Campus - 03.08.2017 - 00:00 

Unisport: self-defence for women

Do you know how you would react if you were attacked? The HSG’s Unisport offers a self-defence course for women every semester. An article by student reporter Sophie Kwisda.

3 August 2017. Sophie Kwisda attended the self-defence course for women and interviewed the leader of the course, Silvio Hänsenberger, about what he would recommend in the event of an attack.

Mr Hänsenberger, what possibilities are there to minimise the likelihood of an attack?

Silvio Hänsenberger: There are various strategies to prevent situations in which an assault can become reality. They include planning and preparation: what situations make me feel uneasy, and how can I prevent them? Where and how could I get help if an assault is imminent? Or quite specifically: how do I choose my way home late at night? Also, you should take note of early warning indications: your own “gut feeling” can be an important indicator of dangerous situations. This may express itself in discomfiture, anxiety, doubt, hesitation or unease. It is important for you to take notice of these signs. Keeping your distance from the person concerned is also crucial: potential attackers should be addressed formally, which also signals to third parties that you do not know the attacker. Keep your distance with regard to space, as well, to increase your chance of being able to evade a possible attack. Finally, it is important to display a confident manner on the outside.

How can a confident manner be displayed in concrete terms?

Unfortunately, a few phrases that have been learned by rote are not enough to make anyone feel more confident. Some people find the following tips helpful to ensure that their manner at least looks more confident on the outside: upright posture when walking, moving purposefully, never being out and about on your own and being aware of all possible options for action.

People often feel safer if they know in advance how they would react if they were attacked. Are there any possibilities of getting to know our own reaction?

Unfortunately, this is only possible to a limited extent. It’s difficult to gauge how you would react in the case of a real assault. Although we try to simulate attack situations in our self-defence course, factors like anxiety and fear, which can paralyse people in a real attack, can hardly be simulated.

Now if I’m attacked, what time-tested options of defence are there?

Kicking, hitting out, loud shouting, pulling the attacker by his hair and biting are definitely time-tested methods of self-defence. Self-defence can also help the victim to resolve the incident better later on and to facilitate the presentation of evidence. Of course, self-defence must be lawful and proportionate. Pepper spray is also a possibility for resisting an attack but it does not provide the protection that many people expect in every situation. Handling such an instrument requires practice, for instance to avoid self-contamination. Also, such a spray is useless unless it is at hand immediately and not stashed away in your handbag, for example. Furthermore, pepper sprays may have no effect at all on attackers who are resistant to the agent, for example because of long-standing dietary habits or the influence of drugs.

What are the odds of surviving an attack unscathed?

If an assault takes place, slight injuries such as bruises or grazes cannot be avoided even if you defend yourself. This is why it’s so important not to get into such situations in the first place. To escape physical attack, self-defence is crucial. This has also been revealed by a survey conducted by the Hanover police, according to which in the cases that were investigated, 80 per cent of the women who were the target of an assault by a physically more powerful attacker were able to break free by means of serious self-defence.

What steps do you recommend after an attack?

Basically, you should notify the police of the attack, change nothing at the scene of the crime until the police turn up, talk to witnesses and ask for contact information, file a complaint and finally not shrink back from asking for professional help to try to achieve closure. After such a crime it may be important for many people to talk to someone they can trust and who will help them with any further steps. It is also recommendable to write down the sequence of events in detail as quickly as possible after the incident in order to avoid later contradictions.

Besides the University of St.Gallen’s advice service for difficult situations, victim support services provide help in various cantons. A list of the different support services in the cantons can be found on the Swiss National Victims’ Help website.

The self-defence course for women will also take place at the University of St.Gallen in the coming Autumn Semester.

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