Women learn a basic defense stance by Isaac Payne, owner of PAC Jiu-Jitsu.
By ROSELYNN YAZZIE
FORT HALL — Statistically, one-third of Native women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime and murder is the third leading cause of death among them. In an effort to protect themselves, a group of mostly women are learning to fight back with the help of a free Self-Defense Class.
The event took place on Friday, November 4 at Timbee Hall, where Brigham Young University-Idaho student, Marissa Harrison, who is part Navajo, organized the class for a class project. Harrison is a communication major with an emphasis of strategic organization and is working on her law degree, specifically tribal law.
She described this project as something near and dear to her heart. She knows firsthand, people who’ve been sexually assaulted and with rates increasing for Native American women and men she wanted to do her part to make a difference.
Harrison’s had previous experience working within the community for the Fort Hall Recreation program.
She was excited to see the turnout with 21 participants signing in. The majority were women who ranged from the elementary age to elders.
“Even if it helped one individual that would’ve been more than enough,” Harrison said.
Participants at the self-defense class on Friday, November 4.
Harrison said learning self-defense is important for everyone to learn at any age. She’s continuing to work on getting free self-defense kits for participants.
The Self-Defense Class was instructed by Isaac and Amanda Payne, founders of PAC Jiu-Jitsu in Rexburg. They went over basic self-defense techniques, including stance; movement; hits, like a palm strike; how to defend; kicks; and so on. The participants practiced their moves with one another for experience.
Issac said having self-defense skills is as important as any other lifesaving skill, just like CPR and first aid.
“Any of those things that can potentially save your life in a dangerous situation, self-defense fits right in that category – Statistically, you’re a lot more likely to need this than a lot of other things. To me it’s a basic like skill, everyone should learn it, and if they do learn it they’ll be walking through life that much safer, he said.
“Carrying the Message” MMIP/MMIW coordinator, Willeena George, Shoshone-Bannock tribal member, said the group began in 2019 with the missing of Austin Frost Pevo and later Matthew Broncho. Within two years they found Pevo’s body and last year his murderer was convicted. The group continues to advocate for others who’ve gone missing and need justice. George says seeing the epidemic of missing women in Indian Country motivates her to continue doing the work to bring awareness and be there for the families.
George said the Self-Defense Class was very important because they wanted to train some women if they came out to get awareness.
“We hear a lot around the community that there’s people out there that target women. We wanted to show the reservation that there is a way to combat that,” she said.
Shania Benally, Navajo BYU-I student and volunteer, said she decided to help with the event because she thought of all the girls and how they were somebody’s daughters or somebody’s nieces.
“I just wanted to let young women know out there that you can defend yourself and you can learn these defense mechanisms to save yourself,” she said.
Participants spar with one another as Payne instructs and observes.
Benally said one thing that stood out to her was seeing so many attend, which creates hope within the community.
“One thing I’d like everyone to remember about tonight is that they’re not alone and that together we can be strong and be courageous, that if you’re needing any help definitely look towards other people and know that they’re people out there who love you and want you in their lives,” said Benally.