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Cathy Dyson writes about King George County. You can email her at

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High school students receive safety tips

Ray Blazer leads a self-defense presentation.


None of the presenters told the girls they couldn’t go to parties or have fun when they go to college and enjoy the next chapter of their lives.

But the three people who spoke at a safety event at King George High School on Tuesday did stress the need for the young women to be aware of the potential dangers they face.

“Your college years and the next few years after high school can be the best years of your life,” said Sgt. Karen Richards, a detective with the King George Sheriff’s Office. “Just be smart about it. Be aware of what’s around you. Be the smart ladies you know you can be.”

Eight students, from freshmen to seniors, attended “Be Aware, Be Prepared: A Ladies Safety Event” sponsored by DECA, the school’s marketing class.

The workshop featured practical tips from Richards on ways the young women could avoid becoming victims. The girls also heard from Sarah King, a coordinator with the Rappahannock Council on Domestic Violence, and saw self-defense techniques demonstrated by Ray Blazer. A trade and industry teacher at the school, Blazer has studied martial arts for 35 years.

Figuring that students typically forget 90 percent of what’s said in such a class, Blazer kept his presentation simple.

He showed the girls a key weapon they carry with them all the time. He demonstrated how they could thrust the heel of their palms into an attacker’s nose or chin.

Then, he raised a knee in defense and said: “Guess where you’re gonna put this.”

Blazer and Richards also stressed that the girls can’t be aware of their surroundings if their head is down, focusing on the phone as they text, walk and listen to music, all at the same time.

“If someone is near you and wants to harm you, you’re really putting yourself at risk,” Richards said. “If you need to text, stop walking and text, then put your device away and look around.”

She also suggested that young women walking through a dark parking lot at the mall or campus make eye contact with those approaching. Wave or nod as well, Richards said. That way, the person knows he’s been seen and could be identified later.

Blazer also advised the females to use another handy weapon: their voices. As the group practiced thrusting their hands and raising their knees, he encouraged them to shout “NO!” in their loudest voices.

Senior Crystal Wise did just that, adding with each thrust: “I’m ready for college. I can’t wait for August.”

Jamia Coleman, a senior, said she appreciated King’s signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships. Ray Celeste Tanner, another senior, said the information made her feel safer.

Richards also talked about another issue that endangers women in a different way, and that’s taking revealing photos of themselves. If the photos are on phones, and those phones are stolen, the images often end up online.

Also, girls will innocently send a photo to a boyfriend, who then shares it with his friends or lets it go viral when things go bad in the relationship.

Later, when the girls are adults and apply for jobs, prospective employers could ask if applicants ever posed for nude photos. Even later, when the young women have families and their children start searching online, they may find the pictures.

“Once it’s out there, you cannot get it back,” Richards said. “It’s going to affect you forever.”

Other tips included:

- Have sufficient locks and lighting around vehicles and dorms.

- Protect phones, laptops and other devices from theft because of the loss of property and the personal information they contain.

- Trust your instincts. “If it doesn’t feel safe, it probably isn’t safe,” said King George Sheriff Steve Dempsey.

Women are attacked for two reasons: theft and sex, Blazer said. If an attacker wants your wallet, car keys or phone, toss them on the ground toward him and back away. But if it’s a sexual attack, “it’s about control and for some reason, a man wants to control you as a woman,” Blazer said.

“You have to do everything you can  to not make that happen,” including screaming as loudly as possible.

Have your car keys ready when you leave a store or head into the parking lot. If approached, arrange the keys between your fingers for use as weapons.

Dee Strauss, the marketing director who arranged the session, said the presenters were trying to prepare students for the next phase of their lives, not scare them.

It worked, said freshman Anna Rinka. “It’s real-life situations,” she said. “It’s what’s out there.”