By Zack Orsborn
TUPELO – Over 30 women of all ages gathered at FITCamp for Women on Saturday to start a four-part course in self defense while also raising money for Northeast Mississippi Shelter and Assistance in Family Emergencies (S.A.F.E.).
Jennifer Baker, patrol officer for Tupelo Police Department and defensive tactics instructor, partnered with FITCamp for Women and Inspire Fitness & Mixed Martial Arts to teach women basic moves to defend themselves in dangerous situations.
“This course is very similar to the defensive tactics course that I teach at the police academy,” Baker said. “Women feel confident, and they are not so scared to go out and engage in the community. They are able to live a more vibrant life. They are able to make sure they are safe.”
For the first course, Baker and TPD’s Lt. James Hood informed the women on what they can do in their day-to-day lives to be safe.
In the following weeks, the two will teach them basic strikes, grabs, holds, chokes and defense against those moves.
“The biggest thing is prevention,” Baker said. “If you can recognize the signs of danger and threat before it happens, then a lot of times, it’s going to negate anything from happening.”
Baker hopes the women feel more secure when they go on vacation, to the mall or go out running. Overall, she wants them to feel more confident.
Instead of being paid to teach the course, she and Hood decided to give the funds to S.A.F.E., a shelter catering to women and children that experienced domestic violence.
“I love what S.A.F.E. does, and part of the whole reason of doing this was giving back to the community,” Baker said. “It’ll be great because they’ll be able to provide more care and opportunities for some of the women that they take in based on the fact that these women are coming to take the class. It’s women helping women.”
Baker said men attacking women is still a prevalent problem in society and probably always will be.
“It has been since the Bible days, and it’s probably going to continue to be that way,” Baker said. “I wish instead of women’s self defense classes, there were men’s etiquette classes to teach men maybe to not attack women. It’s going to happen, so we might as well be able to defend ourselves against it.”
Casey Sanders, owner of FITCamp for Women, runs an all-women’s gym, so she understands the importance of women’s safety and being able to empower them to be more confident.
“I think these courses will make these women more aware of their surroundings and know they can fight back,” Sanders said.
Sanders previously volunteered at S.A.F.E. in high school, so it came full circle for her to host the courses in her gym.
“I love being able to work with S.A.F.E.,” she said. “This will raise awareness and money at the same time.”
So far, the course has raised over $1,250. The final number will be released after the last session in March. FITCamp for Women and Inspire Fitness & Mixed Martial Arts plan on hosting the self defense courses twice a year.
Deborah Yates, executive director of S.A.F.E., said the fundraiser will help out tremendously, especially since they see an average of 100 women and 100 children come through the shelter a year.
“In the past, we have tried to meet fiscal needs of not just the women, but the children’s needs as well,” Yates said. “Some grants don’t allow you to do that. Non-restrictive funds like these will allow us to help our clients with medications.”
Yates said the funds will also help with the purchase of black work shoes for women who find jobs in the fast food industry. Personal hygiene items like deodorant and toothpaste are almost always needed.
The S.A.F.E. shelter offers individual counseling and adult support groups. With more funds, the S.A.F.E. clients will have the opportunity to see that they are not in their situation by themselves.
“I think sometimes they feel very isolated,” Yates said. “The shelter setting assures her that there is nothing wrong with her. The problem lies with him. I think that’s very helpful in getting her turned around.”
On Feb. 20, S.A.F.E. will host Jeans for Justice where donors can give $5 for the ability to wear jeans to work. In April, S.A.F.E. will host their annual Fun Run.