Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

“You’re going to VCU? Make sure you have pepper spray, and don’t walk alone at night!”

When I got accepted into VCU, I heard a plethora of sentiments like this one.

“Do you think that’s safe?”

“Do you hear gun shots at night?”

I laughed when my boyfriend bought me pink pepper spray as a graduation gift. Although I feel safe at VCU, and so do 95.5% of VCU students, faculty and staff*, sexual assault is nothing to laugh off. That’s why on Feb. 6 I took the Wonder Women Self-Defense Workshop sponsored by the MMA Club at VCU and Alpha Kappa Delta Phi; to literally fight against rape culture. I learned more than just how to fight off a predator.

First and foremost, I learned I didn’t have to be in tip-top physical condition. Self-defense is more than punching someone in the nose and running away. It takes more than muscles to out-smart an attacker. After the first couple rounds of learning how to kick, I’ll admit I was a little exhausted, but I wasn’t sore at all the next day. Don’t let “not being in shape” keep you from learning self-defense. Trust me, an attacker doesn’t only target people who are in shape.

Secondly, I felt empowered and confident. Everyone in that room was there to learn all the same tips and tricks and all the instructors were eager to teach and supportive. I wasn’t embarrassed, even though practicing some of the maneuvers required my friends and I to get a little up close and personal.

Thirdly, I learned that assaults can happen to anyone, anywhere. Before the workshop began one of the sisters of Alpha Kappa Delta Phi told us the reason behind their co-sponsoring of the event: one of their sisters had recently passed due to a sexual assault. One of the members of the club followed that up with details of a string of sexual assaults that had happened on campus a few years ago. While all the situations up to this point had been purely hypothetical, these sobering facts got all of the attendees into the right state of mind to protect ourselves from any given situation. 

Lastly, MMA and self-defense classes aren’t just about learning a sport or getting exercise; it’s about reality. The situations I was put into were simulated, but knowing what to do in situations like those make me more comfortable even walking back to my dorm at night. Self-defense isn’t just kneeing some drunk guy in the crotch and sauntering away; it’s about knowing the quickest ways to get somebody off of you to give you enough time to get away. After taking a self-defense class, I made my decision to more aware of my surroundings and be ready to defend myself.

*The authors would like to note that sexual assaults can happen to anyone at any time and freezing during an attack is common. If you or anyone you know has personally been a victim of sexual assault, please see an advocate at VCU’s Wellness Resource Center, talk to VCU police or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) to speak with a trained staff member in your area.*

*statistic taken from http://news.vcu.edu/article/VCU_Police_help_students_faculty_and_staff_prepare_for_new_semester

VCU Contributor Account
Emily is a part-time coffee addict and a full-time English and Public Relations student at Virginia Commonwealth University. She enjoys all things punny, intersectional feminism, Chrissy Teigen's tweets and considers herself a bagel & schmear connoisseur. You can probably find her either listening to the Hamilton soundtrack or binge watching The Office for the thousandth time