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Draper Journal

Attack on trail prompts police to offer self-defense class

Oct 21, 2019 12:46PM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton

Sergeant Crane and Officer Skirvin were among the instructors for the police department’s women’s self-defense class.

By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]

Following the attack of a woman on a Draper trail, police offered a free self-defense class with more to come. And area runners and walkers, particularly women, are thinking more about personal safety.

A 26-year-old woman was running alone shortly before 9 p.m. on Sept. 12 when she was grabbed from behind by a man wearing dark clothing. She sprayed her assailant with pepper spray and was able to escape. The woman contacted police, but the man fled the scene and police have been unable to locate him. “It’s an ongoing investigation. We’re actively following up on all leads that we have,” said Sgt. Scott Adams of the Draper Police Department. According to Adams, the incident happened across the street from Draper Park, just 100–200 feet from 1300 East on the Porter Rockwell Trail.

That incident sparked an idea between Adams and Police Chief John Eining. “The chief suggested holding a women’s self-defense class. I lead our training within our department, so I reached out to our defensive tactics instructors and the conversation just naturally flowed that this is something we could create,” Adams said. 

The police department’s defensive tactics instructors are the officers that teach other officers self-defense. They held their first self-defense class for women Oct. 16. After being advertised on Facebook, the class quickly filled to capacity with 25 students. Six instructors, a mixture of men and women, led the three-hour class. 

The police taught that mindset is most important, meaning to be aware of your surroundings and to know that if you need to defend yourself, you can and you will. “Humans have a biological response when we’re presented with a dangerous situation — it’s fight, flight or freeze. Being able to switch that mindset to not freeze up, changing that mindset to fight that attacker at that right moment and then remove yourself from the situation, run if you can. It comes down to having an aggressive attitude,” Adams said. He went on to say that it would be better for students to participate in ongoing self-defense classes offered outside of the police department to best be prepared.

“Watch for people who are suspicious, who don’t look like they’re using the trail for normal purposes such as running, jogging or walking. And if you have a bad feeling about that person, avoid that person as best you can. The most important thing is be aware of your surroundings,” Adams said. 

The police department also recommends exercising in groups, carrying a whistle, pepper spray or a weapon you’re trained to use, and reporting any suspicious activity or people. 

Heather Fowler frequently runs and bikes in the area. She laments the fact that women even have to think about being attacked, but she’s adopted the attitude that if she needs to defend herself, she will. (Mimi Darley Dutton/City Journals)

Heather Fowler has been running for more than a decade and she’s currently training for a triathlon. “I assume that for any female, it’s always on your mind. This is how you think all the time. I don’t think it’s right that we even have to do that. I’ve learned it’s your attitude — you will rue the day that you mess with me,” she said.  

Fowler said she considered running in the Dimple Dell area but had come to the Draper trails for her training instead. “It’s sad that any woman or girl should come out here for a run and have that happen. You know men don’t ever have to worry about this and I know, I’ve asked them! Never once do they have to think about that type of safety thing.  It makes you crazy,” Fowler said. “But it makes you run faster.”