A workplace self-defense class saved this female jogger’s life

Seattle jogger Kelly Herron, 36, was four miles into her ten-mile run on March 5th when she decided to make a pit stop at a public restroom.

“As I was drying my hands, I became aware that something was wrong,” Herron later told ABC news.

There was: Registered sex offender Gary Steiner was standing behind her.

That’s when Steiner began to assault her, according to police documents.

“He immediately took me down to the ground, hit both my knees and legs, and then it was a fight on the bathroom floor and I just kept screaming, ‘not today motherf—–!’”

Not here, not today

Herron managed to crawl to a bathroom stall to buy herself more time.

“I got into that stall flipped on my back and I tried to kick the door lock shut with my foot,” she said.

She jammed the door, but Steiner managed to break through the stall from the other side. Time was running out. Herron said she started to feel like she was “going to lose consciousness.” But then her self-defense training kicked in. She realized that this didn’t have to be a “fair fight.”

Three weeks earlier, Herron had taken a self-defense course that her employer, RealSelf, had scheduled. It was a two-hour class at Fighting Chance Seattle where she said she “learned to put hard bones in soft fleshy places.”

Rape Aggression Defense Systems program, or RAD, are taught at 1,200 universities and colleges around the country.

The University of Pittsburgh offers “Buy Yourself a Minute,” a course taught by local police to teach students avoidance techniques. For their final, students walk through the streets of Pittsburgh and are subjected to simulated attacks like purse snatchings and shootings.

These programs are not guarantees for total safety, but they teach women self-awareness— and above all, they empower women with the confidence needed to face worst-case scenarios.

As employers create employee benefits packages for employees’ wellness, they should look into programs that benefit their safety too.

Why this company offered self-defense for employees 

When Herron’s employer RealSelf brought Fighting Chance Seattle, a local martial arts dojo, to the office, it was to empower their employees. They had no idea that it would help save an employee’s life. 

“I really believe that when you’re an HR [Human Resources] professional, you’re not just there to support the day-to-day,” Craig Meadows-Stein, the senior Human Resources manager at RealSelf, told Ladders, on why he brought a dojo to the office. “You’re there to build confidence inside and outside of work because your employees are representing you both places.”

Stein wanted to promote wellness beyond pamphlets and meetings where you learn about benefits.

“Winter months are dark…We’ve got employees that work early mornings and into the night. I just wanted to make sure people felt good coming into the office and felt safe when they were here,” he said.

Stein would like to expand the idea behind the workshop and partner with other companies and organizations to bring self-defense to the wider Seattle community.

“I just really hope that other people and other companies use this as a shining example. We need to take care of each other,” he said.

How to fight back

Herron’s case teaches us a few lessons.

  • Trust your intuition and respond immediately if you feel threatened.
  • Be loud and fight like a savage. Making a lot of noise can drive away attackers looking for an easy target.
  • You don’t have to punch with a closed fist. You can fight with an open hand. Use the hard bones in your hand to hit soft, fleshy places on an attacker.

Being relentless and focused worked. Yelling and scratching at her attacker’s face, Herron was able to fight her attacker off, so she could reach for the door and escape. With the help of some passerby, Herron used a carabiner to lock Steiner in the public restroom until police could arrive. Police have charged Steiner with attempted rape and second-degree assault.

Herron said she feels empowered by the experience. She still plans to run the Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon this summer. “My face is stitched, my body is bruised, but my spirit is intact,” she wrote in an Instagram post.

She encouraged other companies to offer the life-saving, self-defense course she received.