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Self defence trainer at Surge says murder of Sarah Everard changed her view on teaching self defence

A Maidstone self defence coach has seen a big increase in the number of woman contacting her following the disappearance of Sarah Everard.

The owner of Surge has had 374 emails and 193 messages in the last two days - in contrast to just 23 emails and 59 messages in the last two months - as interest in self defence picked up.

The conversation around precautions women take in public exploded after reports Ms Everard had vanished while walking home from a friend’s flat in south London on March 3.

A serving Metropolitan Police officer has been charged with her kidnap and murder after her body was found near Ashford.

Heather Jordan, owner of Surge, said: "There's definitely been an increase in messaging and wanting to book onto courses.

"But there has also been a lot of confusion and I think - rightly so - anger about why women should be the ones to take responsibility and they shouldn't need to learn self defence in order to be out at night safely on their own.

"It's so devastating what has happened. But it has brought the conversation to light. Women have lived with it forever."

Flowers laid at the site where human remains were found in the search for Sarah Everard
Flowers laid at the site where human remains were found in the search for Sarah Everard

Surge is a free six week self defence course based around defending yourself and getting away from attacks in the streets, including knife attacks.

Despite Heather feeling it would be insensitive to promote Surge at this time, a wave of interested customers have come to her - leaving the course with a huge waiting list when classes resume after lockdown.

However, Surge has also met criticism online, which made the course runner question the message behind her classes.

She added: "People were saying what I was doing with Surge is wrong because I was colluding with the notion that it's the woman's responsibility to defend herself and I am taking away the man's responsibility. I am very open to criticism.

Women take self defence classes at Surge
Women take self defence classes at Surge

"I learned that self defence wasn't taking control of the situation, because it wasn't ours to control to start with. The responsibility is on the people who attack. It's the first time I'm not proud to run Surge.

"I do need to shift away from putting the responsibility on women because I think I was doing that too much.

"We absolutely need to change the culture. But it's not going to change overnight. I am giving people access to knowledge if they want it to protect themselves in the meantime.

"Someone said to me, 'to tell a woman not to learn self defence because it's not her job is like saying don't lock your front door because people shouldn't steal. Yet we all lock our doors when we go out.'"

However, Heather reiterated though this conversation centres around the disproportionate and valid fears women have - she still teaches men who come to her with similar stories and believes in helping vulnerable people regardless of gender.

Sarah Everard
Sarah Everard

People across Kent - and the country - have been expressing their thoughts and fears of women's safety in public.

Emily Beerling commented: "I have a can of Raid Bug Killer in my purse and carry my keys between my fingers.

"My first experience of being followed home happened when I was 11 and walking the five minutes home from school. I ran up the alley behind my house and thankfully the gate was unlocked. After I shut it the guy started punching and kicking it.

"Most women/girls have had a bad experience by age 12. Something needs to change."

Zoe Lewis commented on Facebook: "I lived on a notoriously bad road in Dover and was pushed into an Alley for reasons I can only guess. Fortunately I utilised my knee and disabled the man.

"I had the confidence to do this from having had some training in self defence and I'd recommend that you encourage your young people to do the same."

Nikki Dempster added on Facebook: "Doesn't feel safe even in the daytime half the time. I used to feel safer with my dog but with all the dog thefts even that doesn't feel safe now."

But women aren't the only ones with fears - many men have also expressed similar sentiment.

Tom Excell said on Facebook: "Have never let my Mrs walk home after a night out, always money at home to pay for her taxi. Odd occasion she has done I have always given her a good telling off.

"Women and girls you might of walked home safely a million times before but it only takes that one time and boom your life is ruined."

Pete Hoffman said on Facebook: "Thirteen years ago as a pub landlord I would walk through town at 2am with a busy night's takings in my back pocket and feel fine. Now, even as a confident man, I wouldn't walk through town with 20p and a sandwich at 2am."

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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