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Teen offers a few lessons to her Stuttgart teachers

Dawn MacFarland, an English teacher at Patch High School, throws a punch during a self-defense class by 14-year-old Milan Juliano (left). Milan, a second-degree black belt in tae kwon do, completed her Girl Scout Silver Award by holding the class.

CHARLINE COON / S&S

Girl Scout teaches class in self-defense for women

By CHARLIE COON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 3, 2008

STUTTGART, Germany — One woman was grabbed by a man in a dark parking lot; the other was followed off a train.

Neither woman was assaulted but both had real-life close calls.

They shared their stories on Thursday after a self-defense class conducted at Patch High School by Milan Juliano. The 14-year-old, who has a second-degree black belt in tae kwon do, gave the class for 20 female teachers.

Her message: Do whatever it takes to get away.

“Be confident and aggressive,” Milan said. “Confident so you know you have the skill to get away; aggressive because if you’re passive, the attacker will probably take advantage of you.”

For Milan, the class was a final step for her to earn her Girl Scout Silver Award, the highest honor for Scouts ages 11 to 14. Her fists and elbows, knees and feet as well as her martial-arts training would make the petite freshman a formidable opponent for any school bullies or street thugs.

The teachers, most of whom were women unfamiliar with fighting, learned simple tools for fending off would-be thieves and rapists.

Screaming, kicking, biting or even a stern shout of “No,” they were told, is often enough to stop an attacker. An umbrella, purse or sweater flailed in someone’s face can buy a few seconds to escape.

“It’s important to have that awareness,” teacher Dawn MacFarland said afterward. “Even if you’ve taken (self-defense) classes in the past, it’s important to refresh.”

Years ago in California, Jenifer Hickman was walking to her car in a dark parking lot when a man came from behind and put his hand on her shoulder. Hickman whirled with her right hand and backhanded the man upside the head. He took off.

“He might have been just asking for directions,” she said. But, she knew, probably not. Hickman reported the incident to a security guard.

Last year, Sammi Wright was riding the train home from a Stuttgart festival. It was night and she was alone. There weren’t many people on the train. A big guy approached her.

Wright moved away but the man sidled up to her once again, asking questions such as “Where are you from?”

“Just visiting,” she lied.

“Me, too,” he replied.

Wright changed seats and the man sat down beside her, grabbing her wrist and promising a good time. She got off at her stop and so did the man, so Wright walked over to a German couple and started chatting, and the man left.

That was a smart move, according to Sgt. Joel Vega, an investigator with the Army Garrison Stuttgart provost marshal office.

“There’s safety in numbers,” Vega said. “If you feel you’re being targeted, approach a group of people and start a conversation.”

It’s easy to feel safe and adventurous in laid-back Europe, Vega said. Venturing off the beaten path, he said, can lead to trouble just like back in the States.

“This isn’t our country, we don’t do research (on neighborhoods), and there’s a language barrier,” Vega said. “(At home) you know where not to go. Here it is a different story.”

Milan said she gave the presentation to her teachers because they’ve done a lot for her. She wanted to return the favor. Milan also gave the presentation to a class of high schoolers earlier in the day.

“Use your resources wisely and don’t be afraid,” Milan said.