By Rae Wee

When faced in a dangerous situation, our bodies often go into a fight-or-flight response. But while flight may come across as a form of weakness, it is, in fact, just another form of defense, according to self-defense instructors.

Speaking to a class of seven participants in an LGBT+ self-defense workshop on Nov. 6 at Hornbake Library, instructors Farah Fosse and Calvin Sweeney from Defend Yourself, a group that holds classes teaching self-defense strategies and techniques, said the response is just one of five choices that individuals can make to defend themselves.

The other four include yelling for help, telling a bystander what action to take, hitting the attacker and going along with the assaulter’s demands if left with no choice.

Organized by University of Maryland iSchool student group iDiversity, the two-hour-long workshop covered various skills ranging from verbal self-defense techniques such as holding a firm stance and saying no, to physical ones like the use of a hammer fist for protection.

The use of verbal self-defense was greatly stressed by Fosse as the first line of defense before getting physical, as individuals should avoid any means of aggressive confrontation whenever possible.

“It [verbal self-defense] is telling [the attacker] what you want them to do and staying on agenda,” Sweeney said.

The importance of speaking up for one’s self-resonated with participants in the workshop, who found it to be more valuable than solely learning physical tactics.

“Sometimes someone doesn’t just start harassing you by punching you, so I think that [verbal self-defense] is the first step to responding, and then violence can come after if it doesn’t work,” Maggie McCready, 24, said.

“The verbal is more like addressing everyday stuff because you’re not always going to be in a violent fight,” the master’s degree candidate in library and information science added.

But verbal and physical means alike, the knowledge of self-defense expands beyond just as a tool for self-protection — it also offers a sense of empowerment.

“In general, self-defense is something that people should know. I think that self-sufficiency and the ability to take care of yourself is a very important part of being a confident adult in this world,” Toby Makowski, 22, master’s degree candidate in library and information science, said.

This applies especially so for people belonging to minority groups, who are often greater targets of assault.

“It’s a social justice issue, and it’s essential for people especially with marginalized identities to know ways to help themselves stay safe in an unsafe environment,” Sweeney said. “[They] are more prone to experiencing harassment often because they’re not believed by people with privileged identities, and are not really valued a lot of times in society.”

According to statistics released by the FBI, 57,5 percent of crimes in 2016 where the perpetrators were identified, were motivated by the victims’ race, ethnicity or ancestry, as reported by BBC.

Additionally, 21 percent of crimes were motivated by religion and nearly 18 percent by a victim’s sexual orientation.

Thus, to certain individuals, learning self-defense gives a greater sense of authority in standing up for one’s rights.

“Many people are hateful and bigoted, and if you can’t change their mind about how they view you, you need to be able to defend yourself when they think they have a right to hurt you,” Caroline Drogin, 24, president of iDiversity, said. “It’s important for marginalized and underserved populations to gain autonomy over their bodies and lives.”

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Torbakhopper’s Flickr page. 

Rae Wee is a junior journalism major and can be reached at weerae97@gmail.com.

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