School Leaders Involved in Drinking and Drug Education (SLIDDE) partnered with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Police Department to empower women with a self-defense class scheduled for Nov. 17.

“Empower, Women Strike Back” is a free, all women-identifying self-defense seminar hosted by SLIDDE and ULPD open to the public. It has been part of a semesterly effort since 2003 to bring self-defense tips and techniques to women across the community. 

Lt. Micheal Louviere and martial artist Burke Von Burkhalter teach the seminar together. Louviere focuses on the safety tips and Burkhalter focuses on the drills. 

The seminar covers a variety of topics, including self-defense laws, day-to-day prevention, risk reduction, bystander awareness and case-study discussions. It also provides resources for students who’ve been involved in an attack including where to find counseling and medical assistance.

Alongside Louviere, Burkhalter developed the program to fit around new people willing to learn because they don’t know the attendees’ prior skill level, ability or age. Some attendees might not be as physically capable as others. 

“These techniques were designed for anyone from a very young age to a very old age and anywhere in between. The techniques themselves are actually easy to remember. They were designed to be retained very easily and to be very easy to perform whereas a lot of self-defense classes, not to discredit other defense classes, are more advanced and some are very intense,” Louviere said. 

Beyond skill level, Louviere cited attendee time commitment as another factor when designing the program, especially for students. Different students have different schedules, and with finals coming up, students can’t afford to miss class. Because of this, Louviere and Burkhalter ensured the class was easy to retain from a one-day seminar. 

“Rape Aggression Defense, RAD, is a very very well-designed program, in my opinion, however, it’s a 3-day course and not everybody has the time to be able to give to that, especially in a setting where there are classes and finals that students can’t just miss. I still promote long-term defense classes in some type of martial arts or any other discipline but when you’re trying to get a basic level and understanding with zero experience, this helps them to get introduced into it,” Louviere said.

Louviere emphasized that these are techniques and information that can be utilized in many dangerous situations and not just events on campus.

“What I feel is that it prepares our students to be more cognizant of their surroundings and to give them techniques to use in the event that a situation would come up either on campus or off campus. These techniques are not just isolated to the University. They can be used anywhere at any given time,” Louviere said.

According to Lt. Billy Abrams of ULPD, this seminar is supposed to equip students with the information and skills they need, but it is up to students to take steps toward prevention.

“I certainly think it helps the campus to stay safe. What we try to do is provide the information. It is up to the students, you know, to wanna have the desire to participate. We do everything that we can in our power to make sure that they have the information necessary to help them stay safe. We always talk about how campus safety is our job but it’s everyone’s responsibility, and we don’t want to wait until something happens. We always try to take a proactive role in these types of situations,” Abrams said.

According to Lauren Robson, president of SLIDDE, the program also gives students an opportunity to grow more familiar with officers of the ULPD.

“You know, a lot of students view ULPD as the bad guy who’s there to give them tickets and get them in trouble, but they are there to keep our campus safe and secure,” Robson said. “I hope that by giving students a chance to familiarize themselves with some of the staff, both through this event and our drunk driving course, students will understand that (ULPD) officers can be relied on. I mean most students don’t know that you can ask an officer to escort you to your vehicle or dorm if you feel unsafe.”

This semester’s seminar is different from previous years, because it focuses on developing form instead of simply demonstration, according to Louviere. 

“We have done seminars in the past where we do a demonstration but this will actually be some hands-on technique where they can partner up and train with the moves in a less intense environment. They will be able to feel how the actual manipulation of the joint works and to get the form down,” Louviere said.

Abrams said he wants this seminar to be an event that changes the way people approach safety and crime prevention. 

“It takes a pre-emptive commitment. We’re an after-the-fact kind of society. Something happens and then we want to take action. What we’re trying to do, through a series of information and programs, is trying to reverse that trend,” Abrams said. 

The announcement form for the seminar included a spot to RSVP, however, Louviere made it clear that doing so was not necessary to attend.

“We do have a certain amount of space and if we need to address a larger venue, we can, hence the reason for the RSVP. We would prefer attendees to, but we do not turn anyone away. If they want to learn and we can get the information out there, we absolutely will take them,” Louviere said.

Robson said that COVID-19 halted the seminar for the last few years, and she was excited to be a part of bringing it back. Planning began in October of this year, giving them just a month to plan. 

This was intentional, however, according to Louviere, because it lets them frame the program around issues that are particularly prevalent at that time. By partnering with SLIDDE, they can get a better grasp on the issues that students face. He said that SLIDDE and ULPD’s missions align because drug and alcohol consumption goes hand-in-hand with various attacks.

To sign up for the seminar, scan the QR code at the bottom of every flyer, or you can simply attend at the Student Union Teche Room on Thursday, Nov. 17 at 6 p.m.