116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — After receiving notification after notification this school year warning of another sexual assault on campus, University of Iowa senior Jillian Brooks and other sorority members grew increasingly concerned — even scared — for their safety.
'It's out of control,' said Brooks, president of the UI's Rho Lambda Honor Society and member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. 'How many of these are going on?'
UI administrators this academic year began sending warning emails to the campus community for more than just stranger sex assaults — including sexual misconduct involving acquaintances.
Brooks said the increase in alerts made her and her sorority sisters more aware of the dangers they face and the need to take action.
'One of our members said she knew someone who teaches self-defense,' Brooks recalled.
So they asked him — Jack Michel, a local martial arts instructor and security officer at Riverside Casino & Golf Resort — to put on a seminar for the 112 women of Rho Lambda.
He agreed, and Brooks said the tips Michel offered were unique and invaluable in providing them not only knowledge of self-defense techniques but the confidence to use them.
'He was entertaining …
and it made sense,' Brooks said. 'The girls loved it.'
His advice was so well received, Brooks said, that Michel began offering classes twice a week to members of the sorority and now is seeking to expand his reach with a seminar targeting the UI Greek community.
Any member of the public or UI community is welcome to attend the event tonight in Macbride Hall on the UI campus, Brooks said. Though the event is sponsored by the Pan-Hellenic Council, it is advertised specifically to women in the Greek community.
'If they like what they see, he'll teach more classes in the summer and the fall,' Brooks said.
The UI Department of Public Safety also offers self-defense training to students referred to as R.A.D., which stands for Rape Aggression Defense. It is the nation's largest self-defense course for women and is taught at more than 1,400 colleges, universities and various agencies.
At the UI, dozens of students, faculty and staff take the course annually.
But, Brooks said, what Michel is offering seems unique, especially relevant to today's students and more accessible.
'Jack's approach is just very realistic,' she said.
The issue of sexual assault on college campuses and the demand for improved handling and prevention of campus rape and sexual misconduct is widespread. Some have called it a national movement, being driven, in part, by new federal mandates.
Many colleges and universities also have launched independent initiatives to prevent sexual misconduct — including offering self-defense training. Brooks said self-defense education is imperative, in part, because attackers often escape and never get caught.
'This makes us all feel safer when we walk around because now we know what to do to get over the shock factor and act in self-defense,' she said.
Michel, among many things, has taught the women how to use a standard pen as a weapon in an emergency.
'If you fight them to get away, you leave a mark,' Brooks said. 'And that's an identifier, and you might have their DNA.'
Michel said he was more than willing to train the UI sororities because he's concerned about a lack of information, and misinformation, on self-defense. As a security officer at the Riverside casino with extensive martial arts training and 30-plus years of self-defense and law enforcement instruction under his belt, Michel said he's grown frustrated with some of the common techniques in circulation.
'Most places teach cookie-cutter setup routines that do not work,' he said. 'I don't teach cookie-cutter stuff. Everything I teach works.'
Michel, in his training, talks about kicking, striking and running — fast.
'I teach them how to use a Bic pen and a can opener,' he said. 'You'd be surprised what you can do with a Bic pen.'
The classes he has been leading for the women involve workouts with punching bags and discussion around technique. At today's meeting, Iowa City police Sgt. Mike Brotherton will be on hand to answer questions — including whether people could face charges if they fight back against an attacker.
'You can't try to kill the guy,' Michel said. 'But if a guy grabs you and assaults you, and you stab him in the arm with a Bic pen, no one is going to convict you.'
Brotherton said he supports anything that raises awareness around dangers in the community and ways people can protect themselves.
'Incidents of someone jumping out of the bushes and grabbing you are not all that common,' he said. 'But it does happen. And we have to be alert and be prepared and don't panic.'
Individuals who find themselves under attack should do what it takes to escape, Brotherton said.
'The basic storyline is do what you need to do to survive,' he said. 'We are training for and practicing things that we might never have to use.
'But this gives us more confidence if the situation ever arises.'
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