Empowerment Through Self Defense

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My "SASS-ters" from left to right: Miranda Erickson, Amanda DeBernardi, Cassie Slane, and me (Olivia Kennah).

ROCK SPRINGS– When I walked into Mesa Weidle’s SASS Go Self Defense class last Saturday, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but what I didn’t realize was how empowered I would feel walking out of the class.

The idea of a self defense class was a bit out of my comfort zone. However, my coworker Brayden Flack wrote a story last week about Mesa’s motivation behind becoming a self defense instructor. As a follow up, we thought it would be a good idea to participate in one of her classes.

[Check out Brayden’s story about Mesa here: Living for Lauren.]

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When our SweetwaterNOW content team was deciding who should take Mesa’s class and write about the experience, I can tell you I did not volunteer but was more so volunteered.

However, a series of memories played in the mind that motivated me to not only take the class for this very article you’re reading, but to better protect myself.

Those memories included all the times I had to walk to my car after evening classes and labs at the University of Wyoming. No matter how short the walk, I always held my car and house keys between my fingers as means for defense in case someone suddenly attacked me.

If you too have found yourself walking to or from your car with your keys between your fingers, you may benefit from Mesa’s class.

Myself and Miranda Erickson practicing a move (and having a blast as we do so).

What is SASS Go?

According to SASS (Surviving Assault Standing Strong) Go’s website, they are “on a mission to eradicate abuse, assault, and trafficking globally.”

According to Mesa, giving a woman the power to fight back can be more healing than therapy in some ways, as you are instilling her with the means to protect herself.

If you’re like me, you may have had the thought, “I know assault happens, but it won’t happen to me.” But the statistics are, 1 in 3 women will experience sexual assault, interpersonal violence, or stalking in their life time.

As Mesa said, she doesn’t like statistics because you’re talking about people, not numbers, but that statistic is jarring.

From my perspective, for things to change you have to change the culture we live in. However, until that change occurs, us women have to live each day knowing we could be in danger at any moment. Though self defense won’t change the culture, it can give us ladies some security.

Cassie Slane and Miranda Erickson practicing one of the moves we learned.

SASS-ter Code

SASS Go teaches self defense to women and only women. Sorry, boys, but this fight club is not for you. Therefore, I cannot discuss the moves we learned in our class or share too many details.

Though sexual violence affects both men and women, the statistics show it affects women in higher numbers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC reports that in the U.S., 43.6% of women (nearly 52.2 million) experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime, while 24.8% of men (nearly 27.6 million) in the U.S. experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.

Much of the SASS Go class is about empowering women. Not only does it give women skills and tools to help them defend themselves, but it teaches women that they are worth fighting for.

“You’re worth it,” Mesa said throughout the class.

When I entered the room, I was nervous and wasn’t sure how to carry myself. I had a feeling I was going to be uncomfortable throughout the two-hour session. However, all four of us in that class felt that way. From the very start, you feel as though you’re going on this self defense journey as a tribe.

By the time the class finished, we all had invaded each other’s personal space, but we also encouraged each other and watched each other find an inner capability to stand up for ourselves. We felt empowered and totally worth it.

Amanda DeBernardi and I practicing a move during the class.

Trusting Yourself

Mesa said women tend to have instinctual gut feelings that allow us to detect when someone feels uncomfortable. Mesa described it as meeting someone and “feeling” like something is off, but not being able to put your finger on it.

Mesa and SASS Go encourages women to trust that gut feeling. Mesa says many women have a “disease to please” that can put us in dangerous or compromising situations. However, she wants women to understand that they have a right to say no.

My biggest takeaway from the SASS Go class is that we as women are absolutely worth it. We deserve to trust ourselves and we deserve to give ourselves the tools to defend ourselves.

Why You Should Become A SASS-ter

After taking just one class, I feel so much more empowered and more equipped to handle myself. And now I find myself wanting all of my women friends to feel the same way.

A few days after I took the class, my friend texted me that a man had just catcalled her as she walked past him to enter a coffee shop, and he then proceeded to stare at her through the window. This of course made her not only uncomfortable but threatened. I found myself wishing she had taken Mesa’s class as well.

No woman should be made to feel uncomfortable, scared, or threatened when they simply go to get a coffee. However, that’s the world we live in. The very least we can do for ourselves, as women who are worth it, is ensure we are not left defenseless.

I encourage all women to take a SASS Go class. Do it for yourself. You deserve it.