Starting Thursday night, the Oxford Police Department will introduced a new self-defense and awareness program in its fight against sexual assault.
The Equalizer is a national program OPD is using to teach women how to spot and prevent dangerous situations, as well as learn self-defense against assault.
According to the Center of Disease Control, nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.
The program also addresses the protocol necessary after a sexual assault or rape has occurred to protect the evidence needed for prosecution.
These two-hour classes give attendees applicable skills for real situations.
Officer Tony Carleton is one of four OPD officers trained to teach the Equalizer women’s self-defense classes.
Precautionary actions are a large part of the Equalizer program.
“The common thing is not to look like a victim,” Carleton said.
In all environments, Carleton emphasized awareness is important.
“You cannot forget your personal safety … Being on your phone, looking down, not looking people in the face – those are the typical signs of victim.”
The program teaches self-defense tactics to use against attackers. Carleton said the course is an excellent preventative tool.
“We teach [women] things they might not have ever been shown,” he said. “How to recognize signs of potential problems, how not to be taken, how to defend yourself, how to escape and survive. It is a mindset that ‘I’m not going to be a victim.’”
While the program addresses self-defense for violent situations against strangers, the infuriating truth is that most rape and sexual assault victims know their attacker.
“Most of the time it’s someone you know. A lot of times those are not reported. We understand it’s embarrassing … but we can’t press charges unless we know about it, unless we get some evidence,” Carleton said.
The class will address how to respond when a rape or sexual assault has occurred.
Keeping the clothes the victim was wearing and documenting the potential injuries of an assault are necessary processes.
“That helps us to prosecute because if we don’t have that physical evidence, then it’s very hard for us,” he said. “We don’t want you to clean up. We want you to go to the hospital.”
Spotting abuse and predicting potential assault situations are more topics addressed in these classes.
Carleton said there are some potential indicators of a predator people can detect.
“Harsh talk, how they treat an animal, if they kick a dog or a cat, that might be something that would push back over if they’re upset,” he said. “Are they negative all of the time? If he’s just not friendly and not nice, those are some good red flags to recognize on a guy.”
Sexual assault isn’t something OPD handles often, but Carleton said he believes this isn’t because sexual assault isn’t happening, but rather because incidents often go unreported.
“For us to do something about it, you got to report it, and you have to let us know about it,” Carleton said. “Yes, we know it’s uncomfortable, but it’s still something we have to deal with.”
The Equalizer class also teaches simple defensive behaviors like making eye contact, only listening to one headphone when exercising outside and providing your own transportation.
“Typically, the thing that we teach is to not rely on someone to provide your transportation. Especially if it’s a first- or second-time date, we would much rather see you provide your own way,” Carleton said. “That way she’s not dependent on him. She can leave when she wants to. It sets the boundaries and the tone.”
With finals and late nights coming up, Carleton said being in pairs late at night greatly increases safety.
Eye contact alone has a big impact.
“We want women to look people in the face, say hello. Guys and predators do not like to be recognized … Let them know you’re there. We aren’t taught that in our culture. I get that.”
This program was designed to be taught across the country and is applicable to all women, not just college students.
“We always have to be concerned for our safety.”
Carleton advised coming with a partner to work with during the self-defense demonstrations.
The Equalizer classes will begin this Thursday, are free and do not require preregistration, but it is recommended to attend wearing comfortable clothes, as some of the training will be ground defense. Additional classes will be held for the next several weeks on April 20, May 11, June 1 and June 22. All classes will be held in the training building at OPD at 715 Molly Barr Road and will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Anyone age 13 and older can attend the class.
Questions or comments concerning the Equalizer classes should be addressed to Joe Bishop or Carleton at 662-232-2400. Carleton also said that any groups or organizations can contact the department to set up their own self-defense classes.
“We’ll come to you,” Carleton said. “We have four guys that are trained to show these techniques.”