Lately I've been trying to find someone local who will teach a self defense class to my 11-year-old daughter and her friends. I wish I could bubble wrap her to protect her from the world, but I don't want to make her afraid. I want her to be strong, to be smart, to survive, and to learn the skills that will help her survive — if she's ever in a situation like the one I found myself in many years ago.
When I was in grade nine, my science teacher offered a free self defense class after school. To me it was a fun way to spend time with my friends, that's all that I really thought of it. The teacher was a black belt in karate and he taught us how to walk when we were alone and how we could use as our keys as weapons. He spent hours teaching us how to escape from holds an attacker might put us in. He drummed into us: "Hit and escape, don't try to fight." He taught us how to maximize the power of our hits. It was great exercise, and great fun. Little did I know how grateful I would be.
It was my last year of high school. I was working at my local convenience store. We worked shifts in pairs for safety; especially the closing shift. That night I was working with two guys. One of them liked me, but in a creepy way. I did not like the way he looked at me, and that night I knew that something very bad was going to happen, just that little voice in the back of my head. I asked the other guy I was working with if we could switch shifts. If he worked until closing, I would trade him any other shift he would like, but he had a big party to go to, and I was on my own. I could feel the cold sweat, the fear, as midnight drew closer. I made sure to keep my distance from my coworker. All night he kept looking at me like a lion looks at a gazelle.
Midnight came, and my coworker locked the front door. I made the mistake of going into the small office to start the security camera, and was about to set the alarm when I felt him in behind me. He was over six feet tall, and easily two hundred pounds. I felt his presence before he touched me. I don't remember what he said, I just remember him reaching forward to touch me where he had no permission to touch. In that moment I stopped being afraid and my mind became calm. My brain stopped fearing and my body took over. I smashed the back of my head into his face. He let out a cry, screaming "You broke my nose!" I did not wait, he was still blocking me. I pulled back my elbow, cupped my fist, and drove my elbow into his ribs, just like my teacher had drilled into me, sending him collapsed onto the floor. When he was on the floor I simply walked over to him, unlocked the door and calmly left.
When I got to my car my body became racked with the shakes. To this day I do not know what would have happened if I hadn't protected myself. It was a defining moment in my life. At the time I was five foot five, one hundred and fifteen pounds. I should not have been able to fight off a six foot, two hundred-pound man, and yet I had. I felt stronger. That moment forever changed who I was. I would not be a victim, it was empowering.
It hurts me to think that anyone would ever try to hurt one of my children, but the reality is that one out of four women in will experience some sort of unwanted sexual encounter. I would like to bubble wrap my kids; to protect them from the world. But I don't want to raise children who are afraid. By protecting them from the world, I am in actuality hurting them.
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