Saturday, 5 January 2013

The Invaluable Gift Of Self- Defense

    Have you ever been singing a song and then it came on the radio?  Have you ever been talking about someone and then they called, or ran into them, you know "speak of the devil"?  I had that today.  Last night I was really thinking about my high-school science teacher, Mr. Berry.  Mr. Berry not only taught me science, he taught a bunch of us girls self defense.  I think we all stayed after school.  It was a fun time with my friends.  Mr. Berry had a black belt in Karate and taught us how to maximize our strength when fighting off an attacker, how to use common objects to protect ourselves, he taught us how to survive.  I mention the first few sentences of this paragraph, because it was like that.  Last night I had been really thinking about Mr. Berry and the self defense classes.   I don't mean just thinking, I mean really putting him in my mind and throwing out gratitude to him, I don't even know what brought him to my mind. This morning I saw him at the mall.  He looked the same, maybe a little thinner, a little older, but the same.  I wanted to stop him, to thank him, but I had my kids, he was with his wife, he looked like he was in a hurry.  After he had walked past me, I kicked myself for not being brave enough.  This was the first time I had seen Mr. Berry since high school, and just when I had been thinking about him, and I could not make myself stop him and thank him.  How do you stop someone who would have no idea who you are, when he is with his wife, when I have my children with me?  How do I stop him and thank him for giving me the tools to stop my own sexual assault more than twenty years ago?

    It was the summer before I was going off to university.  I was working at our local convenience store. I worked with a great bunch of people and still talk to a lot of them.  We had a great camaraderie.  Depending on who I worked with I was guaranteed to be in hysterics most of the shift.  We would all laugh about the customers that we had to deal with, most of them were a really great bunch of people.  There was one shift that changed my life forever, but also greatly empowered me.
    I was working until close with a guy I knew liked me, I also knew it was not a good "like".  I knew, there was some reason that I should not work close with him, that tickling fear in the back of my brain, that fear that seems unfounded, but often saves lives.  I tried frantically to get the other guy we were working with to switch shifts with me.  That little voice inside my head was screaming her head off, she knew that something bad was going to happen, something VERY bad.  I was almost in tears as I begged him to switch, "No way, I've got a party to got to."  All night it was like walking on egg shells, feeling sick, waiting.  I knew it was not an if, it was a when, I could see the way he was looking at me.  That voice inside my head kept shouting "just run".  I did not run, but worked until the end of my shift.  The front door was locked, the lights, turned off.
    He was bigger than me, stronger than me.  He followed me into the office where I had gone to start the security camera.  He followed me, blocking me in with his body, touching me where he had no permission to touch.  He had an intent that was not consensual and he thought that because he was so much bigger than me, so much stronger than me, that there was nothing that I could do, but to submit.  He learned a very valuable lesson that day, a lesson that cost him broken bones.  My mind became calm in that moment.  All of the panic I had felt until that moment, vanished.  There was only calm.  My body worked independently, remembering everything it had been taught.  His face was just behind my head, breathing rapidly, I expect he had different ideas than I as to what would come next.  I believe it took him quite by surprise as I smashed the back of my head into his face.  As he was reeling from the pain and shouting "You broke my nose!", I held my fist tightly and I used it to help bring power to my other arm, just as Mr. Berry had taught us those few years ago.  My powerful elbow made magnificent contact with his ribs, causing him to drop like a pound of bricks to the floor writhing in agony.  I calmly turned around, and walked over his writhing body, and did not look back.  I walked calmly and briskly to my car, and then drove away.
    At first I was rattled.  Someone had just tried to sexually assault me.  Then the beautiful realization whisped up, gradually, slowly like a thick smoke.  He had "tried", I had stopped him.  No knight in shining armor needed to rescue me, he could just go ahead and find a damsel in distress, I could save myself.  It was terrifying to think that anyone would try to take what was not theirs to take, but it was empowering to know that I had felled someone twice my size.
    I sit here wondering now, do I publish this?  Is it too graphic, not family friendly enough?  Have I crossed that line where I share just too much of myself?  It probably is, and yet there have been too many strange coincidences surrounding this event the last two days.  I feel almost compelled to share this, just as I feel compelled to sit tomorrow and much belatedly write Mr. Berry a card thanking him for those amazing skills that he taught me.  It's funny, "It's A Wonderful Life" is my all time favourite movie.  It shows how much one life can touch so many, and that one life has no idea the difference that he/ she has made in the lives of others.  I wonder just how many women Mr. Berry saved?  I sit here writing this feeling great gratitude.  I feel gratitude for the skill I was given, and gratitude for the empowerment that terrible experience gave me, that has stayed with me like an invisible tattoo all of these years.
    So here I sit, still wondering, do I share?  Then I looked up the statistics....

Sexual Assault Statistics in Canada
Statistics disprove numerous common misconceptions about rape and sexual assault. While many people believe sexual assault is a rare crime that usually happens between strangers in a dark alley, in reality only a tiny percentage of cases fit this description. See below for some other important and interesting stats.

A Statistical Representation of the Truth

  • Of every 100 incidents of sexual assault, only 6 are reported to the police
  • 1 - 2% of "date rape" sexual assaults are reported to the police
  • 1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime
  • 11% of women have physical injury resulting for sexual assault
  • Only 2 - 4% of all sexual assaults reported are false reports
  • About 50% of sex assaults occur on dates
  • 60% of sexual abuse/assault victims are under the age of 17
  • over 80% of sex crime victims are women
  • 80% of sexual assault incidents occur in the home
  • 17% of girls under 16 have experienced some form of incest
  • 83% of disabled women will be sexual assaulted during their lifetime
  • 15% of sexual assault victims are boys under 16
  • half of all sexual offenders are married or in long term relationships
  • 57% of aboriginal women have been sexually abused
  • 1/5th of all sexual assaults involve a weapon of some sort
  • 80% of assailants are friends and family of the victim
  • 63% of victims suffer physical harm
  • 9% of victims are disfigured from the attack

borrowed from

I feel compelled to share, maybe I will encourage more women to take self-defense classes, maybe I will encourage more parents to seek out self-defense classes for their children.  I'm going to see if I can enroll Grace in a class.  I hate to think of anyone hurting any of my children, the thought is nightmarish.  I hate to think about the need to enroll my children in a self defense class, but the alternative, is unthinkable.  I think what if I had not had that class?  I really don't think I could have fought off a 200 pound man who was over 6 feet with my then 5 foot 5, 115 pound frame, not without the tools I had.

    I know that Mr. Berry forever impacted my life with his teachings.  I would also like to think that Mr. Berry saved other women.  I like to think that my attacker never again touched another women without consent, and when he thought about inappropriate nonconsensual thoughts with another woman his face and ribs would ache with just the thought.  I guess that makes up my mind, I'm sharing.


  1. Since you worked with the attacker, what happened when you saw him again?

    I'm wondering what he told people about his injuries. I'm sure it would hurt his male ego to admit he got beat up by a girl half his size. Then he would also have to explain why she beat him up...

    1. I spoke to our assitant manager, and never again saw him at work. She made sure that our shifts were no where near each other. I only ever saw him from a distance in town.

      I would love to know what he told people. I'd like to think I taught him a lesson.

  2. I think there is so many incidents like this, unfortunately, and until relatively recently most people don't want to discuss. So good for you, because there are many other woment (and men) out there with similar stories unfortunately - and some were not able to fight off their attacker.