Sexual abuse awareness events like Denim Day on campus Wednesday display victims grappling with life-changing emotions, present physical threats and the preservation of life through positive action like martial arts.
The spring drizzle complemented misty eyes of passers-by who read victim statements roughly scratched in indelible ink on colorful T-shirts from the Clothesline Project that Holly Hagan, event organizer, has collected since 2007.
The football field long clothesline of traumatic stories of molestation and rape, violence, abandonment and death served as the not-so-subtle backdrop for Reza Moazezi and his The Way of No Way martial arts students.
“We are out here to support Denim Day and raise awareness to self-defense for women,” Moazezi, 35, a prior Pierce College student said.
With the treble set by the click-clack of bamboo quarter-staffs and a heavy base of feet thudding and thumping hand-held punch bags, students file past. Some didn’t hear the music. Others were awakened and took one of the teal and goldenrod ribbon stickers handed out by volunteers.
Holly Hagan organizes events on campus for sexual abuse victims twice a year, one in April and one in October, she said.
“They are here to give some free demonstrations on self-defense,“ Hagan said. As a member of the Pierce (CVRT) Campus Violence Response Team she “absolutely – 100 percent” recommends self-defense training for students.
“The first thing is awareness, “Moazezi said. We teach people “how to avoid the problem, what to look out for and to listen to their emotions.”
Hagan has taken self-defense classes at Los Angeles Valley College and said it gives her confidence.
“I know that I know how to defend myself,” she said. “I am always aware of my surroundings.”
Becoming well-trained in martial arts takes time, Moazezi said, and they hold frequent seminars for women and children. But self-defense is about “saving lives.”
“We teach basic knee-strikes, palm-strikes, slaps, wrist escapes and eye-gouging motions,” Moazezi said. “It’s not pretty.”
Moazezi’s martial arts students are trained in various different styles of close combat for self-defense purposes, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to name just one. You can learn more about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at attacktheback.com.
One of Moazezi’s students and previous classmates, Richard Padilla, embraces the eclectic version of martial arts that his studio espouses.
“Each person has a different set of skills,“ he said. “They may be better at kicking than they are at punching. Because we teach this large array of martial arts, a person may benefit from one art over another.”
CSUN student Claire Torres, 22, interns at the Pierce College Student Health Center and helped organizers at Denim Day. Torres took martial arts classes as a youth, she said.
“Because all of these people have suffered from some type of abuse, [martial arts] could have been beneficial to some of the situations,” she said. “Practicing karate – it’s like riding a bike.”