Defensive lesson

Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Representatives from Hephzibah Baptist Church met with female seniors at Pike Liberal Arts School on Tuesday, but it was a different kind of sermon the young women heard.

“The first 30 seconds can determine whether you are going to survive or not,” said the Rev. Rick Hayes, minister at Hephzibah.

Hayes and Chris Sasser visited different schools to talk about practical self-defense for girls who are about to graduate. The sessions were spurred on, in part, by recent sexual assaults in the Troy area.

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“You need to realize you are a potential victim,” Hayes said. “It happens. It happens a lot more than we hear about.”

Hayes and Sasser demonstrated how distracted people are as they talk on cell phones or text and walk.

“You get really unaware of your surroundings,” Hayes said. “Modern technology has really helped criminals out.”

The duo told the students that if they leave a store, or anywhere else, at night and see a van parked next to their car, to turn around and go back inside to find an escort. ayes shared that vans are the number one vehicle used to abduct women.

“If you feel uncomfortable about anything, go back inside,” Hayes said. “There is not a soul in this part of the country who is going to turn a young lady down when she needs help.”

Hayes told the students that not all bad guys look like criminals. He gave the example of Ted Bundy who lured women into danger by asking for help with his textbooks while using a fake cast on his arm.

Hayes also reminded the young women that they should even stay aware in dating situations. He warned that walking alone and wearing certain clothing can make women targets for people who want to do them harm.

“Above all, if you are confronted, do not allow yourself to be taken from where you are,” Hayes said. “If you allow yourself to be put in a vehicle, your chance for survival just dropped to 10 percent.”

“What if he has a gun?” Hayes asked the students. “Make him use it. Just don’t get in that car.”

Hayes shared the same advice with his own daughter, Hallie, who was also at the self-defense session and helped her father demonstrate basic moves to get away from an attacker.

Hayes told the girls to scream and draw attention to themselves and run away if they could. He also went over sensitive points an a man’s body, such as the ears, bridge of the nose, throat, groin, side of the knee and top of the feet.

“Your best defense is to break free and run for help,” Hayes said.

Lauren Renfroe, 18, said she didn’t come to the session because she is scared due to recent crime.

“There’s crime everywhere,” Renfroe said. “I want to be able to protect myself and make myself aware of my surroundings.”

Caitlin Goodson, 18, said she’d been to a self-defense class before and wanted to brush up on how she should handle dangerous situations.

“It is intimidating to think of protecting yourself in those situations,” Goodson said. “But this is about getting yourself away from danger and staying alert.”

Hayes said he and Sasser had already worked with female students at Goshen High School and hope to continue to educate young women.

“We are hopefully going to give you some information to keep you safe,” Hayes told the senior ladies on Tuesday. “But I really hope you are never in a situation to put it to use.”

The Rev. Rick Hayes, from Hepzibah Baptist Church, talks with seniors from Pike Liberal Arts School about self-defense in Troy, Ala., Tuesday, April 24, 2012. (Messenger Staff Photo/Thomas Graning)