The 15-year-old girl was walking along, minding her own business when out of nowhere a man dressed in black grabbed her and threw her into a van parked nearby with its sliding door open. He held her in a bear hug and she struggled, wiggling ineffectively against him.

Soon, she started biting his arm. His body reacted, and she managed to wiggle around to face him, scratching at his eyes, ripping at his ears. She got away, laughing as she skipped across the thick, blue mat.

It was just a drill. This weekend, the Garner Police Department offered a free safety awareness and sexual assault prevention class for women.

Eighteen of us gathered to learn how to better protect ourselves. While you may picture us all yelling “HA” as we learned to throw punches, Officer Troy Young spent most of the four-hour class arming us with knowledge.

Young informed us that under North Carolina law, we are allowed to use deadly force if we believe it necessary to prevent death or sexual assault.

He talked about types of predators and what they need to attack: privacy and control. Privacy means the attacker has little chance of third-party intervention. Control, in this case, means the woman is persuaded to cooperate. The problem is, she persuades herself, thinking she will avoid injury or death.

Rape is a type of injury, and not just physical.

We know when someone gives us the creeps. We feel intuitively that we are not safe. And if we’re smart, we try to avoid that scary parking deck late at night, the dark alley shortcut that will save time, but holds unknown danger.

As Young observed, a lot of women are in denial about our safety. We see a single man in the elevator and don’t feel comfortable stepping in, but we don’t want to be rude. So we go ahead and put ourselves in a locked, soundproof box with a stranger.

We don’t fight back as we should. Almost 80 percent of women who physically resist their attacker avoid further violence. The trick is to FIGHT, not just struggle. He expects a struggle; he doesn’t expect you to lunge for him and try to rip his ears off, bite a chunk out of his arm and poke his eyeballs out – really.

It might not be easy, but women need to learn to value our lives to the point that we are willing to fight for that life. Focus on those happy moments and realize you will never have them again if you don’t fight.

Young went through scenarios. We talked about using what’s in our environment to fight back. He said the goal is to hurt your attacker enough to get away. You’re not going to win in a fair fight, let alone an unfair one. Use the closest weapon (usually your hands, feet, arms and legs) and hit the closest target. Don’t aim.

At the end he put on a padded suit and helmet and “attacked” women for practice.

Young gave us each a packet full of great information about safety. It may not be fair, but we need to be thinking about it all the time. It was a great class, fun and informative. I’d recommend it to every woman I know.

I may even take it again, or another one, because I didn’t get a chance to practice being attacked.

I think it’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever given myself – and it was free.

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