Creating time and space
A new women's self-defense course began Tuesday at the Pocahontas County Courthouse. The course, taught by Sheriff David Jonese, is free, and open to anyone in the community.
Jonese said the skills learned in the course may not necessarily be applied here at home, but the knowledge can be invaluable when traveling outside of the county.
"We don't have to worry about a lot here because we're in Pocahontas County, but when you go to Roanoke or Elkins or Charleston, then you might have an issue," said Jonese. "You're in a whole different environment and you tend not to think about that kind of stuff when you're there."
Jonese said the first class is more of an awareness session. He wants women to be more aware of what they do, or don't do, that could possibly land them in a bad situation. The classes get progressively more physical as the weeks go by.
"There's three classes we're starting out with, this first one is real basic stuff," Jonese told his students. "Next time we'll get a little more intense and by the third time we're gonna get a whole lot more intense."
The course is open-ended as far as Jonese is concerned, and he's willing to teach as long as students are willing to learn.
"If you want to learn more after those first classes, then we'll go to the gym where there's mats, and we'll do holds and kicks and punches. We're going to take this as far as you want to go with it. It's not going to cost anything, it just depends on how much time and effort you want to put into it."
According to Jonese, the majority of assaults on women occur when a woman is alone, often after shopping.
"When you walk out to go to your car, that's one of the most dangerous times - in the parking lot," said Jonese. "You come out to your car, you're not paying attention, you're carrying all your stuff, you're digging in your purse, you've got your keys in your teeth. You have no idea what has happened to your car while you're gone. Someone could have broken into your car, someone could even be in your car."
Jonese said it only takes a moment to focus on your surroundings and prepare yourself.
"It only takes an extra couple of seconds before you walk out the door of the mall or the store. You get your bags ready, you get your keys ready, you look around, and then you start out. It's much simpler to take those extra seconds than have some weirdo grab you and make you a victim. The key is, do whatever you can do to create time and space. Screaming is good, kicking is good."
He suggested using vehicle keys as a means of defense.
"The good thing about carrying your keys like this, if someone were to come up and grab you from behind, you can try to jab them with the key. Get an eye, jab 'em in the neck, jab 'em in the leg," Jonese demonstrated. "You don't want to fight, all you want to do is get away."
Jonese showed the class the right and wrong way to approach a vehicle.
"What have I done? Any ideas? I left my back turned, and I've already opened the door," he said. "If there's a car here, and I'm waiting for a woman that I'm going to attack, I'm going to shove her right through that door and climb in behind her," he said.
According to Jonese, safety isn't guaranteed even inside the vehicle.
"Up in D.C. this was happening a lot; someone comes up to your car, they ask you to roll your window down to ask you directions or something," he said. "They have an option available that you're not aware of, pepper spray. All of a sudden he's spraying you, and you're stuck. He's going to take your car, he's going to take you, and he's going to do what he wants. That's why you just let the window down a little bit. It may not be polite but guess what? That's just too bad."
Jonese answered a student's question about using the panic button on their remote keyless entry system to call for help.
"How many panic buttons do you hear in the city?" he said. "All day long, and not a soul pays a bit of attention to them. They're an annoyance. Police don't pay attention to them, security guards at the mall don't pay attention to them."
Jonese provided advice on some of the different tools available to protect oneself.
"You could get one of those little flashlights they have now, it's also a one million volt stun gun. If they get close enough to grab you, then it's close enough to hit 'em with it," he said.
Jonese discourages the use of pepper spray as a means of protecting yourself because of the possibility of being blinded yourself in the process.
"You might end up being the one running blind through a parking lot, bumping into cars, with your eyes all swollen up. Not a good thing," he said. "If the wind is blowing, you might end up in as bad as shape as they are. If you are going to use spray, get the colored stuff. It's got a dye that will leave them marked."
Jonese suggested a safer alternative to pepper spray.
"You have to focus on the things that you can use. A lot of college girls carry those little cans of hair spray. They work really well too, it's better than pepper spray because it won't affect you so much," he said.
Jonese said an attack can happen anytime, anywhere.
"It doesn't have to be at night, these guys are out there in the daytime too. The holidays are always the worst."
Jonese said the more prepared you are, the better your chances of survival. He said criminals target individuals that aren't paying attention.
"The first thing that is going to help you most is the surprise factor," said Jonese. "If someone attacks you and you fight back, you're going to shock them, and it's going to make it more difficult for them. If you're in a parking lot and someone assaults you, and you start fighting and kicking and screaming, that's the one thing they don't want. It's gonna create a commotion, it's gonna get people's attention."
After learning about parking lot safety, Jonese and participants took turns practicing maneuvers to escape from an assailant that grabs you from behind.
"You're gonna reach up and grab my finger, you're gonna rip that thing as far back as you can, and you're gonna roll right out of there and run," he said.
Jonese reminded his students that the more they practice what they learn, the better their chances when faced with a real incident. He also recommended incorporating family members in the training.
"You're going to have to practice, or it won't become second nature. You might have to practice at home and beat up your husband," he joked. "Maybe tell your husband, 'three times during the course of the night, when I'm not paying attention, come up and grab me from behind.' Do it until it becomes habit. It's got to be something you're familiar with."
Jonese addressed the class after the demonstrations.
"I know none of this was Earth-shattering, but it's a start," he said. "Start thinking about things, start watching out more, run scenarios through your head and how you'd react. You have to train your mind.
Start tonight, start paying more attention, you'll be shocked by what you start to notice.Think about those things when you leave here today. You just have to think ahead of time and be prepared."