Women’s self-defense seminar hosted in Kinsmen Park

·3 min read

STAND Against Sexual Assault hosted a self-defense seminar for women in Kinsmen Park on Aug. 17, helping women to realize their own strength, among other motivations.

According to Erin Brassard, founder of STAND Against Sexual Assault, the seminar was also aimed to help attending women increase their confidence, feel empowered and learn a little about how to potentially defend themselves.

“It’s about knowing your own strength and knowing the badass that you can be,” said Brassard.

The seminar was hosted with Maeghen Cotterill, an 11-time world champion mixed martial artist, who partnered with STAND to help with their cause.

“We really want to build a community of support for people who have experienced sexual violence. Our main mission of STAND is to end this stigma that surrounds sexual violence and to end victim blaming and victim shaming,” said Brassard. “A big reason that sexual violence is so common is because it’s not talked about. One-in-three men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime and two-in-three women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime — and that’s in Alberta.”

On the same note, Brassard described that against women, less than 10 per cent of men are committing acts of sexual violence.

Brassard and Cotterill said they began working together following a women’s event they had both been attending and jumped at the opportunity to create their self defense seminar.

Since its inception, their team has brought it to junior and senior high schools, as well as local communities.

“STAND has been an organization that I care very deeply for and have been involved with for several years. I’ve been a survivor of sexual assault and sexual violence and so I want to be able to bring more awareness and more healing into the community,” said Cotterill. “If I can make people feel stronger and more confident, more empowered and give them permission to feel those things, but also feel like they have the potential to defend themselves in the way that makes them feel comfortable and safe, that’s a huge gift and it just adds more tools to their toolbox.”

Cotterill added she hopes to encourage everyone to come out and experience the seminar, regardless of how intimidating it may seem at first glance.

“Come with an open mind, you’re able to watch, you don’t have to participate in it,” said Cotterill. “If you learn one thing in the seminar, that’s one more thing that you didn’t have before. I want you to feel like you have permission to elevate yourself and grow and heal and be vulnerable and put yourself out there in a new and different situation.”

Over the long term, Brassard is aiming to continue making STAND activities more accessible to everyone and continuing to normalize talking about sexual abuse and trauma.

STAND also hosts workshops such as art therapy, healing yoga and online vision board classes, such that there is a class for anyone to attend, feel safe in and begin to heal.

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times