. This blog is hereby released to the public domain. Photo by dmitrisvetsikas1969 via Flickr (Public Domain).

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