Defense best protection from sexual assault

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 25, 2015

This is the third in a series on sexual assault.

While there’s no surefire way to protect oneself from sexual assault, local law enforcement and self-defense certified personnel offer practical tools women can use to avoid being a victim of a predator.

Bret Barras, seventh degree master in Taekwondo and owner of Picayune Taekwondo, knows about self-defense. He offers seminars across the county, teaching both men and women the art of self-defense.

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“While it takes a lot of training to be adept in self-defense, a person’s best defense is awareness and knowing what’s around them. One of our best defenses is running,” Barras said.

He said self-defense is not about killing the attacker; it’s about protection and fleeing from the situation.

“But once the lion has the gazelle, it’s sometimes too late for the victim to escape,” Barras said.

If the attacker manages to get a hold of the victim, Barras advises the victim to strike the person in the most sensitive areas of the body, including the neck, eyes, groin and solar plexus, which is a complex network of nerves located in the abdomen.

Barras said there are many simple maneuvers people can use to fend off their attacker. If the attacker has the victim in a chokehold from behind, the victim can strike their elbow against their face or neck. If the attacker is facing the victim, the victim can jam their knee right into their floating rib.

If there’s no way out, Barras suggests pulling the attacker’s hair.

“It helps to throw them off their balance so you can try to get away,” Barras said.

While there are countless other self-defense moves, nothing beats situational awareness.

“If you are aware of your surroundings, you might not have to use any of those moves,” Barras said.

In Pearl River County, most sexual assault cases are domestic, Pearl River County Sheriff David Allison said. While random sexual assault cases are rare or might go unreported, Allison advises people to report any suspicious activity by calling 9-1-1 before an assault does occur.

Throughout the year, the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department offers self-defense classes for women taught by Deputy Van McGill, who’s a state certified self-defense instructor.

During the two-day session, McGill teaches physical fighting techniques but also teaches awareness.

He also discusses ways women might make themselves targets by how they dress or carry themselves.

“They need to be aware of what message they’re sending across because men and women are programmed differently. A man thinks about sex 68 percent of the time in a day. However, the difference between a normal person and a predator is that a predator will act on it,” McGill said.

The number one thing he tells his students is to follow their first instinct.

“If you’re walking alone at night and you feel something is off, listen to your first instinct and get out of sight as soon as possible,” McGill said.

To schedule a self-defense class with McGill, call the sheriff’s department at (601)-795-2241 or (601)-798-5528.

Picayune Police Department Detective Christa Groom and Assistant Chief Jeremy Magri shared tips on deterring attackers:

– Keep a panic button on a keychain. If imminent danger is sensed, the button can be pressed and the car alarm will immediately sound, scaring the attacker away.

– If a panic button isn’t available, Groom suggests placing a key in-between the fingers, which can be used as a weapon.

– Immediately call 9-1-1 if there’s imminent danger.

­– Carry a pepper spray can or taser inside a purse.