Self-defense class helps women

While the University of Minnesota offers a number of self-defense options, none are specifically for women.

Instructors Al Horner and Karla Rapp of

Joe Sulik

Instructors Al Horner and Karla Rapp of “Not Me!: Empowering People and Saving Lives” demonstrate proper self-defense techniques for attendees during a free class for University of Minnesota women in the Commons Hotel on Sunday evening.

Olivia Johnson

Frannie Seitz stands a couple of feet away from her friend. With a former U.S. Navy SEAL coaching her on, she feigns clawing at the side of her partner’s head, repeatedly.
 
Seitz, a University of Minnesota sophomore, was one of 30 people who attended a self-defense workshop Sunday night aimed at preventing sexual assault. The course’s instructor has been trying to get the University to offer the class for the past year, but some assault experts say the classes won’t do much to stop attackers.
 
Former U.S. Navy SEAL officer Alan Horner started the company Not Me! in 2004 after teaching skills acquired in the Navy to his friend’s daughter.
 
“He asked me to put together a course for his daughter and friends to be safe at college,” Horner said. “Now, it has grown to over 15,000, all by word of mouth from women who have found it very valuable.”
 
Along with small group and online instruction, he said he has done training sessions for companies like General Mills, Medtronic and Wells Fargo.
 
“We want to prepare women to recognize the sequences that lead to assault so that they can prevent or avoid being assaulted,” Horner said.
 
Seitz heard about Sunday night’s Not Me! event from a woman who works for the company, adding that it was her first time taking such a class.
 
Even though the University provides resources for assault survivors, she said the class could provide useful preventative information for students.
 
“I’ve never heard about how to prevent assault,” Seitz said.
 
Katie Eichele, director of The Aurora Center, a campus service that provides help for victims of sexual assault, harassment, stalking and relationship violence, said the center’s main focus is support for survivors.
 
The University also provides occasional free self-defense and personal safety workshops classes at its Recreation and Wellness Center, albeit not through Horner’s company.
 
Horner has been unsuccessful in working with the University to make his training more accessible for students. Though typically companies and some schools pay him for the
service, he said he paid to put on Sunday’s training event. Companies and some schools pay him for the training, he said.
 
“We have to be very careful about who we partner with,” Eichele said. “I really need to be able to support a program that is inclusive of all genders.”
 
The Not Me! program caters to women, something that could violate Title IX, a law which prevents sex or gender discrimination on campus, she said.
 
“We know that the research says that 90 percent of students know their perpetrator. Would you actually use those [approaches] on someone that you knew?” said Eichele,
who has posed that same question to survivors of assault. “A lot of them said they were uncomfortable with using those techniques on someone they know or care about.”
 
In the past, The Aurora Center has partnered with the University of Minnesota Police Department, which leads self-defense training not aimed solely at women, Eichele said.
 
“If we think that self-defense courses are going to solve sexual assault, we are very mistaken,” Eichele said. ”If we aren’t teaching our society not to harm, we aren’t doing anything.”