Never a Victim: A course teaching self-defense

4 December 2018

Camissa Miller

    It takes just seven seconds for a criminal to select their next victim. Count it out: One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. In that short amount of time, or even less, a predator can give you a once-over and decide whether you’re a good target to rob, kidnap or assault, and there’s only so much you can do before you are attacked.

    Never-A-Victim (NAV), seeks to decrease the numbers for sexual assault formen and women alike. NAV is a 4-hour, no-nonsense self-defense workshop hosted by the UCCS Department of Public Safety with the goal of informing participants about prevention, awareness and escape in both a classroom and hands-on setting.

    According to research conducted by the University of Oregon, approximately every one in three female college students are victims of sexual assault nationwide, and about every one in five male students are victims of the same. In total, nearly two thirds of university students experience sexual harassment by the time they graduate.

    The technique participants learn is called Krav Maga, meaning contact combat.

    “It’s basically an Israeli system and a lot of law enforcement agencies use it because it’s a simple and fast way to learn. It’s not a role-involved defense system, so it’s simple easy to learn,” said Sergeant Lisa Dipzinski, one of the police officers overseeing the course.In the last part of the class they get to use those skills against someone in a protective gear so that they can work on the techniques they just learned—but no one’s going to learn how to be Bruce Lee or any other martial arts person within a four hour class.”

    The Department of Public Safety previously held semester-long self-defense courses in the past, but due to complications with the officers’ schedules and a low enrollment rate, UCCS hasn’t offered one in years.

    However, with the interest in NAV growing every year, Dipzinski has high hopes that a self-awareness class will be reintroduced in the future.

    “We’re doing eight classes now a year versus when we started out with three. Usually what [students are] saying is ‘can it be a longer class?’ or ‘can we have more classes?’ or ‘can we go up against the person in the gear more than three times?’ You know, those kinds of things,” she said.

    NAV was founded by a friend of Dipzinski who was abducted by her estranged husband, then driven  three hours away and sexually assaulted.

    Dipzinski’s friend managed to escape after convincing her husband that she loved him and that they needed to stop by a convenience store—.

    “She was a police officer at the time it happened and so in her work environment, she was very strong and confident, but at home she was not,” said Dipzinski.

    Dipzinski relates her friend’s experience to college, noting how everyone comes from different backgrounds; they may be strong, but university life is an entirely different animal and “the real reason and passion of why we have [NAV] on campus.”

    Within those seven seconds before an incident, or even during one, eye contact and a firm tone can make all the difference—something Dipzinski has experienced countless times while on duty.

    She said, “There’s a lot of ways to defend yourself and it’s not always done by throwing a punch.”   

    According to a study by the University of Oregon, both women and men are significantly less likely to experience incidents of unwanted sexual contact if they participate in a self-defense class. Women in particular are at least 50 to 60 percent less likely to be raped within the following year of a course than women who did not learn self-defense at all.

    “We’ve had three people contact us back and say, ‘Hey, I was involved in this kind of a situation: I was walking this way and I was able to say leave me alone, get away from me!’ and it never lead to a physical confrontation,” said Dipzinski.

    Nine times out of ten, Dipzinski said, a physical confrontation will not happen if you act determined with both your body and your words. NAV strives to teach students how to achieve such confidence.  

    The class is $30 per person for faculty and community members, but is free for students. More information on the next workshop can be found in the Public Safety section of the UCCS website. Lisa also invites interested students to contact her via email at [email protected].