After Lisa Batschelet’s daughter-in-law was stalked and attacked in broad daylight, Batschelet knew she had to learn to defend herself.
She and approximately 30 other women last week attended a women’s self-defense class at Vogt Recreation Center, intended to impart knowledge to keep women aware and able to disarm any attacker. The class was created and hosted by Republican City Council candidate Pete Smith.
“I got tired of seeing all the nonsense going on with women getting mugged and other things happening,” said Lyn Truszkowski, who taught the class. Truszkowski worked as a self-defense tactics instructor for the Montgomery County Adult Probation parole department for 10 years. She’s taught similar classes before, though this was the first at Vogt.
“Can anyone tell me what your No. 1 weapon you have regarding self-defense is?” Truszkowski asked at the beginning of the class. As a self-defense instructor, she taught other officers how to defend themselves without using weapons.
“It’s your intuition,” she said. “Have you ever been in a situation where all the hairs on your arm stand up? That’s your intuition. That you never, ever want to ignore.”
Truszkowski emphasized that total awareness is important, and that walking with your face in your phone or with your headphones in makes women a target because attackers are looking to take women off guard. If possible, stand with your back against a wall so you don’t have to constantly look over your shoulder. If you are in a situation where you need help, yell “Fire” instead of “Help” because more people will likely respond to the first option.
Making eye contact with someone is also important.
“They don’t want you to make eye contact with them,” Truszkowski said. “They are preying on people not paying attention and not making eye contact because they are counting on you not being able to identify them.”
In addition to street smarts, Truszkowski also demonstrated physical maneuvers women can perform to defend themselves from attacks and had the participants partner up to practice them.
For class participants like Batschelet, their reasons for learning self-defense were personal.
“I just want to feel like I’m safe,” she said. She attended the class with a group of women and girls.
The daughter-in-law had been outside of a Family Dollar at 7310 Frankford Ave. around 3 p.m. one day last October when she was assaulted by a man who wrapped his arms around her, forced his tongue into her mouth and shoved his penis at her. Batschelet said the attacker was a black man who was wearing a reflective vest in the middle of the day and rides the Route 66 bus every day. He has a tattoo of a boxing glove on his hand and tally marks on his neck, and stands around 5 feet 6 or 7.
The daughter-in-law broke free from his grip and ran down Cottman Avenue. The manager of a nearby store had her come inside to protect her while the attacker pursued her, pacing back and forth outside the store. The manager said he called the police, but they never showed up. The store manager walked her home after the attacker left.
That wasn’t the only incident with the same attacker. The daughter-in-law noticed the man hanging around her block and the block next to hers, walking up and down the streets trying to find her, Batschelet said.
One day after the first incident he pursued her outside again when a nearby mailman noticed and let her hide in the mail truck for protection. While she was in the vehicle the attacker paced around the truck, shouting at passersby she was inside the truck performing sexual acts with the mailman.
Multiple police reports have been filed, but Batschelet has not heard anything about an arrest.
Unfortunately, attacks on the street are not uncommon for Batschelet’s family. Her son had been attacked on the Market-Frankford line before, and Batschelet herself had been attack in a ShopRite parking lot a few years ago.
“It’s not something new for us. We’ve been through it,” Batschelet said.
Smith decided to put together the class after reading about these incidents on Facebook. He received a lot of interest on Facebook and may run another class if there is enough interest.
“I put the neighborhood first and above everything else,” he said. ••