Defense course empowers women
University police host classes to teach practical protection
Published: Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 23:08
The first few weeks of the semester can be an exhilarating time as students settle into their new courses and schedules, but they also represent an increase in sexual assaults on college campuses said Heather Wheeler, the program coordinator of the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) at Texas A&M.
Staff at the WRC and officers with the University Police Department (UPD) are helping women learn how to defend themselves in instances of sexual harassment and assault through SHARP, a sexual harassment and rape prevention training course offered for women only.
The first course of the semester will be held from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday Aug. 21 by UPD, with subsequent courses, in September and October, facilitated by both the WRC and UPD.
Kristi Hosea, an officer with UPD who holds SHARP courses on campus, said the program provides women with simple, effective skills they will be able to practically use in both low and high-stress situations.
SHARP includes lectures and interactive teaching, allowing students to practice using the information they learn with peers and eventually, an officer in a padded suit.
Melanie Krugel, who works with the Office of the Dean of Student Life, participated in a previous course held by UPD. Initially hesitant because she did not want to harm someone else, Krugel said she was very glad she took the training course.
“Going to the course and learning more about it and the importance of safety, it really helped me to calm my fears because I would be defending myself if I needed to,” Krugel said. “Even though I’m not a violent person, even though I don’t believe in hurting other people, it helps me to be able to help myself or someone else.”
Krugel said not only was she more comfortable in her surroundings after taking the course, but her husband, a former golden-globe boxer, felt much better about his wife encountering potentially dangerous situations. Now, Krugel said, she feels prepared to help herself or someone else in a situation where she would have previously been unprepared.
The tactics taught in a SHARP course are designed to be practical and easy to remember, Hosea said. As an advisor for the graduate student council, Krugel said she recommends the course for all the female students she comes in contact with.
“Those skills are obviously tangible and transferable for life, no matter where they go,” Krugel said.
The course also teaches women how their body will react to a stressful situation and how to cope with those changes quickly. While practicing with an officer in a padded suit, Wheeler, who also participated in a SHARP course, said she was surprised when her body actually experienced those changes she learned about in the lecture.
“What I found to be really important is knowing how your body is going to respond and what to expect in terms of how your thought process will actually change if you’re in a crisis,” Wheeler said.
Ed Frank, an officer with the Bryan County Sheriff’s Department who holds SHARP programs once a month, said the program not only teaches women practical skills, but allows them to leave the course feeling empowered.
“When they get done with the course, they say they feel a lot safer in their own skin because they now know they can do something,” Frank said.
Wheeler said she ultimately hopes programs such as SHARP will not only help individual women learn skills and feel empowered, but reduce sexual harassment and assault occurring across campus.
“We’re really hoping that programs like this that teach skills will reduce the instances of violence that we’re seeing among our student population,” Wheeler said.