Women prepare to defend themselves

Published 10:43 pm Thursday, March 8, 2018

About 30 women gathered at the Suffolk Family YMCA on Wednesday evening to get instruction on self-defense.

They practiced getting out of chokeholds, first with deputies from the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office and then with each other. The moves were simple but effective, using both hands to get out of reach of an attacker.

The deputies explained how to push an aggressor’s fingers so that they would bend back hard.

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“If you hear his finger crack, that means you’re doing it right, so keep going,” Lt. Robert Cain said.

The YMCA teamed up with the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office to provide two free women’s self-defense seminars. Both the morning and evening sessions were open to members and non-members alike.

“We want to make sure our female members are aware of different situations and be ready,” YMCA Membership Director Robbie Laughton said while promoting the classes in February. “We need safety in our community and to be able to look out for dangerous situations and steer away from them.”

Harry Cross from Cross Realty approached Suffolk Sheriff E.C. Harris about doing a self-defense course.

“I think it’s an important that this be made available to the community,” Cross said. “Guys don’t get it how young ladies can be in danger in parking lots and places. They need to be more aware of that.”

About 100 women registered for the courses in advance, Cain said. The deputies will likely organize more classes in the future with so many on the wait list.

“People are just looking for ways to protect themselves and their loved ones,” he said.

Cain demonstrated many of the techniques with the help of female deputies. The women practiced in groups under the deputies’ instruction, repeating basic techniques to survive and escape attacks.

The push/pull technique, for instance, allows someone who’s being yanked by the arm to get the upper hand.

“The idea is to keep going,” Cain said. “If he pulls me, then I can push to get close and drive my knee into him.”

Cain explained the fundamentals that make someone a “bad victim” — being loud and assertive if someone approaches, traveling in a large group and acting obviously alert to your surroundings.

“If you can prevent the attack, then you won’t have to survive the attack,” he said.

Robin Smith, 57, and her daughter Rachele Hirsch-Brooks, 32, took the class together and were sparring partners for the evening session. Smith wanted both herself and her daughter to be better prepared as they go about their lives.

“I felt that it was a good experience for us in this day and age we’re living in,” she said.

Hirsch-Brooks thought it was a great setting talk about protecting yourself.

“It was good to ask each other about what we would do next, because I want to make sure my mom is OK,” she said.

Deputy Reva Brinkley drilled into her practice group the importance of practicing to make themselves more capable.

“Don’t be content with this,” Brinkley told her group. “Continue to practice on it, then take what you’ve learned and give it to your daughters.”