BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Wearing workout clothes and smiles, JoAnn Norrington and her daughter Olivia practiced grabbing each other by the throat – and escaping by swiftly turning sideways and chopping an arm over the aggressor.
The Whitehouse women were among 16 participants in an October 6 Keeping Our Girls Safe self-defense class sponsored by the Whitehouse Police Depart-ment. Led by KOGS volunteers Wauseon Assistant Police Chief John Roof and Sylvania police officer John Pinkstaff, the women learned that self-defense involves more than just physically fighting back.
“Your mindset determines everything,” Pinkstaff said.
It starts with awareness.
“How often do you see someone walking through the parking lot like this?” Roof asked, looking at his phone. “Put your phone away. If you need to scroll or text, wait until you’re somewhere safe.”
The average person walks looking downward about 6-8 feet ahead. Lift your head up and look at your surroundings. The instructors shared the story of a woman who was walking in a parking structure and saw a guy near the entrance. As she looked at him, the man looked at another man nearby – one she hadn’t seen initially – who shook his head “no.”
“They let her go and attacked the next woman who wasn’t paying attention,” Roof said.
Bad guys don’t look like Jason or Freddie from the horror films and can be attractive and well-dressed – like serial killer Ted Bundy, who put on a fake cast and asked women to help him load his groceries. A would-be attacker might ask for money, directions or the time.
“They will interview you to get you to drop your guard,” Pinkstaff said.
Criminals who attack women fall into two different camps: those who want to steal a purse or other items; and those who want to physically harm or kill. Thieves are easier to get rid of: Just give them what they want. As for those intent on harm, their goal is to get you away somewhere private and gain time.
“Never go with a bad guy anywhere. It’s that second crime scene where bad things happen,” Roof said. “At this point, you need to ask yourself: Do I have it in me to fight back?”
About half of the women, when asked that question, say no, but when asked if they would fight to protect a child, the answer is yes, 100 percent of the time.
“You’re important to somebody. An attack on you is an attack on them,” Pinkstaff said.
Attitude and mindset are vital when dealing with a potential attacker. The men demonstrated walking through a parking lot in a scenario where a stranger asks for money.
To keep a distance, put your arms straight out in front and confidently say, “No,” while telling them to step back. It’s a gesture that lets them know you’re aware and that you don’t want them in your personal space. If that person continues to advance and you have no means of exit, you need to strike first to protect yourself.
“What’s important now? It’s protecting your safety,” Pinkstaff said.
The men demonstrated a palm strike to the chin, nose, side of the head, sternum or groin.
What if the bad guy grabs your arm? The natural reaction is to try to pull away. Instead, step toward him and heel punch his face with your other hand to throw off his balance. Through a series of moves, the women learned how to escape from being grabbed from the front and back, pushed up against a wall or on the floor.
Nearly anything – a phone, keys, a pen – can be used as an improvised weapon. Bite down like a dog and don’t let go. Stomp on his feet and use your elbows and fingers to jab.
“When seconds count, the police are minutes away,” Roof said. “You need to do what you can to get out.”
KOGS was formed by Nikki and Bob Kolasinski, whose son Josh was dating Sierah Joughin, a Fulton County woman who was abducted and murdered by a repeat violent offender in July 2016. The mission of KOGS is to advocate, educate and empower women to protect themselves through self-defense and Concealed-Carry Weapons (CCW) classes.
Nikki provided several resources to the class, including where to find information on sex offenders and violent offenders.
• Ohio has more than 19,000 registered sex offenders. Visit https://ohio.gov/residents/resources/sex-offender-search for a list of those who live near you.
• Sierah’s Law instituted a violent offender registry for the state. Contact your sheriff’s department for that list. In Lucas County, call (419) 213-4900. In Wood County, call (419) 354-9008
• Marcy’s Law ensures that victims of violent crime have the same co-equal rights as the accused and convicted. Visit www.marcyslawforoh.com.
• Noonlight is a connected safety platform and mobile app that can trigger requests to emergency services at the touch of a button.
• Loveisrespect.org is a website to help navigate dating and help with setting up healthy boundaries and understanding the warning signs of abuse.
• The Dating Abuse Hotline is (866) 331-9474.
• The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides tools and support to help survivors of domestic abuse. Visit www.thehotline.org or (800) 799-7233 (HOPE).
Nikki also advises that everyone share their phone passcode with a family member or friend, or leave it written down somewhere that can be found.
“When Sierah went missing, no one had her password and they wasted time trying to find her because they couldn’t get into her phone and ping her last location,” Nikki said. She also suggested getting an AirTag to place in your purse, car or on yourself.
As the women exited the classroom, Nikki handed out several resources, including a personal safety information sheet that gave four basic tips:
• Follow your intuition. If you sense danger, don’t second-guess yourself. The best weapon you have is your sixth sense. It’s better to be safe than to ignore your instincts and become the victim of a violent crime.
• Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t talk on your phone or listen to music on your phone when you’re alone running, walking or riding a bike. Pay attention to what’s going on around you. Carry personal self-defense items such as a personal alarm, self-defense key chain, pepper spray or stun gun, and know how to use it.
• Increase peripheral vision to recognize suspicious people and identify potential escape routes and what items nearby can be used as weapons.
• Nearly anything can be turned into an impact weapon, such as a pen, keys, a snow globe or a metal water bottle.