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Self-defense class empowers women

For USF student Britny Matthew, it’s a matter of safety and empowerment.

She is attending the Self-Defense Awareness & Familiarization Exchange (S.A.F.E), a free class for women offered by University Police (UP) that teaches safety techniques.

“It’s a great opportunity for women to know what to do in a horrible situation,” said Matthew, a senior majoring in advertising. “Women need to defend themselves, and they don’t always know how to do it. This really empowers us.”

The classes, held now through Thursday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in UP’s office on Maple Drive, are taught by certified S.A.F.E. instructor Sgt. Charlotte Domingo, who was trained by the creators of the program, The National Self-Defense Institute of Miami.

The hour-long classes teach women basic strategies and provide them with lectures and information packets that they can take home and review, Domingo said.

“The classes teach women things that are designed specifically to help (them) get out of a situation,” she said. “Students have told me that they’ve actually used some of the techniques and strategies off campus to escape from a situation.”

UP spokeswoman Lt. Meg Ross said USF was allotted a grant to hold the S.A.F.E classes at its discretion. UP has been hosting the program for more than 10 years, she said.

According to the USF 2009-10 Safety Guide, burglaries are the most common crime on campus.

Ross said although there was only one rape reported in 2009, it is still important for women to be aware of their surroundings.

“Women can learn through the class, instead of making mistakes the hard way,” Ross said.

Even with the decrease in crime rates during spring break, Ross said the “timing is perfect” for women to learn these techniques before the break.

The class is open to all women in the community, but USF students are encouraged to join before running into any problems during break, Domingo said.

“I always want people to think in terms of, ‘How can I be safe?'” she said.

Women interested in attending a class may contact Domingo at 813-974-2859 to register.