Self-defense workshop part of Darien church’s mission to combat sexual assault
DARIEN — When members of Landon Reesor’s congregation at Encounter Church came to him with stories of being sexually abused or assaulted, the pastor began to look into how prevalent this issue was in society. What he found shocked him.
“As a pastor, we’d had some folks in the congregation that’d come in private and said, ‘I need you to know my story,’ ” Reesor said. “As we began to hear stories, we began to wonder how many others are there out there like this? It is shocking to see the prevalence of sexual abuse and assault in our culture.”
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, one in six women and one in 33 men have survived a rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. The Crimes Against Children Research Center reports one in five girls and one in 20 boys are subject to childhood sexual abuse, and over the course of their life 28 percent of teens 14 to 17 are sexually victimized.
As a result, Reesor, now the pastor at Christ Community Church (the result of a merger between Encounter Church and Calvary Baptist Church), partnered with the Greenwich Center for Hope and Renewal, a faith-based counseling center, about two- and-a-half years ago to advise clergy on how to advise congregation members who had survived sexual assault and abuse. The two formed a recovery group for survivors of sexual abuse, but decided they wanted to do more.
“We began to have conversations about what it would look like to have people avoid (being sexually assaulted),” Reesor said.
Subsequently, the two groups, along with Darien police, are offering a Women’s Self Defense Workshop at the Darien Town Hall gym on Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. The course, open to women and girls over 12, will teach women how to recognize unsafe situations, and offer tips to empower themselves to leave dangerous places in the form of self-defense techniques. A Darien Police Department officer will conduct the training. Registration is $20 for the first person and $10 for every person in a group who signs up after that.
Women’s Self Defense Workshop
Saturday, from 3 to 5 p.m.
Darien Town Hall gym (2 Renshaw Road)
$20 for the first registrant, $10 for each person on same registration.
“It’s to get people to be aware of things that could get them into trouble, and then if you’re in situation how to be in command of yourself and use your resources to be able to handle situations that may not feel safe,” said Heather Wright, the executive director of the Greenwich Center for Hope and Renewal. “We’re trying to be very proactive.”
The class precedes a second survivor support group, in conjunction with the Christ Community Church and the Greenwich Center for Hope and Renewal. The six-weekgroup meets beginning April 24 at the Post Road church.
“The support of the group, especially for that issue, is very profound in helping people to be healed and find transformation,” Wright said. “What they realize in a group setting is they’re not alone and that helps people heal. ... They can see someone else and see how strong and brave and powerful they are and they see that in themselves. It changes people’s views of themselves when they see other people who have survived the same thing and living lives in powerful ways.”
The group and the course are only the beginning of what the two groups hope are an ongoing mission to help prevent and cope with sexual assault and abuse in men and women in the community.
“I think this is an absolutely great way for us to serve community inside and outside the church,” Reesor said. “At this point, it’s something we've only created opportunities for women, but the truth is statistics will show this is not isolated for women, and eventually, we’d like resources for guys. This is definitely a priority. We want to have a role in both preventing and helping counsel and serve people.”