Few crimes are as dangerous and destructive as rape.

“We say being raped is worse than being murdered,” Blount County Sheriff’s Deputy Janice Postel said. “It destroys your soul.”

Prevention, self-defense and current laws are a few topics BCSO instructors will discuss during free Rape Aggression Defense classes for women 13 and older tonight through Friday at the Blount County Justice Center, 940 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway.

Beginners will meet from 5:30-8:30 p.m., and the advanced class is from 8-9 p.m.

To register, call Postel, 865-296-0629.

Postel described the class as giving women options to physically defend themselves from an assailant while also understanding how the body’s natural fight or flight response works.

“The third natural response is to freeze and that can be deadly,” Postel said. “We want you to able to fight or run. We are trying to empower women, not turn them into ninjas. We wanted to give them some ideas and some options to use to defend themselves if they feel they are in danger.”

A critical topic is the laws governing self-defense, including use of deadly force.

“If they are coming at you with the intent and you feel you are in danger, it gives you the justification for legal force,” Postel said.

Overcoming the social conditioning that teaches women to be passive and gentle also is as important as understanding what constitutes the crime, she added.

“Knowledge is power,” Postel said. “Burying your head in the sand is not the way to go. It’s about control and domination. It’s not about desirability, or love, or someone being so beautiful that you can’t control yourself.”

Participants also will learn to recognize and mitigate risks, including online safety.

“We talk about sexual assault and abductions,” Postel said. “We also teach about date rape and how to protect yourself in the social media world. People think that they know somebody after a few texts or a few chat sessions on Facebook or Instagram.”

Sex offenders can’t be legally prohibited from setting up dating profiles, Postel said, although Facebook and some dating sites forbid them from using the services in user agreements.

“That’s not a deterrent,” Postel said. “They just get a profile under a different persona.”

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