About 40 women, from teenagers to retirees, participated in a free self-defense class Saturday in the wake of a string of indecent assaults, purse snatchings and other attacks in West Bay district since October.
The West Bay women have decided it’s time to fight back.
“People feel like they can’t walk from their home,” said Eziethamae Bodden. “We’re supposed to be ‘fit Cayman’ and women can’t walk outside.”
Five attacks on women in the district have been reported since Oct. 1, 2016: an indecent assault on Feb. 1 on Conch Point Road; a knife attack on Jan. 10 in the Batabano area; a purse snatching on Powery Road on Jan. 12 following a struggle; and two indecent assaults reported on Oct. 1 and Oct. 15 – allegedly committed by the same suspect.
West Bay district council member Jeana Ebanks said she learned of other incidents through a local internet chat group “that were unreported” to the police. She said there were at least three other incidents during the November-December period.
“People just weren’t talking about it,” she said.
On Saturday afternoon, Shihan [master instructor] Floyd Baptiste instructed the group of women gathered at the Sir John A. Cumber Primary School football field on the proper way to deal initially with a would-be assailant.
“Stand and face him, but don’t clench your fists – that says ‘bring it on,’” Mr. Baptiste said. “Put your hands up, palms open and shout ‘stop’ as loud as you can.”
Shihan Baptiste from the Purple Dragon School of Martial Arts demonstrated a number of techniques to deflect and divert would-be attackers, but cautioned the women that no method would prepare them for every situation.
“I don’t have a crystal ball to tell you ‘this is what the attacker will do and this is what you do,’” he said. “That’s not how it works in real life. You’re going to have to react to what he does.”
Among Shihan Baptiste’s audience on Saturday, a few had taken the self-defense education class before, including Gilda Moxam-Murray, who said she signed up for it after Estella Scott-Roberts was murdered in 2008.
“I go to Safehaven to walk where there’s a lot of people, so I do feel safe,” Ms. Moxam-Murray said. “But it is important to be educated [about self-defense] so you can be empowered.”
The more recent attacks in West Bay mirror a series of incidents that occurred between mid-2015 and early 2016 in both West Bay and George Town, where a suspect set upon female joggers during the early morning hours. At least nine separate attacks on female joggers reported to police between May 2015 and February 2016.
All of the attacks have occurred either shortly before dawn or just after dawn, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service said. The perpetrators are not always described as violent, but are typically aggressive, groping and grabbing the women.
One of the attacks in West Bay involved serious physical violence.