Women who find themselves in harmful or dangerous situations don’t have to be victims. That was the message Bruce Troyer told two dozen women during self-defense training workshops at Maquoketa Valley Middle School Dec. 3 and Dec. 5.

Troyer, a personal trainer and martial arts black belt, demonstrated self-defense techniques. The workshops were sponsored by the Delaware County Sexual Response Assault Team (SART).

“There are ways to fight back and to get away from the situation,” Troyer said. “I want people to have confidence and most importantly, be prepared if something happens.”

Troyer explained that often, victims panic if they are assaulted. “I would prefer they have a plan in place, to know what to do and almost make it second nature if someone has a hold of them, to know exactly what to do.”

Brandi Lewin, SART coordinator, explained, “We want people to be aware or avoid situations that could be harmful or dangerous whenever possible.”

Lewin, along with Delaware County Sheriff Deputy, Jill Knipper, assisted Troyer during the workshop.

Knipper shared statistics with the attendees. “Every 98 seconds a sexual assault occurs in the United States. One in four women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.”

Participants practiced techniques to fight off and escape dangerous situations and holds. Troyer told the women to fight and get away. “The goal is to get out of a bad situation and get back to your families. There is no reason to stay and fight. Get done what you have to do, then leave.”

Lewin said she wants people to learn that while the self-defense training can help, it’s not a guarantee of safety. “These situations can’t always be prevented. Something that seems very innocent can turn bad. Don’t expect that walking away with this training that things will change. There is still the potential for danger.”

According to Lewin, victims of sexual assault are often blamed. “Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim. It’s all about power and control. There are a lot of misconceptions and conversations around victim blaming, things like ‘what was the victim wearing, why were they in that situation?’ We are here to support victims and want them to know support is available.”

SART offers a 24-hour hotline where victims will talk with a trained advocate by phone. “We can also dispatch advocacy out to the victim,” Lewin explained.

Knipper said it’s important for victims to get help. “Whether they go through the criminal justice system or prefer the advocacy system, they need to embrace the support of the SART team.”

Lewin said regardless of what direction a victim chooses to go, SART will be there for support. “We want to make sure we are giving that power and control back to the victim.”

Carmen Knipper brought her twin daughters, Lainey and Kaya, to the workshop. The girls are seventh graders at Drexler Middle School in Farley.

“We’ve talked about these types of situations at home,” Carmen Knipper said. “I don’t think it’s too young to teach kids how to protect themselves. You never know the situation they could be in.”

Troyer hopes his workshop helps. “If one person in here is able to avoid a domestic violence situation, then it was worth it.”

The 24-hour sexual assault crisis line is 888-557-0310. More information about SART may be found at SART@riverviewcenter.org and www.neiowasart.org.