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"Educating our communities and elected officials about the needs of survivors in our local cities and towns requires year round focus. JDI is our pathway to informing and influencing the state and national agenda to end sexual and domestic violence." ~ Karen Cavanaugh, JDI board member and Executive Director of Womanshelter/Companeras, pictured here with a JDI delegation meeting with Congressman Niki Tsongas

Shaken, Boston women prepare to fight back

By:  Richard Weir, Gary Remal

 

Rattled Hub women — feeling vulnerable after the horrific murder of 24-year-old Amy Lord and two other vicious street attacks in South Boston — lit up the phone lines of a self-defense center yesterday looking to learn mixed martial arts, even as a pair of state lawmakers renewed calls to lift the ban on over-the-counter sales of Mace and pepper spray.

“It’s indescribable how many young woman have been calling. The phone has been ringing off the hook,” said Gene Frechette, an instructor at the Ultimate Self Defense and Performance Center in Southie, who said he fielded as many as 60 calls from women “excited” to sign up for a free month-long self defense course the B Street studio offered in the wake of Lord’s slaying and violent assaults on two other women.

“It’s easy to be complacent,” added Frechette, who teaches a blend of karate, judo and Brazilian jiujitsu. “People put a lot of time and effort into their jobs, and school, even mundane things in life, like Facebook and TV. But learning to protect yourself is paramount in today’s society.”

Women wanting to use Mace or pepper spray — instead of their hands and feet — to fend off an attack will find it difficult in Massachusetts, which has among the nation’s most restrictive laws regulating self-defense sprays.

State Rep. Kimberly N. Ferguson is looking to change that. The Holden Republican has filed a bill to legalize over-the-counter purchases of such sprays, which now can only be obtained by registering with police and applying for a $25 state permit, similar to a firearms license.

“I can’t say pepper spray would have made a difference” in Lord’s death, Ferguson said. “But there are a number of women who have to work late at night ... and it gives them some protection. It’s a deterrent and might save someone, or at least let someone get away or fight back.”

Senate Republican Whip Richard J. Ross of Wrentham, whose two daughters attended college in Boston, has pushed for similar legislation making it easier to buy Mace. “It’s never made sense to make pepper spray a weaponized product,” Ross said.

Tony Hanley, owner of One Step Beyond Martial Arts in Hyde Park, where Lord’s body was dumped in a park, said he tells women taking his Rape Aggression Defense course to avoid letting an attacker drag them to another location.

“If you really believe someone is capable of harming you in public, just think what they will do if they drag you to a basement or deep in the woods, where nobody will hear you scream,” Hanley said. “Run, and run loudly, is often the best defense.”

But Toni Troop of Jane Doe Inc., a statewide coalition against sexual assault and domestic violence, said there’s a “fine line” between “victim blaming” and encouraging personal safety steps in light of Lord’s murder.

“The only person who could have stopped this horrific crime from happening was the perpetrator,” Troop said. “It’s very easy to say what if she did this, or what if she did that.”

- See more at: http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2013/07/shaken_boston_women_prepare_to_fight_back#sthash.CivwtrQG.dpuf

 


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