Maria Lobron said she was prompted to take a university-sponsored self-defense course after hearing about the recent string of sexual assaults reported on campus.
"I wanted to be more informed and educated on defending myself," she said.
Lobron was just one participant in a four-part course taught by members of Penn State Police and the Center for Women Students. The Rape Aggression Defense course -- offered over the course of 12 hours at the Weston Community Center -- is broken down into four three-hour sessions, in which participants listen to a lecture and practice defensive maneuvers.
The course is designed to teach women to "make informed decisions and learn to protect themselves," Penn State Police Officer Rebecca Bywater said.
"It's definitely a good program to go to," she said. "It raises everyone's awareness, and it's something everyone can do."
Despite the increase in reported sexual assaults, instructor and Penn State Police Officer Aaron Ciambotti said the course is just as important as it's always been -- the number of sexual assaults just depends on the number of victims who actually report that they've been assaulted.
It's rewarding to teach the course, he said.
"You get people who come into the course thinking that they can't defend themselves, and they leave the course totally confident," he said.
About 15 women are participating in this fall's course -- held on Oct. 19, Oct. 21, today and Wednesday. The course is offered every semester in both a faculty and a student version. Sign-ups are in 204 Boucke Building.
At the first session, Ciambotti stressed the importance of reducing risk and minimizing the opportunity for attack, providing participants with safety tips.
He suggested that attendees practice dialing 911 with their cell phones off. Practicing will build the muscle memory, so they will still be able to dial under the pressure of an emergency, he said.
Ciambotti then taught participants how to position themselves when approached by an attacker, how to block themselves and how to throw several types of strikes. The participants then practiced -- first by themselves, and then on Ciambotti and other officers helping with the course.
At the last session, the instructors will put on "aggressor suits" and participants will engage in a simulation designed to let them practice some of the techniques, Ciambotti said.
Sarah May (senior-crime, law and justice) said she wanted to take a self-defense class because she plans to work in the corrections field. By the end of the Oct. 19 session, she said she was pleased with what she was learning.
"I'm looking forward to coming to the other classes and see how it pans out," she said. "I definitely like the hammer punch. I feel like you can put some power in it."