Cheryl Cesta will hold the first self-defense workshop of the year for the Women’s Center; it will focus not only on physical self-defense but also on awareness skills for prevention.


Self-defense isn’t only about knowing how to throw a punch.

That’s the message local self-defense trainer Cheryl Cesta wants to send at the personal safety and self-defense workshop in the Women’s Center.

The two-hour workshop, which will be held Friday at 4 p.m., will cover five areas of prevention — awareness and body language skills, “trust you” intuition, verbal skills, immediate resistance and physical techniques. Ultimately, Cesta, who has been teaching self-defense for more than 30 years, aims to teach people how to prevent sexual assault before it gets physical and how to use physical techniques as a last resort.

“I talk about the correlation of alcohol and acquaintance assault, or non-stranger assault,” Cesta, who usually holds self-defense workshops a few times a year in the Women’s Center, said. “We know for college students it’s more likely going to be someone they know, and the first few weeks on campus is a pretty high risk for new students.”

Because heterosexual men perpetrate the majority of assaults against women and trans women, Cesta said keeping the workshop for women only will allow participants to feel more comfortable.

“Cisgender men in our society are often exposed to playing football or wrestling, and the majority of women don’t have those experiences,” Cesta said. “A women-only class creates a safer environment for women to explore their feelings about hurting others to disable and escape.”

Although this workshop is for women exclusively, she also teaches separate classes for men as well as classes for residence halls and sororities.

This is one of only a few workshops in the Women’s Center focused on victim-centered prevention, said Sarah Jenkins, program coordinator for the Women’s Center. Most of the work she’s interested in doing is “teaching people not to rape as opposed to teaching people not to get raped.”

“I do feel like this workshop is empowering, but I also totally understand that it’s one of many pieces of a puzzle that all need to be put together in order for sexual assault prevention to work,” Jenkins said. “It’s important that we’re doing a number of other things.”


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