SHERIDAN — Stormy Broad shares her experience when she was attacked.
“It was mid-day in a busy parking lot,” Broad said, “when a man came up to me with a knife and told me to get into the car. I had enough fighting spirit in me. I pushed him back and shouted ‘No!’”
Broad gave enough resistance that the assailant fled, giving up the attack.
Resisting an assailant is your best chance to avoid an attack, said Francine Russell, founder of Empower Wyoming. The mission of Empower Wyoming is to teach women personal safety training while developing their self-esteem.
Broad and Russell presented to an audience at the Sheridan Senior Center on Aug. 5. The presentation, entitled “Self-Defense for the Older Woman,” was offered under the center’s “When I’m 64 or more” life planning lecture series.
Both Broad and Russell are trained instructors to teach women self-defense techniques.
The pair shared what they call “tools” for self-protection.
“I don’t call them tips,” Russell said, “because tips don’t apply to every situation. I prefer to call them tools.”
Tool No. 1: Don’t get or stay in a situation that makes you uncomfortable. If you’re not comfortable, get out.
Tool No. 2: Trust your instincts. Women have good gut feelings. Don’t poo-poo your hunches as being silly.
Tool No. 3: Be aware of your surroundings. Who or what is around you? When you are in a new place, walk with your head up. Keep others you don’t know two arm lengths away from you.
“Make it as difficult for attackers as possible,” said Sgt. James Hill of the Sheridan Police Department, who was onsite to take questions from the audience. “Lock your doors, be aware, take classes in self-defense.”
But if you are confronted by an attacker, what can you do?
“Assailants who attack women think they’ve already won,” Russell said. “Make yourself loud. Make yourself heard.”
When confronted, Russell encouraged the audience to shout “No” as loudly as they can. Russell proposed that women who are feeling creeped out by a man confront him face on by saying to him “You’re creeping me out.” Bring attention to the individual loudly and chances are they will flee.
If an assailant does get into your space, fight as ferociously as if you’re defending your child. Go for the assailant’s head with an upward thrust to the chin or reach under the groin area to grab as hard as you can. Then get away while making as much noise as you can. Women with impairments can also use these techniques to protect themselves.
“Most important is to enter the fight with a fighting spirit,” Hill said. “Think of your response ahead of time. Having a mental rehearsal is important.”
The number of attacks from strangers is a small percentage; over 80 percent of victims know their assailants. The situation can be especially difficult when the abuser is a family member upon who an elder relies for care.
“Watch for caregivers who won’t let the individual alone with anyone at anytime,” said co-presenter Tracy Will, victim advocate for the Sheridan Advocacy and Resource Center. When outside contact is made, “abusers will also offer excuses such as the individual is having a difficult day.”
Will encouraged such victims to keep reaching out and telling people what’s going on until someone hears them.
Victims of an assault should notify the police as soon as possible.
“Time is essential in the preservation of evidence and in memory,” Hill said.
The police department refers victims to the Advocacy and Resource Center while they pursue leads on the attack. A victim advocate works with law officers, counselors and county attorneys and will walk a victim through the judicial process as well as direct them to resources such as counseling in the community.
Assailants are bullies and are prone to drop an attack if there is resistance.
“Just shout ‘No!’” Russell said.
Give yourself the fighting spirit.
From the Sheridan Senior Center