For some high school students, gym class could mean a lesson in self-defense.
Paul Henry Danylewich, founder of the self-defense program, “White Tiger,” and author of “Fearless: The Complete Personal Safety Guide For Women,” has written a public letter to Gov. Bill Owens pushing legislative action requiring schools to provide self defense education during physical education classes at high school levels.
“The pressure I hope to cause is for some positive changes around the state,” Danylewich said. “My main goal is to make a precedent and introduce mandatory self protection.”
Danylewich became concerned with Colorado after meeting Wendy Cohen, the mother of Lacy Miller, the University Of Northern Colorado student who was abducted and murdered in January.
“What happened to Lacy is a horrible thing,” he said. “It made me mad and I felt like I wanted to do something.”
According to Danylewich, 25 to 35 percent of all women in the United States will be raped.
“It’s time that something has to be done,” he said. “The way to stop this is by making people aware, that is the message I’d like to send.”
In his letter to the governor, he says, “A failure to provide such an essential life-skill as personal safety training is something that I view as a form of educational neglect.”
Rather than primarily focusing on fending off assailants, Danylewich stresses the importance behind avoiding potentially dangerous situations.
“It’s not just street safety but a way to recognize violence and escape it,” Danylewich said. “Most people don’t have a plan. My goal is to help people understand the context by which crimes occur.”
Attackers may ask for a cigarette, change for a dollar or directions, all which are referred to as “con” type of approaches.
Having interviewed around 50 rapists Danylewich knows the many tricks an assailant will use to harm the victim. Eighty percent of all rapes occur after prior interaction has been made with the attacker, Danylewich said.
The most dangerous scenario occurs when a victim becomes secluded or alone with an attacker, elevating the crime scene from primary to secondary, whereby the victim has no control over the environment.
“We don’t want (women) to be nice or polite, to answer questions or light a cigarette,” he said. “We want them to think about their own safety first, you got to act on your instincts. We teach women to be defensive, to live defensively.”
Danylewich encourages women to have a plan of action and to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses.
“It’s pretty basic, stand five feet away, look at them in the throat, not at the ground, and respond, ‘no.’Cut off all dialogue, get your hands in front of you like you mean business and act on your instincts.”
He also proposes Colorado police act with more sensitivity within the communities where they serve.
Commenting on Colorado’s use of unmarked police cars he said, “you have to step back and wonder how sensitive (police) are to public needs. I’d like to see the governor step up to this.”
Like Danylewich, Cohen is pushing for women’s safety through legislative means. By attempting to have the “Lacy Law” passed, members of the public would be prohibited from possessing any form of police paraphernalia.
The “Lacy Law,” makes it a class one misdemeanor to have police lights mounted on your vehicle and a class two misdemeanor to have badges and other police paraphernalia. According to the proposed law, police will seize possessions related to police paraphernalia when found in a person’s possession.
Cohen says she is optimistic about the law and happy something is being done.
“I don’t make the laws, so I have to go to the people who do,” she said. “I’m going to try to get their attention.”
Cohen says she’d like to see regulations prohibiting the sale of police paraphernalia to members of the public.
“If they did that with Jason, Lacy might be here.”
The current policy fines and penalizes perpetrators, but doesn’t take (paraphernalia) away, Cohen said. “If you’re onto them, they take off.”
Cohen supports the legislation being pushed by Danylewich.
“It’s great, I think kids should be aware of how to protect themselves, even since they are young,” she said. “As an educator, I do that anyway in my teen living classes.”
Though she feels the Fort Collins area is improving, Cohen hopes to continue to see positive changes in the community.
“There needs to be something in place so that we can work together to make it safer,” she said.
Friends of Lacy Miller will be on the plaza next week with petitions outside of the student center.
“The more people that sign the better,” said Amanda Huddleston, “a close friend.”
Cohen would like self-defense education to be available for free to the community and some CSU students support the idea.
“It would be great, but I recommend they advertise, ‘free’,” said Noelle Rau, a junior studying health and exercise. “The biggest problem is that college students can’t afford them.”
“A failure to provide such an essential life-skill as personal safety training is something that I view as a form of educational neglect.” Danylewich