Self-defence class for abuse survivors launches in Canberra

Caitlin??? Figueiredo??? was four years old when a family member first attacked her.
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She remembers standing waist-deep in a Canberra pool, and the water rushing by as her head was shoved under the surface.

It wasn’t until she was 12 that she became strong enough to fight back against almost a decade of physical, sexual and psychological abuse committed by two close relatives.

“I did karate when I was young, and I was luckier than some kids because it wasn’t my mum, or my dad or my brother, they didn’t live with me all the time,” Ms Figueiredo said.

“But I carried the secret of this for so long, I went off the rails even after [the physical abuse] stopped.”

Now 22, the entrepreneur and UN ambassador is launching a world-first “pay-it-forward” self defence initiative for women and survivors of violence and childhood abuse in Canberra. With classes run by national champions in martial arts, the course is open to all women – and the cost of each session also funds a spot in the gym for an abuse survivor.

By next Christmas, the initiative hopes to have trained 600 women, including 300 survivors, in self-defence.

On Saturday, Ms Figueiredo will join 35 women, including 10 survivors, in the gym for their first session.

Trainer and national taekwondo champion Lorna Munro said she had a number of female friends who were afraid to go out alone, but she had never seen a class aimed purely at women before.

“Equipping women with the right skills and techniques to feel safe…we’re giving them back the power,” she said.

“Given the high rates of abuse against women, it’s vital we learn to protect ourselves, we can’t wait any longer for society to change.”

The initiative is just one of many arriving in the capital via Ms Figueiredo’s foundation, Jasiri, a new ACT charity supporting child abuse survivors that has already received international recognition by UN Women and Buckingham Palace.

Jasiri is also launching a range of “ID” bracelets for sale in the new year. All proceeds will go to the Alanah and Madeline Foundation and their work supporting kids impacted by violence.

“The idea is that Jasiri means fearless, so these bracelets are part of our identity as survivors, and for the survivors who do our classes we’re designing a special range of the bracelets so they’ll all get one for free,” Ms Figueiredo said.

“If you do our classes you can wear this bracelet to show your friends you are capable of defending not only yourself but your community as well, it’s a good way to start conversations around this.”

The reality, Ms Figueiredo said, was that victims of childhood violence often suffered in silence.

“We need our own #metoo moment. When we talk about domestic violence, we usually focus just on women.

“Since I’ve spoken about this, especially with girls and young women, so many people have come up to me and said that happened to me too, I’m going to go get help.”

A second, intensive training class run by taekwondo black belt Nicolas Kumar will be open to both women and men, as well as survivors, from next year.

Classes cost $30 and kick off on Saturday at Lake Ginninderra College in Belconnen. All proceeds go back into Jasiri and the Alannah and Madeline Foundation. Walk ins are welcome.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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