After sophomore Jill Cadby learned one of her friends was raped off campus last October, she said she was inspired to educate other students at Ithaca College about how to prevent rape and violence.
“Women do have the power to fight back, and anyone has the power to fight back,” she said. “They can stand up for themselves and say no, and not be a victim of assault.”
Cadby, the Student Government Association’s vice president of academic affairs, is the chair of the Assault and Security Issues Committee, which was created last month to raise awareness about security and rape issues on campus. Cadby and members of the committee sponsored two self-defense and empowerment classes for women Feb. 29 and last Thursday in Clark Lounge in the Campus Center. The events drew a crowd of nearly 20 women overall.
Shura Gat, a personal safety educator for Cornell University’s police department, taught the classes. Gat, who has a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, has taught self-defense at Cornell and other locations, including Chicago and Canada.
“Part of what I try and do every place I go is give a core group of people an experience with exciting self-defense techniques so they can spread the word and get more people interested,” she said.
Gat agreed to teach the classes after members of SGA’s committee contacted her through the Ithaca Advocacy Center. She is funded by the county-wide STOP grant from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. STOP grants fund programs to help end violence.
During the classes, students learned both verbal and physical ways to deter and escape from attackers. Gat said in stressful situations, the most effective response is assertive behavior. She said bodies are always vulnerable, including the attacker’s body, and victims can use that to their advantage.
“If I come and grab you around the neck … I’m actually giving you a bunch of targets to respond to,” Gat said.
According to Gat, vulnerable targets on the face include the eyes, nose, and earlobes. Other targets include the “v” at the base of the neck near the collarbone, and the base of the sternum near the diaphragm. Pressing either of these targets causes discomfort and can force attackers to back off, she said.
Gat said most male attackers do not expect women to fight back, so knowing self-defense techniques can give women the means to escape from threatening people and situations. Self-defense techniques can help people in everyday life, Gat said.
“It’s something that we practice every day,” she said. “It’s not just physical skills. It’s about knowing what our emotional and physical boundaries are, and being able and willing to defend them.”
Sophomore Ellen Gagne, a member of the Assault and Security Issues Committee, said she thought the class helped participants become more confident, and also more aware of their surroundings.
“Even though I think that I’m capable, I should be mindful of myself and the choices I’m making, so that I can avoid situations where I have to defend myself,” she said.
Gagne said she and other members of the committee hope more self-defense classes can be arranged in the future.
“I definitely want to stay on top of this and work to make this something that is always happening and available to students on campus,” she said.