St. Joseph’s Academy seniors in Stacy Rennhoff’s adult responsibility classes enjoyed a presentation by Pat Englade and Greg Phares, former chiefs of police with the Baton Rouge Police Department, and Robbie Gautreaux, founder of Gracie United Brazilian Jiu Jitsu of Ascension Parish. The Keeping Yourselves Safe talk took place on October 26.
The safety course, presented by Louisiana Safety & Security Consulting Group, provided practical advice to help young women avoid becoming a victim.
Englade, a 32-year veteran of the Baton Rouge Police Department, said that while cellular phones are a great invention, they also serve to distract users and can put them in potentially dangerous situations. “In the animal kingdom, survival depends on being aware of the surroundings, sensing something that’s wrong and reacting,” Englade said. “God gave humans those abilities, as well. But when we’re not paying attention, we can be victimized.”
Phares, who began his law enforcement career with the Baton Rouge Police Department in 1972, urged the seniors to be diligent when they’re in their vehicles, which he called 5,000-pound fortresses as long as the windows are up. He also said that in the case of a fender bender, resist the urge to get out of the car to engage the other driver to exchange insurance information. “Call 911 or your parents,” he said. “Drive to a location to where there are people. Don’t get out of your car on the street.”
Phares also reminded the students that there is safety in numbers and urged them to never walk alone, particularly at night. While he said it is common sense, he reiterated the importance of being aware of one’s surroundings, avoiding distractions and having a plan of action if something doesn’t look right. “Bad things happen,” he said. “Your job is to not be there when they do. You control that by where you go and what time you go.”
Robbie Gautreaux received his black belt in 2019. He has studied Brazilian Jiu Jitsu since 2009. He holds state and national titles and was ranked in the Top 10 in the world in his division in 2015. He said that if an uncomfortable situation arises, there are three simple steps to take: don’t engage, disengage and get out.
“The good news is that you have everything you need to protect yourself,” Gautreaux said. “In the Bible, we are told 365 times, ‘Do not be afraid.’ If we are freaked out, we don’t perform. Preparation is the difference.”
Using Phares as a demonstration assistant, Gautreaux walked through various ways a potential victim can break free from an attacker. “This is physics and structure,” he said. “Using these motions, you are strong enough to get away from the strongest guy. You have every tool you need to create distance and get away.”
Ann Malloy Kimble said she especially enjoyed the demonstration of self-defense tactics. “It was really informative and very helpful if I am ever in a situation that I need to get out of,” she said.
Ella Newton said she appreciated learning safety tactics that she hadn’t thought of before. “They told us to always leave room between us and the car in front of us to be able to get out in any situation,” she said. “I also enjoyed the self-defense tips of how to get escape being held by the wrist or to push someone off of me. I was very intrigued by the presentation and thought it was very helpful as I will be going to college next year.”
Catherine Hardouin said Gautreaux’s demonstrations were informative and easy to understand. She said she will remember that the most critical component of safety is awareness. “Learning all this information is very valuable to me, especially since I am going to college next year, and I already feel safer knowing that I can defend myself if I am put in an unsafe situation,” she said.
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos courtesy of Stacy Rennhoff