Kickin’ it with safety

Sarah Haas

Think Iowa State is safe? In the past year, the ISU Department of Public Safety reported eight sexual assault offenses. In response, DPS has an outreach program aimed at informing students of the dangers of these offenses.

To combat such assaults, ISU Police Cmdr. Gene Deisinger encourages vigilance.

“The most important thing is for people to be aware of their environment – whether it is of the risk of sexual assault or robbery or the approaching car as you cross the street. We encourage people not to be distracted by phones or iPods and to pay attention to who’s around them,” Deisinger said.

The outreach program attempts to educate students on the dangers associated with college life. Seminars with residence halls and sororities are commonly held. Although the program has not seen a measurable increase in interest since the news of increased assaults near the University of Iowa, Deisinger said, he believes the seminars promote an interest in self-defense.

“We don’t necessarily train people how to use self-defense techniques in our outreach work, but we get people interested in learning how to do it,” Deisinger said.

In addition to the DPS program, some students have taken it upon themselves to instruct others on how to defend themselves.

“Students need to realize, especially on a college campus, there is a risk. I think we all believe Ames is relatively safe, so we don’t think crime and things can happen. It creates a mindset that nothing can happen, which leads people to think something like a self-defense seminar isn’t necessary,” said Drew Robinson, junior in mechanical engineering and president of the ISU Hapkido Club.

Through the use of hapkido, a long-practiced martial art, the club’s mission is to provide a basic understanding of self-defense procedures to the community here.

“Because hapkido is not a sport, it doesn’t require athleticism and we don’t have competitions; we go out and teach what we know and practice,” Robinson said.

Recently, Robinson and other club members cooperated with members of Program for Women in Science and Engineering and held an open event. Sarah Steffen, sophomore in chemical engineering and head of publicity for the event, distributed numerous posters inviting anyone to learn about self-defense around campus. Yet, fewer than 10 students participated.

“They’re a good thing for everyone because you don’t think of certain things in those situations, so you can be mentally prepared if something happens,” Robinson said.

He encourages students to be concerned because “statistically, we know attacks happen. We want to make people more aware that it can, and that just by attending a seminar they can be better prepared.”

Robinson said self-defense begins far before any physical altercation. Awareness of the surrounding environment and an avoidance of risky situations are key to being safe.

“Use the buddy system. When you go out somewhere, go with friends who you trust, and not necessarily acquaintances,” Robinson said.

According to the DPS Web site, nearly 85 percent of rapists know their victims.

Steffen, who attended the seminar, recalled that seemingly mundane common-sense measures could be beneficial.

“I didn’t realize that a lot of common-sense stuff, such as you should always punch with your palm, because your fingers can break easily,” Steffen said. “We were told to have more confidence. We were told not to be wimpy because there are bad people out there, and you have the right to be prepared.”