In Utah, 1 in 3 women will experience some form of sexual assault, and 1 in 8 will be raped in their lifetime. The Women’s Center at Weber State University, along with
Woodbury Technologies, sponsored a women’s self-defense class in order to lower this statistic.
Master Cherith Shiba, a fifth-degree black belt and tae kwon do instructor, taught the class. Shiba said she wanted to teach the class because the statistics on sexual assault are too high to ignore.
“Rape is rape; there is no gray line,” Shiba said. “Anyone can defend themselves.”
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Shiba said making everyone aware and talking about it is a way to lower the statistic and empower women.
“I think every female feels like they are the only one who has ever been assaulted, but if our statistic is 1 on 3, then that is obviously not the case,” Shiba said. “But everyone who is in that position feels like they are the only ones.”
The class had room for 40 participants, who learned how to kick, punch and scream at potential attackers. Zach Weggemann, one of Shiba’s assistants, wore a plastic armor suit and helped teach the women and girls self-defense tactics.
“I really think it’s important for everyone to have at least some basic sense of self-defense, because the risk of getting attacked is pretty high,” Weggemann said.
Weggemann has been teaching martial arts for almost three years and has participated in three self-defense classes taught by Shiba. He said knowing self-defense is a necessity.
“Just the mentality of not being a victim and being aware of your surroundings and not getting yourself into a bad situation,” Weggemann said, “that’s probably the biggest thing.”
On pine boards, class participants wrote what they wanted to “break” about sexual assault. Near the end of the class, everyone broke through their boards with their bare hands. Shiba used the boards as a metaphor for the class.
“Well, I’ve always broken a board, so this will be a really good way for it to just dig in how we want to change the misconceptions and the statistics,” Shiba said, “and when you just take your palm heel through that board, it’s hard to be in denial of what you just wrote on that board.”
Christiana Call, an employee at the Women’s Center and a WSU student, wrote “victim blame and denial” on her wooden board.
“I’ve always been this meek and shy person, so this has been a really good experience,” Call said. “It feels so weird, because you’re taught to not hit people or kick them in the groin.”
She said taking the class and breaking the board made her feel more empowered and prepared.
“I feel like I have a little more confidence, so then, if this happens, hopefully something will kick in my brain and say, ‘Hey, this is what you need to do,’” Call said.
Call said the Women’s Center will hold a panel on April 16 in order to continue raising awareness about sexual assault.