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Self-defense classes teach women physical, psychological strength

Though Sexual Violence Awareness Month comes around only once a year, the University offers self-defense classes on a regular basis.

For the past nine years, self-defense instructor Linda Ransom has been offering semester-long classes to teach women how to defend themselves from sexual assailants.

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"I think every female on this campus should at least, if not here, take some form of basic self-defense," Ransom said. "Everyone should learn to stay alert of their surroundings and learn how not to make themselves a victim."

Options of defense

As part of the physical education program at Dillon Gym, Ransom – a sexual assault survivor herself – teaches women how to verbally, psychologically and physically defend themselves from potential aggressors.

She emphasized that women should try to use nonviolent means whenever possible, but when no other option is available, they should know how to fight defensively.

During the first two weeks of the 10-week program, Ransom, a Bronx native and fifth-degree blackbelt, said she presents scenarios and hypothetical situations for discussion. The group then considers the psychological and emotional aspects of each situation and attempts to resolve them through nonviolent means.

"Any fight, whether you win or lose, is traumatic," Ransom said. "If you can protect yourself without physical confrontation, then you have won the battle."

Ransom noted that some ways women can protect themselves from potential sexual aggressors are to "not make themselves look like victims" and to "use their voices – not only shouting but verbalizing their wants and needs."

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The rest of the course is based on moves from the fuji ryu jujitsu martial arts school that are "fast, quick, simple and easy to remember," Ransom said. Compared to formal martial arts training, women's self-defense courses do not require years of intensive training in order to perfect kicks, punches and other moves.

Empowerment

Throughout the course, which is taught for two hours per week, Ransom said she emphasizes empowerment as an important part of defense.

"You can teach someone a million techniques, but women need to know that someone is there, that they are number one," she said. Eric Stein, manager of Dillon Gym, said that the class was initially offered in 1989 because the University saw that there was significant interest in the activity.

"It has been very well-received," he said. "Many people have commented that the class was one of the best learning experiences at Princeton."

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Public Safety spokesman Barry Weiser said that no sexual assaults have been reported this year, though not all sexual assaults are necessarily reported. Three sexual offenses were reported for the 1996-97 academic year.

As part of Sexual Violence Awareness Month, SHARE and the Women's Center are sponsoring a four-hour self-defense seminar April 18 at Dillon Gym beginning at noon. The instructor, Dennis James, teaches martial arts throughout the Mercer County area and taught a similar course for the Princeton community last semester.