Self Defense: Staying safe, avoiding danger, understanding plans

By Taylor Lucero

With a campus of more than 43,000 students, the number of reported crimes are higher on campus compared to off-campus locations, according to the most recent Division of Public Safety’s Annual Security Report.

Whether walking out alone at night or facing a threatening person, students on campus can use preventative action to avoid potentially dangerous situations. When an emergency cannot be prevented, self-defense techniques can be used as a last resort.

Preventative Defense

“When it comes to an educational standpoint, I think a lot of people, because of television, they kind of think that they need a weapon to get away from somebody,” said Joan Fiesta, University police sergeant.

Fiesta said the Division of Public Safety provides self-defense classes, which discuss the importance of awareness. Awareness, according to Fiesta, provides a person with the ability to avoid possibly threatening situations.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

“(A)wareness is about 90 percent of self defense,” she said.

The Division of Public Safety offers a self-defense class for both men and women, called R.A.D, standing for Rape Aggression Defense system.

Fiesta said the women’s class, “Rape Aggression Defense,” teaches preventative skills like how to avoid places where a crime may likely be committed, verbal defense and techniques to increase motor skills.

The men’s class, “Resisting Aggression with Defense,” teaches men techniques like defending themselves without needing to fight through body language, avoiding aggressive situations and other skills like blocking and stopping tackles.

Looking a suspicious person in the eye can help prevent being attacked as well, according to William Smoot, University police sergeant. This makes the suspect aware that the person could identify them if needed.

“If you’re a criminal and you’re trying to steal something from somebody, the best victim is one who doesn’t even realize you’re in the zip code,” Smoot said.

However, students may become the victim of crimes of a different type. For other crime prevention, Smoot said situations like theft can be avoided by something as simple as keeping doors locked at all times.

Pepper Spray Use

According to Robert Murphy, University police detective, items like pepper spray have both benefits and disadvantages.

Murphy recalled a night when he was accidently sprayed with pepper spray. Along with his sergeant, Murphy was pursuing and closing in on a suspect, but the sergeant used pepper spray and hit both Murphy and the suspect.

“It worked instantly on me,” he said. “The bad guy got in his car and drove away, and we caught him a couple blocks down the road where the pepper spray finally kicked in.”

Murphy, who is in the crime prevention unit, said pepper spray could be used to distract an assailant, but will not save a person’s life.

Instead, it gives the person using it the opportunity to escape. To be effective, it needs to hit the assailant directly in the eyes.

“If you’re in panic mode, can you get it out of your purse or get it out of your pocket … point it in the right direction and spray the person?” Murphy asked.

Murphy said that pepper spray can still be useful. One such advantage is that there are pepper spray’s available that have a band, allowing people to hold it in their hands while walking and making the weapon face the right direction.

However, Murphy said the person using it may still feel effects of the spray his or herself.

He said he also recommended pepper spray that cannot accidently be pressed if in a backpack or purse and includes a piece on top that allows people holding it to know where to place their fingers.

Active Shooter Response

During an emergency like an active shooter on campus, other important techniques may be used.

Rachael Ahart, University police officer, said that out of the government programs available to learn about these situations, “Run>Hide>Fight” is one of the top programs for students.

Ahart said if students are in an active-shooter situation in a room, they should secure themselves by locking the door, pushing furniture in the way if the room does not lock, and possibly hiding in a closet in order to have barriers between themselves and the shooter.

“If it comes down to it where this person is coming into whatever room you’re in and they have a gun of some sort and they start shooting, then that’s the time where you have to make the decision if you want to try and fight or if you want to try and hide,” she said.

For those who choose to fight, Ahart said that a person can get close to the doorway to disarm or attack the shooter when he enters the room. Some recommended weapons from the Division’s “Run>Hide>Fight” video include belts, glass bottles, hot coffee, scissors, pens, chairs and fire extinguishers.

“Active shooters, unfortunately, are not likely to stop shooting until they’re either out of targets or out of ammo, and generally speaking, they don’t run out of ammo,” Ahart said.

Taylor can be reached at [email protected].