Police say awareness is key in personal safety class for college - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Police say awareness is key in personal safety class for college women

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One area police department is arming college women with awareness to help them keep themselves safe.

On Monday, Cedar Rapids Police met with female students at Kirkwood Community College, where they held a personal safety workshop. While the class touched on some practical defense skills, it was largely about assault awareness and how to prevent an attack.

"Mindset is the biggest thing. The best thing that you can do for yourself is awareness and mindset. Technique is fantastic. It can help, but it takes so long to develop and it takes very little time to develop a mindset to get yourself past the freeze point," Aaron Leisinger, Kirkwood Campus Resource Officer, said.

Leisinger and other officers went over ways that women can protect themselves from being a victim, like being alert and to not ignore situations where they feel uncomfortable. In order to get them to get over that freezing-point reaction, they were put to the test by going through a real-life situation.

Officers from the department wore a protective suit and approached each woman individually, to the point where they would feel uncomfortable and need to react. They were taught to get loud, threaten to call the cops, and to keep their hands and arms up and ready to defend themselves or, if needed, to attack.

"The first time you don't know what to do. You'll be frozen. You won't know what to do. When we stand up and say 'stay away from me, I'll call the police,' that's the first thing you should do," Khouloud Valaout, Kirkwood International student, said. Valaout said she took the class to learn how to better defend herself.

Kirkwood freshman Dana Van Hyfte took the class to learn the same and because of a more personal reason.

"Earlier this year, my friend was sexually assaulted, and it just brought a lot of light into that the fact that I don't pay attention to what I'm doing as much as I should," she said.

Though the training scenarios are fake, police said the lessons learned from them will help if a situation ever becomes real.

"If your brain has been through it before, you're going to react better," Leisinger said.

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