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A broader idea of self-defense at BSU

Self defense instructor Diane Long, left, leads a group of students in an Empowerment, Self-Defense and Self-Care class in the Lower Hobson Memorial Union on Wednesday. The event was held as part of BSU's Sexual Responsibility Week. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI—A handful of BSU students and staffers learned about a style of self-defense that goes beyond elbow strikes and hammerfists.

"Empowerment self-defense" considers social cues and the broader cultural context in which violence occurs, explained Diane Long, a longtime empowerment self-defense instructor who taught seminars about the technique on Tuesday night and Wednesday on campus.

"It's looking at the big picture of violence, so not only gender-based violence, but also everything from microaggressions, racialized violence, homophobic violence," Long explained. "It's very intersectional, and it's helping people figure out how to interrupt those things early."

So students at one seminar practiced reading Long's body language as she acted out a short scene with a volunteer who asked her out for drinks. They also worked on saying "no" to someone who gets too close to them—and how they knew when to tell the other person to halt. Two sets of striking pads sat nearby, unused for the moment. Long said her work also considers sex-positive notions and teaches students how to say "yes" to touch they like.

That type of training, Long told the Pioneer, is important in college campuses because young women are at a high risk for sexual violence during their first six months at college.

"Part of it is you're away from home, there's a lot of social settings where there's more independence," Long said. "There's a mentality around toxic masculinity sometimes, where there's some predatory behavior."

Some BSU students come from small, rural environments where they know everybody, said Lora Bertelsen, a psychologist in the university's counseling services department.

"They come to BSU and they go to a party...and they don't realize that nobody's got their back," she said. "So they sort of don't anticipate danger."

Others are afraid to say "no" or don't know how, Bertelsen said.

"And the self-defense stuff is going to break this down," Long said. "What are the barriers to speaking up and speaking out?"

Long's appearance at the university is part of "Sexual Responsibility Week." Students could take a look at an informational "romantic bedroom display" or play "condom bingo" on Monday. Students at Northwest Technical College can learn about bystander intervention at 11:30 a.m. Monday, Feb. 26, in conference room B at the technical college.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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