Increasing safety for SPU women

Seattle Pacific University’s location and its high percentage of women in attendance makes the topic of safety and self-defense highly relevant, former police officer Gail Marsh said.

Marsh and fellow retired officer Melody Larson spoke about personal safety and self-defense to a group of almost 75 young women in the first floor lounge of Ashton Hall last Thursday evening.

Marsh served as a police officer for 24 years before retiring. Larson spent nine years as a police officer and another 15 years working in emergency dispatch. These experiences served to continually reinforce how unaware and unprepared most women are for harmful situations, both women said. "It’s so easy to think that everybody’s safe and everybody’s your friend," Larson said.

The presentation, titled "Safety in Seattle," included such topics as how to avoid potentially dangerous situations, learning what makes a person appear vulnerable, how to recognize frequently used cons and preplanning to avoid assault.

The fact that SPU is a Christian university should not give women a false sense of security, Larson said.

Freshman Chelsea VanDalen said that the precautionary tips given by Marsh and Larson were helpful. These included walking in groups in city areas or at night time, as well as not letting strangers get in close proximity.

Freshman Sara Haskin said she will take note of the physical appearance of the people around her more often. Making a mental note of the hair color, gender and general age of the people around her will be a good habit if she ever needs to remember an attacker, Haskin said.

"It makes you think about things you wouldn’t normally think about," Haskin said in reference to the seminar.

Freshman Stacey Dejong said the women on her floor have already had strange people come up to them at bus stops around Seattle, which makes safety information very relevant.

"This is going to apply to people on our floor in the future, if it hasn’t already," Dejong said.

Marsh and Larson also debunked some common safety myths. Most people think that if a man attacks them, it’s best to kick him in the crotch and run away, Larson said.

Kicking requires that a person stand on one foot, which throws off balance. It also means that person comes closer to the attacker, when the main focus should be to get far away, Marsh explained.

A better alternative would be to target the face, which is also quite vulnerable, especially in the eyes and throat, Larson said.

"If you smash their windpipe, they’re going to feel it," she said.

Kicking the shins, stomping on feet, or seriously injuring the pinky finger are other effective defense alternatives, Larson added.

"It’s all about getting away, screaming the whole time, and drawing attention to yourself," Marsh said.

Jenni Butz, who helped coordinate the event, ended the seminar by emphasizing the importance of spiritual preparedness against attackers. With the help of juniors Emmalyn Kirschenman and Azlan Koop, Butz highlighted Ephesians 6:10-18, which speaks of putting on the full armor of God.

As Butz introduced such concepts as the "belt of truth" and the "helmet of salvation," Koop adorned Kirschenman with each correlating piece of armor. The suit of armor was taken from a child’s Halloween costume, and was therefore a bit too small to fit properly. The highly mismatched result soon had most of the room laughing.

Marsh, who has been teaching personal safety since 1984, said she was glad to be invited to talk at SPU.

"Education is number one, getting people to talk about it and dialogue about it," she said.

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Title: Increasing safety for SPU women | Author: Beth Douglass | Section: News | Published Date: 2007-10-31 | Internal ID: 6085