Free workshops have been organised across the city aimed at empowering women and girls who are concerned about their personal safety.
The Get Home Safely workshops are run by Derby-company MAX Conflict Management as part of the Safe Derby campaign.
The workshops are being delivered for members of the public as well as to groups of women and girls in partnership with several community organisations in the city.
The aim is to raise awareness about personal safety; empowering and raising attendees’ confidence with practical ways to be more assertive to take control in conflict situations and methods of reasonable force for self protection.
The next three hour workshop is on Sunday March 6 in Derby starting at 2.30pm and places can be booked free of charge at https://www.eventbrite.ie/o/max-training-amp-development-8313931973
Martial arts expert, author and qualified trauma therapist Mark Wingfield set up MAX Conflict Management in 2006 and has since provided the Get Home Safe – Every Day and a range of other self protection training sessions around the world.
He explained: “The workshops are focused on empowering women and girls to have the confidence to take control and be assertive with their voice and body language when they receive unwanted attention, are approached or feel threatened and how to use reasonable force if necessary.
“The overall aim is to stay safe and buying yourself the time to get away from a conflict situation.
“We work through different practical scenarios with role play in a safe and supportive environment so that everyone is more confident if the situation arises.”
Mr Wingfield continued: “Body language is very important and we work a lot on looking confident when out in public places – however you are feeling inside.
“We also talk about the myths of getting your phone out and pretending to talk to someone which is counter-productive. If you are on the phone you are actually distracted from what is going on.
“Similarly, if you are walking or running in a park with headphones on, you are far less aware of your surroundings and particularly can’t hear if anyone approaches you from behind.
“We also talk about the potential red flags that women should be aware of – such as someone stopping them to ask the time. In that situation we advise them to give the time if they wish but absolutely to keep on walking. Don’t show attractive valuables to tell the time to a stranger.
“If a car pulls up, turn and walk in the other direction and head for a place of safety such as into a shop or even knock on a door.”
Mr Wingfield continued that assertive use of voice was the first line of defence.
“Talking calmly and loudly to back away or shouting ‘leave me alone’ usually stops people in their tracks and gives you the opportunity to get away.
“Maintaining personal boundary space is also important and assertively putting your hands up immediately puts a barrier, or fence, in place.
“In the training, to cater for worst case scenario, participants are invited to fight me off. They are totally safe because of all the protective padding I wear. We teach three highly effective strikes which will immediately disable and enable an escape. These work for everyone under pressure and against any size of attacker.”
Among the women who have recently attended one of the Get Home Safely free workshops is 59-year-old Linda.
She was becoming increasingly nervous about going out in the evening to meet up with friends – particularly concerned about parking and then walking to a venue alone.
Her anxiety had been compounded by memories of being carjacked several years ago when she was pounced on by two men in a supermarket carpark who grabbed her keys and drove off in her car.
“I heard about the workshops and plucked up the courage to book a place because, being a single woman, I was feeling increasingly vulnerable about going out in the evening.
“It has given me so much more confidence to be assertive and take control of a situation which I have already had to put into practice when I was approached by a woman asking strange questions one evening.
“I put my hands up as a barrier and moved away quickly as the situation just didn’t feel right.
“It is a sad reality that, as women and girls, we have to think twice about going about our daily lives but I personally feel much more empowered now to go out – albeit taking sensible precautions such as parking in well lit areas and checking out routes in unfamiliar places.”
Safe Derby is backed by the Home Office’s Safer Streets initiative and led by Derby City Council and other voluntary and community sector partners including local specialist child exploitation charity Safe and Sound, Derby County Community Trust and Derby Community Action.
The overarching objective of the campaign is to signal Derby’s zero tolerance towards, and promotion of a city free fromgender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation.
A series of workshops, training, events and new initiatives will be organised in the coming weeks with further activity then planned on key dates later in the year.
Councillor Matthew Eyre, Cabinet Member for Place and Community Development said: “The feedback from women and girls who have attended the Get Home Safely workshops so far has been very encouraging.
“They have spoken about how they feel far more empowered and confident to go about their business, particularly at night, where previously they may have felt nervous or worried.
“This is just one of the many practical actions we have organised as part of Safe Derby but my wider appeal is that everyone in our local communities makes a stand against gender-based violence.
“We all need to be aware of potential situations and taking appropriate action – whether that is asking someone if they are alright or calling the police if they see a situation unfolding or a crime taking place.
“Every woman and girl has the right to freedom of movement and we all have a responsibility to ensure Derby is a safe place to live, work and enjoy.”
For more information about Safe Derby visit https://www.safeandsoundgroup.org.uk/safederby/ and follow on social media #Safe Derby. For more information about MAX Conflict Management visit http://www.maxconflictmanagement.com/