Self-defense course helps college women

By Erin Kolb

Tuesday marked the first of three free self-defense classes for women taught by Rape Aggression Defense-certified instructors from NIU.

Course instructor Jennifer Kirker-Priest, director of the Anthropology Museum, said one in five college-aged women is the victim of attempted or completed sexual assault, which is why the program is aimed at college women.

“This class teaches how to defend against abduction,” Priest said. “Ideally, participants won’t even need to use the physical techniques as well.”

DeKalb officer Jessica Duehning was one of the other instructors at the class. Duehning said the class is taught only to women because the type of defense is usually different between genders.

“This class emphasizes the reduction of your vulnerability to crimes,” Duehning said. “It just gives females a better way of handling themselves in risky situations, and it gives confidence in case one of these students should be in these situations.”

Instructor Annie Oelschlager, archives assistant for NIU’s anthropology department, said the class specifically targets college-aged females because the college environment is increasingly dangerous.

“College campuses are where women are more vulnerable,” Oelschlager said. “Statistically, more sexual assault happens to women in colleges. I think how students have been starting college fresh out of high school with a new environment [is] a more conducive environment for crime like that.”

In the first hour of the three-hour course, Priest, Duehning and Oelschlager discussed ways to be aware of surroundings in order to avoid an assault or abduction situation. They taught cautious, defensive and warning stances. They also taught basic blocks and parries.

Danielle Spalenka, curator of manuscripts at the Regional History Center, attended the course. She liked that the class was free, and said it is always good to have self-defense skills.

“You never know what could happen,” Spalenka said. “I’ve lived in bigger cities, too, and it’s always kind of on your mind. I’ve known other people who have taken self-defense classes and raved about them. It’s something I’ve always wanted to learn.”

Registration is requested. To register, email Priest at