On the attack

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By Vanessa Thomas

Social work students at Ryerson are going on the offensive – by taking self-defense classes.

Students will be taking a two-part interactive self-defense workshop presented by the Toronto Academy of Karate and Judo next week.

The optional workshop will teach students how to respond to being grabbed, held, choked and cornered through simulated attacks. The workshop is partially funded by a $1,500 Women’s Safety Grant from the Ministry of Education and Training.

“Self defense empowers women to feel secure” said Janet Lum, of Campus Equity and Harassment Services, who is coordinating the workshop.

“Our first emphasis is on precautionary techniques (in the classroom) to minimize the likeliness of attack such as the buddy system and talking to diffuse a situation.”

Social work students take a third-year safety training course, but self defense is not taught in the classroom.

Gail Kenyon, social work field education coordinator, said one or two students a year complain about being at physical risk during their fourth-year field placement. She recommends students learn self-defense before placement.

“Social work students could be sent to a hospital, seniors home or school. They’re often on the road by themselves and sometimes make home visits,”  said Kenyon.

“Being in social settings places students in a risky position, especially since this is a 70 percent male profession and a 90 percent female program.”

Jarrett Harris, a mature third-year social work student, encourages everyone to learn self defense, regardless of their gender.

Harris, who is six-feet -tall and 320 pounds, is attacked by patients up to 20 times each shift at his part-time job at a psychotic and autistic treatment and research centre.

“As a male I’m not tested as much by clients, but my female co-workers are tested a lot more,” said Harris .

“Some clients try to take advantage of women because of societal conditions that women are weaker, and that’s bullshit,” he said.

“Some of my female co-workers are just as aggressive as I am.”

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