Recent events spurs flurry of interest for University, YMCA self-defense class

Dozens of women attended the class Wednesday night, after more than 2,000 expressed interest on Facebook in November.

Students Sara Jalil and Rebecca Goldblum practice overpowering an aggressor at a women's self defense seminar at the Recreation and Wellness Center on Nov. 30, 2016.

Maddy Fox

Students Sara Jalil and Rebecca Goldblum practice overpowering an aggressor at a women’s self defense seminar at the Recreation and Wellness Center on Nov. 30, 2016.

Layna Darling

A self-defense class received unexpected interest from more than 2,000 people on Facebook after the presidential election early last month.

The event, organized by University of Minnesota YMCA, eventually had to close off the event two weeks after the election because interest outnumbered the capacity of the original location.

To accommodate the unexpected interest, the class was moved to the Recreation and Wellness Center, limited to students and capped at 100 people.

About half that many came to the class Wednesday evening — a class organizers said was unlike anything they had done before — to learn how to fend off attackers and help women feel safer on campus.

Molleysa Yang, a freshman studying biology and Spanish, said she was interested in the class because she wanted to know she could be safe on campus when it was dark out.

Kiah Brasch, a graduate student in the College of Education and Human Development, said the outcome of the election and recent campus events were part of the reason why she signed up.

“I want to be prepared to step in if someone else who is a minority or a member of a marginalized group is being attacked because they’re more at risk than me,” she said.

Instructor and organizer Joan Dao, a neuroscience senior, said the timing of the class so soon after the election was coincidental, and they didn’t anticipate so much attention from the University community and elsewhere.

She started organizing the event in August, but after the outcome of the election, she said knew she had to teach this class.

“I have friends who are afraid,” Dao said.

Dao and the organizers from the YMCA contacted Boynton Health to help them put on the class in the Rec Center.

Dao decided to have the event open to only women in order to create a more inclusive space and to prevent any triggers that could occur at a co-ed event.

“A lot of the techniques are made without women in mind, and that’s the people who need it the most,” Dao said.

Leila Hussain, a global studies junior and nonprofit management intern for the YMCA, helped organize the event.

Patti Neiman, director of educational efficacy and leadership at the YMCA, said they have never put on a self-defense class like this before but were interested in how it would help young women feel more confident and secure around campus.

Tracy Few, a transfer student studying forest and national resource management, said she found the Facebook event after she read about an attack on campus, and that inspired her to sign up.

Her twin sister, Tamara Few, a transfer student studying fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology, said she also became interested after the rise in attacks reported after the election.

“It really scared me, so I wanted to be able to protect myself,” Few said.