Self-defense experts offer safety tips after woman reportedly raped in Lynchburg park

Lynchburg police say a woman was raped at Riverside Park last Friday

By Magdala Louissaint - Lynchburg Bureau Reporter

LYNCHBURG, Va. - There’s high concern about the news of a woman being raped at Riverside Park in Lynchburg.

"Well it's definitely shocking. I mean, Lynchburg feels like a very safe place, a very family-friendly place. You don't hear about much crime,” Abby Woodruff, a Lynchburg resident and runner said.

Last Friday, a woman told Lynchburg police she was walking on one of the trails between 6:30 and 8:30 in the evening when a man assaulted and raped her.

She described him as an African-American, in his 30s, about 6 feet tall, with an average build and short hair. He was wearing a gray shirt. Woodruff runs around the park every day. 

"Especially as you get into the start of the evening hours, it's one of the reasons I don't (run) later in the day because I want there to be plenty of light,” Woodruff said.
 
Earlier this week, a surveillance camera in Massachusetts captured an attempted abduction, when a man stopped his car to attack a woman out for a morning run. She was able to fight him off.
 
"As a runner, or victim in this case, there always kind of coming from behind because the attacker has a secret formula. It's time, place and method of attack. They know when they're going to do these things,” Sidney Burns, owner and chief Instructor at COBRA Self Defense Systems in Forest.

Ten News showed Burns the surveillance video of the Massachusetts incident. He said, “and that's exactly what saved her life was the fact that she fought back."

Burns said there are two ways a predator may come in for an attack either by the hand or hair. He describes how you should fight them off.
 
Burns had his wife play the victim: “I grab, she pulls out, she strikes and gets away.” Burns adds while he pulls the victim's hair, "We pull, you spin, strike, and she gets away. So action is always faster than reaction. We must be ready."

COBRA officials say raise your voice when telling the perpetrator to back off and run tall and confident. Burns said to not look like a victim.

Lynchburg police continue to search for the man who attacked the woman in the park. Police ask anyone who might have been at the park around 6:30 to 8:30 last Friday evening to call Detective T.C. Barley at (434)-455-6162 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-888-798-5900.

Police said as trail and park use increases during the warmer months, it is important for everyone to be mindful of these simple safety tips:

• Utilize the buddy system. 
• Always remain vigilant and be aware of your surroundings. 
• If listening to music on headphones or earbuds, consider using only one earbud. 
• Carry a charged cellphone and proper identification. 
• Communicate to friends and family where you are going and when you plan to return. 
• Remain on the main trails or in the populated areas of the park. 
• Dial 911 for an emergency and note the Safety Marker (in red), along with mile and quarter-mile. markers to identify your location on a given trail or park. 
• Dial 434-847-1602 to report non-emergency incidents. 
• Carry a sound-making device such as a whistle. 
• Wear bright or light-colored clothing so you can be easily seen by others. 
• Observe posted rules and park hours. 
 

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