My head whipped backward as my attacker yanked my ponytail toward him. Struggling to free myself from his iron grip, I kicked his knee then quickly spun around before sticking my thumb in his eye.

Well, not his actual eye, but the foam-lined cavity in his padded helmet. I then proceeded to knee my mock assailant — really an instructor in a protective suit — in the groin, grab his head on both sides and throw him to the ground. I was out of breath and my heart was racing, but I had never felt so powerful.

Although Palo Alto is a relatively safe city, incidents still happen — there have been several instances of sexual battery in the past few months — so it’s important to know how to protect yourself.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, females ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault. In addition, college women aged 18 to 24 are three times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence.

As a soon-to-be college-bound teen girl, I’ve recently been concerned about my safety both at home and in the real world. Walking into the chilly room that rainy January morning, I knew the André Salvage and Associates mother-daughter assault prevention class would teach me to defend myself — but I had no idea what I’d really signed up for.


Our instincts are there for a reason, and 99 percent of the time, they’re right.


To my surprise, we wouldn’t just be covering self defense — we would learn how to avoid and de-escalate dangerous situations before they became violent, whether it be by staying vigilant or acting assertive in uncomfortable environments.

This was especially helpful because, as the instructors explained, women in particular are conditioned to be indiscriminately polite and kind. However, in many situations, perpetrators can  use this to their advantage. The key to living a more honest and safe life, I learned, is to tell the people around you how their actions affect you with direct, firm language.

Once we finished going over the material, we moved on to simulations which tested our newfound knowledge, pushing me to say what I really felt.

This class also taught me not to doubt myself and my intuition as much. Our instincts are there for a reason, and 99 percent of the time, they’re right.

After hours of overcoming mental obstacles, we moved on to physical ones, practicing defensive moves in the air and engaging in freestyle fighting where our objective was to take out our “attacker” by targeting four zones: the eyes, throat, groin and knees. I not only learned how to protect myself, but also gained confidence.

Since taking the class, I’ve felt a stronger sense of safety when I go to the grocery store at night or take a run through the neighborhood alone. Before, I would worry about ways I could be attacked, but now I know that I can handle whatever situation I find myself in. Now, I know that I don’t need anyone else to save me. I can be my own hero.    v