Women learn self-defense skills at free workshop

The Homer Police Department sponsored the event for the fifth year

The Homer Police Department offered a free four-hour women’s self-defense course in the Homer Middle School multipurpose room on Saturday, March 2. Approximately 25 women attended the course led by Lt. Ryan Browning with several additional local police officers. Assistance was also provided by some female instructors from Redemption Mixed Martial Arts, a gym in Soldotna.

The program began after the 2021 arrest of Kirby Calderwood, who is charged in the disappearance of Anesha “Duffy” Murnane. According to Browning, a few of the officers started looking at what the department might be able to offer to contribute to community safety and well-being and suggested to the police chief the idea of a women’s-only self-defense class.

“In 99 out of 100 sexual assault cases we respond to, women are the victims and we wanted to see what we could do as a positive change agent to address that,” Browning said.

The school district offered free use of the school space and the officers were technically engaged in working hours to provide the course so there is not really a concern for funding the program, Browning said. Rachel Miller with Alaska Plumbing and Mechanical also provided catering for the event.

Saturday’s course was the fifth time the workshop has been offered in Homer. In previous workshops participation has been higher with as many 150 people enrolling.

The curriculum for the course is based on some simple self-defense skills, Browning said.

“We look at what to do if somebody attacks you, either from the front or back; what you need to do to get them in a clench position and get them to the ground in an effective way. We talk about what various forms of assault might look like. We also talk a lot about setting boundaries and why that’s so important and we try to give the women some physical skills to reinforce those boundaries,” Browning said.

Another discussion component of the course is the “fight, flight, freeze” features of self defense.

Browning said it’s typical to refer more frequently fight or flight, but the “freeze” component or reaction is important to consider and be aware of also. “Freeze” is a legitimate physical response to trauma. Browning explained that it’s a response that is sometimes unavoidable, “with a lot of the women we talk to who have been victims of sexual assault, ‘I froze’ is a very common response.”

In previous classes, the Police Department has included a counselor in the room to potentially address emotional issues that might emerge in the course but that person’s services were not utilized so that feature was discontinued.

“We try to keep the tone light. If you’re laughing, you’re learning and we don’t want to create a stressful environment,” Browning said.

The course will be offered again in approximately four months but is not scheduled yet.

Information and community announcements from the Homer Police Department are shared on the department’s Facebook page.