Self defense class teaches hands-on, assailant-off techniques to women

by Laura Freeman | Reporter Published:

Hudson -- Everyone knows their names -- Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight -- and their escape from abduction after nearly a decade of imprisonment in a house in Cleveland reminds women anyone can be a victim.

More than 175 women of all ages attended a self-defense class May 8 at Hudson Middle School aimed at educating how to fight off an attacker or abductor. Many were mothers and daughters.

The class was presented by Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh and Lt. Chad Cunningham of the University of Akron Police Department. Summit County Sheriff Steve Barry and Officer Kevin Kabellar assisted, along with Hudson High School Resource Officer Mike Burchard

Burchard said students in Hudson feel safe, but other schools and especially campuses are not always safe, and women and girls need to learn how to defend themselves in a hostile environment.

"The reality is you need to know how to protect yourself," Burchard said.

Resident Joanne Knox attended with her daughter, Sarah, who is a junior at Ohio University. Sarah said she has been nervous while on the campus. She thought a man was following her one night but knows to look around and practices self-defense moves.

Hudson High School senior Francesca Bankovich interned at the Summit County prosecutor's office as part of her service learning class and helped to promote the event.

Women need to have common sense and learn how to defend themselves by attending a class like this, Francesca said.

Brandy Hollis of Hudson brought her niece, Natasha, a Hudson eighth-grader, to gain the confidence to protect herself.

Walsh said she has conducted self-defense classes for the elderly and last year she offered a class for women at Hudson's Barlow Community Center with approximately 53 women attending it.

She shared her personal experience as a young woman being grabbed by a serial rapist with a knife after getting into her car in Akron.

"I knew how to grab his hand, twist his fingers, kick and scream," Walsh said.

Walsh had taken self defense classes and practiced the moves, which is key to fighting off an attacker.

"There is no time to think," Walsh said. "You have to react quickly."

Walsh reminded the women to pay attention to their surroundings and minimize their chances of being a target.

"When someone is a victim of a crime, it is not their fault," Walsh reminded the women. "We don't blame the victim. It's the criminal's fault."

Cunningham taught screaming, breaking a wrist grab, kicking and other simple defense techniques that are easy to remember.

After instruction, the women and girls formed lines and practiced their moves on the instructors. They were encouraged to practice at home.

An attacker doesn't expect someone to fight back and surprise works best, Walsh said. Once free, run away.

A group of women wearing purple T-shirts were from the non-profit Victim Assistance Program, which ministers to victims of crimes and responds to crime scenes and hospitals. There website is www.victimassistanceprogram.org. Executive Director Leanne Graham helped to demonstrate how to break away if someone grabs your wrist or arm.

Hudson resident Carla Bankovich brought her 14-year-old daughter, Arianna to the class.

"I have one daughter going off to college and one going to high school next year," Bankovich said. "I want the girls to have some idea of self-defense moves."

Email: lfreeman@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9434

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