ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – Monday night was all about learning how to protect yourself and avoid becoming a victim at Fleet Feet in Roanoke. Their women’s self-defense class is now entering its 7th year, and organizers said it’s making a difference.
There’s always some sort of learning to be done at Fleet Feet, whether it’s about athletic gear or fending off an attack. Crystal Kennedy is a store manager and said their women’s self-defense class has become part of their DNA.
“Our owners have always felt like this was a responsibility to do this for the community, after COVID it wasn’t just looked at as an option it was viewed as a responsibility, something that we must do to make sure the community stays safe,” Kennedy said.
The program began in 2014 after a handful of high-profile violent attacks against women in the Roanoke area and across the Commonwealth. Roanoke City Police Department Lt. Jennifer Boswell leads the classes and after reflecting on their work feels they’re making a difference.
“People approach me and go ‘Hey, I remember you you taught the safety class’ and then they’ll throw a fist up and go ‘I got it,’ you know and that’s always a rewarding feeling that they’re remembering those things,” Boswell said.
This time around though, there was no hands-on practice, rather just a lecture and some demonstrations. Typically, the class is hands-on as women practice techniques against male “attackers” suited up in safety gear. Despite the change, Boswell said the tips remain the same, especially that a good offense is always the best defense.
“Go running with a buddy, go shopping with a buddy, go run your errands with a buddy, that will help keep us off our cell phones because you’ll have a buddy there talking to, you have another person that’s looking around with you,” Boswell said.
While instances of violence at area parks and trails remain low, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Kennedy said the message was well received.
“It was great to see everyone back out and the crowd, we had a great response to it, they were very engaged and you can see that this is something that is on our community’s mind right now with the type of questions that they’re asking,” Kennedy said.