Reports of a rapist preying in west and northwest Franklin County have women everywhere seeking education on how to protect themselves.
Thirty women, some of them mothers and daughters, turned out Nov. 16 at the Sawmill Athletic Club where the Hilliard Police Department worked with Crime Stoppers to teach women how not to become a target for crime.
"A crime occurs when there is a suitable target, an opportunity and a bad guy," said lead instructor Marcus Blevins, a 14-year veteran of the Hilliard force.
His presentation included several videos depicting things people do to invite crime.
Among them was a video of a woman walking with traffic and close to a car. A person in the car grabbed her purse.
Blevins talked about a rash of purse snatchings not long ago in store parking lots.
"Pay attention to your surroundings," he cautioned women.
That’s what the perpetrator was doing, Blevins said, explaining that the person was cruising the parking lot paying attention to people walking to their cars and being an easy target himself.
"That’s how he was caught."
With the holidays approaching, Suzy Muraco, an officer with 13 years experience, cautioned the women to consider how much they need to take with them to the shopping center. She said she often carries a large and heavy purse, but said there are times she carries only a money clip that holds the necessary credit cards and some bills.
"Do you need to carry all the kids and grandkids pictures?" she asked as she displayed her special holder.
For protection inside the residence, the officers told the women they could put dowel pins or broomsticks in their sliding doors or in the window frames.
"And never open the door to a stranger," Blevins cautioned.
One part of the presentation included a get-in-your-face situation where participants had the opportunity to practice the art of saying "no."
Not only did the women follow the lead of Muraco and belt out the words "from the belly," they also used hand gestures.
"I saw a lot of hands up there," said another member of the instruction team, Mark Proud, an officer with 14 years experience.
Proud, also a weapons instructor, advised young women in the audience who are runners not to run at night and encouraged them to wear a whistle around their neck.
He also showed them a variety of items they could carry to ward off an attacker, including mace, pepper spray and even a flashlight with a bright light. He advised them to have the items where they can readily reach them.
"They aren’t doing you any good in the bottom of your purse," he said.
"Is it best to fight?" he asked. "If you choose to fight, chances increase that you will get hurt."
Doug Lightfoot, a certified intervention specialist, kept reminding the women that their chances of survival if they are taken to a second location greatly diminishes.
"Your chance of survival drops to 3 percent," he said often during the session. "Those figures blew my mind."
The physical part, the hands-on training, would come in a second four-hour session.
The popularity of these self-defense classes has greatly increased since several reports of rapes in nearby neighborhoods. Law enforcement offices across the county are working to put together such sessions, some working with Crime Stoppers.
Information about the courses are available from individual law enforcement, both police and sheriff’s offices, as well as through Crime Stoppers at www.stopcrime.org.
In the days of advancing technology, "we all have cell phones," Blevins said. "Don’t be afraid to call us. Some people feel they are bothering us, but that’s what we’re here for. Call us."