Waiting for Istanbul Convention: Dnipro city women take self-defense classes

Every year, about 19,000 women report violence to the Dnipro patrol police. Of course, the law enforcement officers cannot prevent all the attacks but they can help women defend themselves against the potential abusers.

In early 2017, the experts of the Dnipro Gender Club together with the patrol police officers organized the women’s self-defense courses for the residents of the city. As project co-ordinator Olha Poliakova states, 321 women aged 16-64 years sent applications for courses. 280 of them experienced domestic violence.


Olha Rudenko is one of the women who experienced violence. Ten years ago, she was victim of attempted rape. Fortunately, the girl managed to persuade the attacker not to commit a crime.

"He attacked me with a knife from behind. Perhaps, my degree in psychology played a pivotal role. I immediately saw he was geographically challenged and was doing that for the first time. I suggested taking me a little farther away and then I talked him into letting me go," the woman says.

Now she and other women learn the most important hands-on techniques with personal trainer twice a week. A total of two groups of 15 people take self-defense classes with 3-4 coaches.

 “The main idea is to teach women and girls of Dnipro city how to defend themselves, their lives and health, not crossing the limits of self-defense. We selected for the courses those, who were the first to apply, and those, who experienced violence. The courses last three months, and then we plan new enrollment,” Poliakova says.


Her colleague Anna Miahkykh says that the Dnipro city patrol police eagerly responded to the proposal to organize such courses. However, the organizers have faced some difficulties. Miahkykh notes that initially the classes were held at the University of Internal Affairs. According to her, although the leadership agreed to make advances, the further cooperation was bad, so the second group now take classes in the hall of the Mining University, whose administration has fulfilled all the promises.

I am very grateful to the administration of this university. Here we have the opportunity to hold all the classes we have planned. However now we need money to pay at least the trainers. Now they run the training sessions for free,” she says.

The main objective of the courses is to teach women how to repel attacks and make a safe getaway, trainers say. Another important thing is to show the women how not to exceed the allowed limits.

"We teach the women not how to fight off an attacker, but how to free themselves and make a safe getaway," says a trainer, patrol police officer Danylo Devushkin. "We also explain the legal aspect. There are limits that can not be exceeded. We say that if a woman has fought off an attacker and he has fallen to the ground, a woman should not kick an abuser with her legs," adds patrol police officer Natalia Ocheretna. Both police officers train the first group of women.

Volodymyr Vyliansky, the head of Physical Education and Sports Department of the Mining University, the head of the regional karate federation, is in charge of the second group. According to him, his students show progress and have great possibilities to protect themselves.


"This group has a rather high level of motivation, they successfully take classes. Twelve women attend all the classes. We teach them to have a good sense of direction, to recognize aggression, explain how to emerge from the situation," he says.

Psychologist Kira Daryna-Kolupayeva helps women be confident and not be afraid of violence. She conducts group sessions for the courses attendees, during which women share their successes and support each other.

"Apart from the theory, we deal with personal problems. They are concerned with self-esteem and self-development. Very often women, who experienced violence, have low self-esteem, and they become more confident during these courses," the expert says.


According to organizers and trainers of the courses, such practices help women not only feel safer but also help build trust between the city residents and the police officers. As the attendees admit, many of them were afraid to come to the courses but now they are ready to defend not only themselves but other women as well.

The article was written within the framework of activity of the expert group "Police and Community Interaction" with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation.

Photo credit: Human Rights Information Centre website



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