A chilling call for self-defense classes

I’m a New Yorker, but was living in Paris seven years ago. I guess I felt pretty confident in my street smarts because I had endured countless cat calls/random verbal harassment for years.

I was walking home late at night after my friends left me off of a cab a few blocks from my house, and two somewhat thuggy looking guys in their 20s approached me. They were looking to “party” and wanted me to have a drink with them. I told them no thanks, and went on my way. They could tell I wasn’t French via my accent and followed after me, cajoling and cat calling. I tried to ignore them and kept walking but they were really being persistent, so I told them to “piss off” while looking down and trying to find my keys and hurry away. One grabbed me and shoved me against the wall — at this point I had turned a corner onto a not so well lit street (stupid) about a block from my apartment, and there was no one around. The friend said something like “leave her be” and then ran off. I was struggling with the main guy, who was big (I’m not tiny either, 5’6″/130lbs) and he had me pinned to the wall with his hands like vice grips on my arms and his body pressing against me, I have no idea how long that went on, but he kept getting angrier and all I can really remember is how strong he was and him trying to kiss me (violently…so I guess more like head-butting my face) and how he kept saying how pretty I was.

I was absolutely terrified and have never had an adrenaline rush like that. The rest just happened so fast I barely remember the sequence, instinct took over (I had taken kick boxing and martial arts on and off for years): I managed to get my knee up and kneed him in the groin. He let go, and I elbowed him from above in the back of the neck, coming down with most of my weight — like they teach you to. I remember him on the ground but moving and guess I must have ran, and fast. It was only then I noticed I had been screaming. I had lost a shoe in the scuffle but I got to my door very quickly. I buzzed all the bells and someone let me in because I was crying and shaking too hard to get my keys out. I had a fat split lip, a bruised/scraped cheekbone, arms and bloody scraped elbows. But beyond that, I was a nervous wreck. I would jump at anything and was so jittery and on edge. I was 23 and it took about 6 months to feel safe enough to go out at night again, even with friends. Nothing happened, they never found the guy and as soon as I told the cops I had been drinking and walked home alone they were like: “Oh, you’re OK, no big deal.” As though somehow it was par for the course.

I’m 30 now, and back in NYC. I tell all my friends to take self-defense classes or some kind of martial art. It’s really so so so important to know how to defend yourself. It’s best not to put yourself in stupid situations, yes, take a cab all the way to your door. But inevitably I find myself every now and again on a dark/empty street at night and get chilled thinking about what could happen if…

As women, we are smaller than men and need to know how to defend ourselves, end of story. Even psychologically it’s important not to feel like a victim. I don’t know what would have/could have happened that night or what that guy thought he was going to do on the street like that, but I was so thankful to have had some defensive training that took over, like auto-pilot. I had thought that martial arts were “fun”, I did karate instead of ballet as a kid and then took up kickboxing in college. Before my attack, I really didn’t appreciate how insanely important it is to know how to defend yourself.

I’m glad to see a forum like this and I hope that we can give/get strength in numbers and shared experiences. Be strong ladies!

Submitted by Sarah

NOTE: If you are in the New York area, check out our friends at the Center for Anti-Violence Education (CAE). Other resources can be found in the resources section of our site.

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  1. Cara says:

    Sadly in our world right now it is important to know how to protect yourself. But here’s a thought, if men smartened up and learned how to treat women not as animals but as humans, we would never need to defend ourselves. Because situations like this would NEVER happen again.

    The onus has to be on men to change their behavior. But yes, in the mean time it might be good to get a little training before our Utopia kicks in.

  2. Susan Kricorian says:

    Hi. My 12 year old daughter was sexually harassed on the train last night, with me standing right next to her!
    I felt so powerless. She couldn’t sleep last night. She was sobbing asking why he bothered her.

    Can you help us find a self-defense class?
    Thank you.

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