Apr 142009

In January 2003 Lacy Jo Miller was pulled over just a few blocks from her Fort Collins home by a police impersonator who kidnapped and murdered her.

2 Hearts: The Lacy Jo Miller Foundation, named in her honor, hosted the first of a two-part series called “Realistic Safety Strategies for Teen Girls and Women” Tuesday. Throughout the month of April, the foundation will be hosting a Safety Series Seminar that focuses on violence prevention.

The 2 Hearts foundation was established three years ago after Miller, the daughter of the founder and director of the foundation Wendy Cohen, was murdered.

“(This series) educates women about practical ways to be safe and prevent violent attacks. It’s important to be careful, be smart and know what to do,” said Cohen. “If my daughter had this kind of information, maybe I wouldn’t be standing here today.”

Cohen said the foundation focuses on safety awareness, restorative justice and violence prevention. 2 Hearts believes that through education, awareness and prevention, violence can be stopped.

“It’s important to know how to be safe and how to prevent (violence),” said Kayla Crowder, a senior social work major and intern at 2 Hearts.

As a non-profit organization, 2 Hearts hosts fundraisers like Tuesday’s throughout the year and depends on donations.

Cohen said that this year they are hosting a smaller safety series than in previous years, and the series will run three times: Once throughout the month of April and again in the summer and fall.

Nicole Sundine, a police officer and former detective, presented information on personal safety, violence prevention and criminal victimization.

“Typically what we’re preparing for in our mind is a stranger ambush, which is not the most common,” Sundine said. “You have to be prepared for when it’s your boss asking you to go get supplies with them, the neighbor across the street or an intimate partner.”

Sundine said 78 percent of assaults are perpetrated by someone familiar to the victim, 9 percent are relatives, 29 percent are intimate partners, and 40 percent are acquaintances.

Studies show that women in focus groups usually have an inaccurate picture of who might be dangerous to them.

“If we have a picture of who will do this, it causes problems. It brings your guard down if they look different. We have to get that out of our head because that’s the problem,” Sundine said. “I don’t care who it is, a spouse, neighbor, church-goer, if they make you feel uncomfortable follow your gut feeling. Don’t ignore it because it’s there for a reason.”

The presentation focused on the importance of developing situational awareness, understanding the importance of distance and movement, and learning the right way to cause a scene.

“If you don’t develop situational awareness by the time you need to react then it’s too late. If you can keep your distance, you can prevent contact, access, isolation and control. Keeping distance gives you time to react. It allows you to get into a stance to defend yourself and plan an escape route,” said Sundine.

In an analysis of assaults, statistics show that:

If there is no resistance, 93 percent of assaults are completed

96 percent are completed if the victim is verbally passive by either pleading with them or asking them not to hurt them

44 to 55 percent are completed when the victim is verbally forceful

15 percent are completed if the victim runs and

14 percent are completed if the victim uses physical forcefulness.

“I’d rather you say nothing at all then to be passively verbal because this makes you look compliant. Fighting back is very effective and is a possible option for you,” Sundine said.

A few vulnerable zones to target in an attack are the throat, eyes, nose, elbows, groin, knees, shins, ankles and feet, Sundine said. She stressed that no matter how strong or big someone is, those parts are just as fragile.

“Movement and escape should always be on your mind. Anticipate the situation – if he does this then I’ll do this. For the most part, (criminals) can’t commit the crime if they can’t isolate you,” said Sundine.

2 Hearts: The Lacy Jo Miller Foundation will be hosting the second part to “Realistic Safety Strategies for Teen Girls and Women” on Tuesday.

Staff writer Justyna Tomtas can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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