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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 16, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 51
SOSea self-defense class instructs community members how to avoid being the target of hate
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SOSea self-defense class instructs community members how to avoid being the target of hate

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Sometimes - no matter if we walk home in a group or alone, or even if we are inside of a packed business - somebody filled with hate in their heart, or whose judgment is muddled by mental health issues, might zero in on a person who is or is perceived to be LGBTQ and commit a bias crime (otherwise known as a 'hate crime'). In these instances the victims are often caught by surprise, unprepared for how to best defend themselves. They also often report that they felt completely alone, the crimes sometimes happening under the watchful eyes of those who fail to step in and do anything about it.

There is more that compounds the situation. Members of the LGBTQ and other marginalized communities often feel like they shouldn't report a crime because they feel the police department is not on their side or won't treat the case with sensitivity or compassion. Whether or not this is a true description of how the Seattle Police Department (SPD) handles the reporting of a bias crime is neither here nor there; the fact remains that that sentiment exists.

At Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea), a social justice organization of which I am founder and current president, we believe that the best way for members of the GBTQ community to stay safe is to know how to defend themselves against attack, as well as know how to seek justice.

In the wake of the deadly Pulse nightclub attacks six months ago, SOSea produced a self-defense class that focused on an active-shooter situation to help ease the fear that some community members might have about what to do if faced with such a terrible situation. Instructor and SOSea board member Mac S. McGregor went over different places to hide, the Department of Homeland Security's 'Run, Hide, Fight' model, and even gun take-away procedures that he is certified to teach. Nearly 100 people were in attendance, and there was a general sentiment that members of our community wanted to see more of these kinds of trainings.

Last week, in Neighbours nightclub (1509 Broadway), SOSea continued self-defense training with a special class on hate crimes, entitled 'United We Stand.' It was attended by nearly 50 people (from 10 years old to retirement age). As always, the class was free, all inclusive (LGBTQ and allied folks alike are invited to attend), appropriate for all ages, and - with just an hour and a half to provide the information - straight to the point. Less talking, more learning.

The latest class was in direct response to the growing fears of members of the LGBTQ and marginalized communities about what will happen in the wake of Donald Trump's election. Hate crimes are being reported at an increased rate across the US. So many people want to know what they can do if they find themselves in such a dangerous and egregious situation.

McGregor, a world champion martial arts expert and former bodyguard to entertainers such as Diana Ross, explained to the class that the best way to win a fight is to not get into one. So verbally telling people to leave you alone loud enough to get other people's attention is vital. Also, saying things like, 'Get away from me, I don't know you' loudly makes people look toward what is occurring, and - if you were to be attacked - provides witnesses that could help you when seeking justice.

Basic self-defense tactics were taught, as well as several more advanced tactics. McGregor went over the difference between self-defense and assault, which self-defense tools are best (e.g., pepper spray or stun gun), and much more.

Lastly, and perhaps the most important part, he reiterated that you must report these crimes when they occur. You'd have to be terribly unlucky to be the first victim of such an attacker, and so if you don't want something like this to happen to anyone else, don't aid your attacker in getting away with the crime. Reporting crime is a way a police department justifies resources and where they are used. If there truly is an increase in hate crimes in Seattle, the department can only know that if these attacks or crimes are reported. Reporting to Facebook or Twitter that you have been attacked is not the same are reporting to the police.

If you feel like you do not want to speak to the police and would like an advocate, contact Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea) at SocialOutreachSeattle@gmail.com and we will gladly help in any way we can. If you want to let the police know that such an attack has occurred but want to speak to an LGBTQ officer, contact SPD LGBTQ Liaison Officer Jim Ritter through the SPD Safe Place Program at www.SPDSafePlace.com.

SOSea will continue to offer monthly self-defense classes throughout 2017. A schedule of classes and the location of each class will soon be published on our website, www.SocialOutreachSeattle.com.

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