Black belt offers tips to protect yourself from sexual assaults

PORTLAND, Ore. - An 18-year old woman told police she was sexually assaulted close on Wednesday in North Portland's Elliott Neighborhood. It's the fifth such report since the end of February.

Police have been stressing that stranger-on-stranger cases of sexual assault are rare, but they do happen.

There are basic ways to protect yourself, no matter if you're in your own home or walking down the street, or how big or small you are.

Silvia Smart, a fifth degree black belt in Poekoelan, an Indonesian martial art, said anyone can protect themselves. She runs the Tulen Center in Southwest Portland.

"Eye contact is really important, and distance, so you want to want to make sure there's enough distance between you and the person. You can physically step to the side. You can have them move away, you can position something between yourself and the person," said Smart.

Using your voice to make a lot of noise is also good tactic, but it's also something that's sometimes hard for women to do.

"We've been trained to be quiet, to not speak up, to not draw attention to ourselves," explained Smart.

She encourages all women and girls to practice yelling "No!" in a deep voice, the louder the better.

Then there are the physical moves. Use the base of your palm to forcefully hit an attacker in the nose, neck or jaw. You can also make a fist and strike an attacker with the outside of it in the head or upper body. And, there's the knee kick where you pull your knee up, move toward the attacker and then move your knee in.

Smart said to use repetition with each move, and yell "No!" at the same time.

The key is to not be afraid to use your body, and your voice, as your armor.

There are many private self-defense studios around the Portland area that offer classes for women and girls.

The Portland Police Bureau also offers a free course called Women Strength and Girl Strength.

If you, or someone you know, is a victim of sexual assault, call 911. You can also call the Sexual Assault Resource Center's 24-hour crisis line.