KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- Instructors are reporting a surge in the number of women signing up for self-defense classes.
The spike has been attributed to a combination of events including stories of sexual assault, the #MeToo movement, shocking murders of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts and top amateur golfer Celia Barquin Arozamena, both killed in random attacks in Iowa earlier this year.
Jim Murray is a certified defensive tactics and concealed carry instructor with the Professional Protection Institute. He says he’s seen the size of his classes double over the past year.
“We’re going to start with one thing in mind and we’re all going to say it together.” Murray told his class. “I will not die today.”
The group echoed back, “I will not die today.”
“That has to go through your mind,” Murray affirmed.
Survival is the most important part of his lesson. The goal is not to beat the attacker and win. The goal is to get away however possible.
“Use your voice, the voice is a very strong thing,” Murray said holding up his hand, palm facing outward.
“Stop!” he yelled. “We all have an international sign. What’s that mean? Stop!”
But saying ‘stop’ won’t always make an attacker back down. Murray teaches his class to attack their aggressor’s weak spots; the eyes, knees, slapping their eardrum with the heel of the hands. All of it is mental preparation for the worst-case scenario.
Attending the class was college freshman Faith Neary who knows all too well things go wrong when you least expect.
She says she was just a couple of months into the school year when an upperclassman she thought she could trust offered to walk her home. When they reached her dorm, everything changed.
“He forcibly kissed me, he slid his hand down to the waistline of my jeans, he touched my breasts and I was not comfortable,” Neary told KCTV5 News.
She says it didn’t stop there.
“When I told him ‘no’ he put his hands around my neck and tried to make me pass out," she said.
Neary says she doesn’t want to live in fear and hopes by sharing her story of assault others won’t have to either.
“I want people to be aware of this situation that can happen – and hopefully there isn’t a next time, but I will know what to do in that moment," she said.
Neary's story is far from rare.
College females are considered the group most at risk of sexual assault.
The Rainn Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network reports about 1 in 6 women in the U.S. have experienced rape or attempted rape. Women 18 to 24 are 3 times more likely to be attacked.