University Police hosts self-defense class


A couple times a month, St. Edward’s University Police Sgt. Bobby Garcia gets beat.

“I don’t mind taking a few kicks and punches to help prove a point,” he said.

Garcia was referring to the few days each month he teaches women’s self-defense classes on campus, where he dons what UPD calls a “marshmallow suit” and allows a handful of female college students to practice their newly learned self-defense moves on him.

UPD began hosting its first week of women’s self-defense classes on Feb. 4. The classes, which are typically offered off campus for anywhere from $75 to $150, are free for St. Edward’s students.

Despite it being free, no one showed up to the class

“We were trying to create a class in a shorter time frame that would appeal to more students,” Danielle Donahue, UPD’s communications operator, said. “As great as our class was, if no one is coming, it’s not useful.”

Although UPD has been offering women’s defense classes for the past seven years, these are the first condensed courses they are administering. These new, shorter versions are only four hours long in comparison to the traditional 12-hour classes that are typically offered on campus.

“This is our first semester doing the four hour classes,” Donahue said. “Depending on everyone’s feedback, maybe [we will host classes] once a month going forward. We are just kinda waiting to see how many people are interested and what their schedules look like.”

Donahue said that she also hopes to put a practice session in place for people who have already taken the class and want to practice their skills.

Two classes are scheduled for the first week in March and one class scheduled for the first week in April, Donahue said, but depending on the amount of interest the department perceives, that number might go up or down.

The classes will be taught by Donahue and Sgt. Alice Gilroy, who are both certified by the Rape Aggression Defense program to teach women’s self-defense. The classes originated from a shared conviction that female college students needed to be better educated in protecting themselves both on and off campus.

Gilroy said that the self-defense classes are aimed at teaching women to protect themselves, not only physically as a response to a direct aggression, but to defend themselves by being aware and avoiding potentially dangerous situations as often as possible.

“Most of the stuff we teach here is common sense and good judgement type stuff that will [prevent] you from ever having to hopefully be in that situation, but if you are, then we give you some tools to help defend yourself,” Garcia said.

Donahue explained that the first hour of the class is a lecture aimed at instilling this defensive attitude to safety in the women taking the class, which is focused on prevention.

“It’s stuff you already know, like wearing your seatbelt,” Donahue said. “If you don’t do it, it’s not going to help you.”

Donahue and Gilroy both stress simple strategies that many women are tired of hearing, and often fail to employ, ironically because they seem so simple.

“Look around, be aware, see where you’re vulnerable,” Donahue said.

Gilroy said that being in a new college environment away from home where most people are essentially strangers make female students especially vulnerable to sexual assault.

“Statistics show that the majority of rapes happen to young ladies the summer after their senior year (of high school) and between their freshman and sophomore year of college,” Gilroy said. “So we try and really catch them when they first sign up for college.”

While statistics show that college-aged women are at high risk, male college students aren’t completely immune to assault either. UPD does not currently offer co-ed self-defense classes or classes for men.

“Right now, these are women’s only because we want a safe environment for women,” Donahue said. “Lots of people have expressed interest in having co-ed classes or classes for men, and that is something I am working for.”

Gilroy said that the main reason they have offered self-defense classes exclusively for women is that they are not trained to administer self-defense classes to men.

Although RAD also offers classes for men, Danielle and Gilroy have not taken them, but say that finding a male instructor who would be willing to undergo training and teach the class is a possibility in the future, especially if more people expresses interest.

For women that don’t have time to take the self-defense classes, Danielle and Gilroy have more than a few words of safety advice.

“Lock your door, lock your door, lock your door,” Gilroy said. “Do not think that your dorm is the safest place in the world; it’s not.”

Donahue and Gilroy also suggest letting your friends know where you are going, having a designated driver and knowing your limits when it comes to consuming alcohol.

“Alcohol is the number one date-rape drug,” Gilroy said.

There are three things Gilroy wants women to learn from the class.

“When the girls walk out of here, what we want them to know more than anything: make noise, fight and run away.”

Gilroy said that women have to be almost hyper-cautious about their environments and often worry about things that men never do, like leaving one earbud out on a run, always being alert to potential aggressors and even wearing their hair a certain way so that they are not as susceptible to attacks.

“It really kind of sucks that we have to think about that,” Gilroy said, “We don’t want women to feel like it’s their fault, because it’s not, we’re just telling you this is the world and we want to make you get through it safely.”

Garcia agrees that although it is unfortunate that women have to take so much responsibility for their own safety, it is important that they recognize how crucial it is to do so.

“I have a daughter and I think it is important for all ladies to understand that there are things that they can do to ensure their own safety,” he said.