By Ian Edwards
U.S. Representative Mimi Walters, along with the UCI Panhellenic Society, the governing body for campus sororities, hosted a self-defense workshop, featuring several martial artists and community leaders, at the Bren Events Center on October 12.
Walters, a Republican representative of California’s 45th district, which encompasses a large portion of Orange County including UC Irvine, has served for two two-year terms in the California State Senate and is a founder of the California Women’s Leadership Association (CWLA). Her interest in the issue of campus sexual assault stems from her concern for her four children’s safety, three of whom are in college.
The state representative recently sponsored a piece of legislation called the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights, which was signed into law on Oct. 7 by President Barack Obama with bipartisan support.
As the event began, Walters’ office directed participants to the lower level of the Donald Bren Event center where refreshments were served. Staff and interns from her office greeted and mingled with the participants, many of whom were affiliated with Greek Life. Soon after, Walters arrived and met with the participants and other Irvine community members.
She was later introduced by representatives of the UC Irvine Panhellenic organization before moving from the podium and addressing the audience directly about her legislation on sexual assault.
In her speech, Walters addressed issues of rape kit destruction before the statute of limitations expires. This and other issues, she said, are addressed in her newly-passed bill.
“It’s a good first step but there is still a lot of work to be done,” said Walters of her legislation. “But I am glad that Congress is really paying attention this issue.”
The next phase of the workshop introduced three Southern Californian martial artists and community leaders who addressed the importance of paying attention to one’s surrounding to avoid sexual predators.
The first presenter was Bobby Barzi, a UC Irvine alum and founder of Fodada. Barzi’s Orange County-based company works to encourage father-son relationships through “Dad and Me” programs centered around activities like building LED pumpkins during the Halloween season. Barzi works to make the public more aware of sexual assault and keeping those who are threatened by it, especially women, safe. He also encouraged dialogue about this issue.
“Make sure tonight is not the end of this conversation… it’s something we need to talk about.”
Next was Master Steven Ross, a Hall of Fame martial artist and the owner of martial arts studios throughout the OC area. He gave advice on how to be aware of one’s environment and urged people to use their cell phones responsibly. He is working with Barzi to put on an annual self-defense seminar for women that will be held in cities throughout 14 countries on Nov. 21.
The third organization represented was I Fight For My Life, an organization that works to empower women, queer groups and the homeless through self-defense. The two presenters for this organization, Spice Williams-Crosby and her partner, Jennifer Silverstein, facilitated the workshop and told stories about their self-defense journeys.
After these presentations, audience members were led onto the basketball court and given different techniques for defending the head, the torso and the lower limbs. For each region, the instructors gave specific techniques like eye-gouging to incapacitate an attacker who is choking you.
After the event, Rep. Walters reiterated her support for sexual assault prevention programs and suggested that UCI might host similar workshops again.
“I am concerned with sexual assault victims…women and men as well,” Walters said. “I am about educating people …we are hoping to do this again in the future.”