'Selfie' Defense Class

As middle schoolers, Natalie, Victoria and Sophie have just reached the age of walking to and from school alone. “I do that thing where you hold a key in between your fingers,” said Victoria, an eleven year old who’s just started commuting to and from JHS 157. 

The three girls recently took their first self defense class at our Forest Hills Community Center. As participants of our Access For Young Women Program, which organized the class in partnership with Center for Anti-Violence Education, the girls meet weekly to discuss issues that affect them and their peers.

“I think social media is a big problem when it comes to staying safe on the streets,” Natalie said stowing her phone in her backpack. “When people are taking selfies or messaging while they’re walking, it not only makes them a risk for theft but also distracts them from seeing what’s going on around them. I don’t want to be a target.”

Sophie took this class to learn how to protect herself in the case of an unwanted attack. “Today I learned about primary and secondary targets,” she said. “Hitting secondary targets, like the jaw, sends someone home. But when you hit a primary target, like the nose, you’re sending them to the hospital.”

Tabitha Gamonski, Director of our Teen Outreach & Hot Spots Program, gives the girls a chance to focus on issues that are important to them. “We offer workshops based on what comes up in our classes and curriculum,” she said. “Our girls wanted to learn how to defend themselves, especially since there have been a number of hate crimes in the headlines lately.”

Fifteen participants attended the first class. “Before I took this class, I thought you were just supposed to run away,” twelve year old Victoria remarked, “but now I know it’s also ok to say, ‘Stop.’”

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