Fighting back, a personal choice

Article Published: Sep. 9, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

Walk for Awareness was just one of the elements making up this year's Safety Week at Appalachian State University.

Tuesday, a martial arts expert (who also happens to work for university housing) spoke to students about ways, both to feel empowered and also to protect themselves in the event of an assault.

"I started martial arts when I was an undergrad my freshman year at High Point University," Cathy Roberts-Cooper said. "I signed up for the class on a whim and got hooked and have been taking it ever since."

Roberts-Cooper, an instructor for six years and a 10-year veteran of self-defense, said you don't have to be a black belt to protect yourself.

"I think the biggest thing that people need to keep in mind is that they need to act in some form or faction," she said.

What may seem like simple advice gets complicated when you're in a life or death situation.

"People freeze up or they kind of go into a state of denial of, 'This isn't happening to me,' and they can lose precious seconds," she said.

First step? Make a decision. "It's a personal choice whether you decide to fight back," she said.
And it's not always the right decision.

"If someone wants my purse, I'm going to give it to them," Roberts-Cooper said. "It's just a purse ... but if I feel like my life is threatened, that's a different choice for me. I would choose to fight back."

The location of the attack is something else to consider.

If, for example, an attacker is able to get you into a car, the rules change.

"Your chances of survival are drastically decreased," she said. "They're taking you somewhere where they can control the situation. You don't know where you're at ... if someone's trying to drag me into a car, I'm going to fight back."

And fighting isn't just choreographed martial arts. It's using keys, fingernails and going for everything you can reach, anything to get away.

Another tactic? Yelling.

"It's better for you to yell 'fire' than to yell 'help' because they think people are joking sometimes when you call for help, or they think someone else will respond," Roberts-Cooper said. "But if you yell 'fire,' people are more likely to come and look and help because a fire is something that could impact them, too."

The easiest way to survive an assault? Don't get assaulted.

"You're being targeted because they're perceiving that you won't fight back," she said.
Reverse that perception.

"Walk with your head held high and look people in the eye," she said. "I'll see people who pass by someone and look the other way. They look down at their feet. You see those students who are walking, kind of slouched, their eyes are down the whole time, and they're not observant about anything around them."

Be observant. Walk with a friend when you can help it and stay in well lit areas.
As for pepper spray and handguns?

"In general, I'm not a big fan of those unless you are trained very well to use them," Roberts-Cooper said. "A lot of weapons, even something like mace, could be used on you. Unless it's something you're very experienced in using... it's not something that I recommend."

Walk confidently and you may scare off an attacker without raising a finger.

Safety Week continues Thursday with contact tables for the University Police's Special Response Team, bike registration and safety information, AppStateAlert sign up, home and fire safety information and parking and traffic information in the Plemmons Student Union from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Friday, Safety Week ends with an eye on the Internet. Contact tables with information on networking, phishing and other topics will be in the Plemmons Student Union from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Additionally, information technology service expert Oscar Knight will present two talks, "Facebook and Social Media Safety" (11 a.m. and 1 p.m. in the Roan Mountain Room of the student union) and "Keeping your Personal Information Private" (noon to 1 p.m. in the Roan Mountain Room of the student union).

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