By Lindsey White
Sarah Anne Colwell, a Trevecca student, was shopping at Macy’s at Greenhill’s Mall, while talking on the phone. She noticed a young woman staring at her and immediately felt uncomfortable with the situation. The woman approached her as soon as she got off the phone and pleaded with Colwell, asking her to follow her to her car and buy some shoes she was trying to sell.
“This did not feel right, there’s something up. She just had this weird look on her face, I knew it was off,” said Colwell.
Colwell remembered a tip she had learned in the self-defense class she took at Trevecca. She asked a sales associate to walk with her to her car and got out of there.
“I wouldn’t have thought to ask a cashier to walk to my car with me, if you hadn’t taught us that,” said Colwell to Bill Sorrels, Assistant Chief and professor of Trevecca’s self-defense class, “Before your class I wouldn’t have thought anything about that interaction, but it was 100% off.”
Sorrels began teaching the self-defense class about eight years ago with Stan Jones, a diversion investigator and retired DEA agent. Trevecca initially envisioned the class for teachers and future teachers, however, it attracted young women.
“Our class is mostly female, but we have a lot of males who take the class because they enjoy the fighting aspect of it and I think it’s just as good for guys and girls,” said Sorrels.
With a wife and a daughter on his mind, Sorrels is concerned with women’s safety.
“You look at the statistics of people, especially women, that are assaulted once they enter the college age and it’s probably one in four,” said Sorrels, “That’s a high percentage of girls entering college who are going to experience some kind of sexual assault or rape.”
Colwell says she took the class thinking she knew how to be safe in Nashville but learned tips she wouldn’t have considered otherwise.
“It made me as a woman feel confident to park in a parking garage alone, and it made me feel confident to go shopping by myself. It made me confident to do things independently because I was equipped with really good knowledge about what to do if something bad happened,” said Colwell.
The class focuses on the mindset of self-defense more than the fighting aspect. If you have to fight you’ve already lost, said Sorrels.
“He teaches you things to do so you won’t get into a situation where you have to fight your way out of it,” said Colwell.
Sorrels teaches students about the tactics people use to get others off guard and gain trust, such as asking for the time or pretending they know you from somewhere.
“One of the things we teach, the same principle we teach in law enforcement, is that when you leave the home you can’t have that same safe mindset that you do when you’re inside your home. Once you leave home, you’ve got to adjust your mindset for safety,” said Sorrels.
The focus on mindset includes knowing how to get out of a building you enter, looking ahead when walking down the street, and parking in lighted areas and not next to big vans or trucks, says Sorrels.
“You should always be aware of things before you get in situations. You need to have on your mind what you would do if…,” said Colwell.
Colwell advises students to take the class because it is a fun workout, and the information is priceless.
“Any information is better than no information on this stuff. If that one piece of information can save you why not take the class,” said Colwell.
The Self Defense class (PEA 1400) will be offered again in the fall semester of 2021.