hannah graham, hannah graham disappearance, self-defense, self-defense women
The disappearance of UVA student Hannah Graham has resulted in increased demand for self-defense classes, like this one being put on by Charlottesville Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
(Photo by Charlottesville Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu)

The disappearance of Hannah Graham — an 18-year-old University of Virginia student who went missing from The Downtown Mall in Charlottesville on Sept. 13 — has resulted in a growing demand for more self-defense classes, especially for women.

According to the Daily Progress, 31-year-old Lisa Skillman took matters into her own hands and organized two self-defense classes at the MMA Institute in Albemarle County on Oct. 19 and 26. Thus far, 15 people have signed up for the class, which includes an instructor from the institute, as well as appearances by law enforcement officials.

“It made me realize how shaken up all the women in this town are right now,” Skillman said. “It’s just woken everybody up. We can’t have this attitude like Charlottesville is the safest place to live. We have to be realistic. Every city is going to have bad people in it.”

Michele Zehr, a former Marine who teaches the Rape Aggression Defense program for women, told the Daily Progress she’s seen demand for her classes triple since the Graham disappearance in mid-September.

“I tell women in my classes we should be able to walk naked down the Downtown Mall at 2 a.m., intoxicated, and not fear for our safety, but that’s just not the reality that we live in,” Zehr said. “It’s not just a women’s issue. It’s not just a men’s issue. Everybody has to take responsibility for the safety of everyone.”

Gordon Emery, the head instructor at Charlottesville Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, said he’s seen an increase in requests for self-defense class specifically focusing on Krav Maga and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which enables “a small person to survive terrifying encounters,” he told the Daily Progress.

Aside from the Graham disappearance, Charlottesville Sheriff James E. Brown III said more requests for self-defense classes usually come in the fall, as night comes earlier this time of year.

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