Local News

Raleigh Women Fight Myths, Learn Self Defense

Posted April 26, 2001 10:36 a.m. EDT

— Many women have been fed myths over the years about what to do and what not to do when assaulted.

For example, many women wonder whether they should fight back when attacked. At a Meredith College self-defense class, the answer is a resounding yes. Teacher Kathy Olevsky gives women the lowdown on what really makes them victims and what does not.

"Someone does not attack you based on your clothing, they don't attack you based on how you're dressed, they attack you based on whether or not you're a good victim," she says.

Olevsky says attackers look for women who are alone and look vulnerable or distracted. She says the size or strength of a woman is not the issue.

Few attacks on women involve weapons, and Olevsky says all women have the power to get away.

"The defense that I teach is totally based on common sense and not skill. Nothing you have to remember, no weird combinations of where to place your arm," Olevsky says. "It's just loose behavior, something you're born with obviously."

For example, if someone grabs you from behind, you should squirm to the ground.

"What you're doing is thinking 'drop,'" Olevsky explains.

If someone puts you over his/her shoulder, you should stand up.

"Stand up, straighten yourself up. Throw yourself backwards," she continues.

Women always hear they should go for the groin, but Olevsky says the knees are actually the most vulnerable part of the body. "A child eight years old has three times as much strength as it takes to break a full-grown man's leg, so everybody can do it," Olevsky says.

Olevsky understands self-defense on a personal level. Shortly after college, she was attacked in the laundry room of her apartment building.

"I picked up my foot and broke his knee," she says.

"[Self defense is] always on my mind, always. It's your life," says Olevsky. "Don't hesitate, do something, definitely do something."

Eight-year-old Casey Olevsky is a brown belt in karate.

"I just know how to defend myself and that would take away a whole bunch of fear," says Casey.

Replacing fear with empowerment is what Olevsky's class is all about. While there are no clear statistics on how well this works, study after study show most victims have not taken self-defense classes.

"Just be in control of your life, just take control, and know that you can get out of anything. You don't need the gun," she counsels.

Olevsky says that being aware of your surroundings and walking confidently is the best way to prevent an attack. Most women are attacked in or near their home at night by someone they know.