Britain’s top female executives are flocking to a new training course designed to protect themselves – from harassment and sexual assault at work.
High-flyers from some of the UK’s biggest companies are signing up for the safety classes – to learn how to fend off unwanted attention from colleagues.
Instead of traditional martial arts they are shown easy-to-remember defence tactics – including how to stop a would-be sex attacker by breaking their finger.
Businesswomen are learning the preservation skills in a bid to be able to keep themselves safe while on work trips or at the office.
Companies represented on the second taster course included Vodafone, Virgin Media, Sky, BBC and Bible Society.
The training courses teach how to protect themselves while away on business – from sex assaults and even terrorists.
Female Safety Training is one of the courses offered by Blue Mountain Group, Britain’s leading specialist security solutions and professional training companies.
Founder Nigel Thomas said: “In today’s world women rightly feel the need to protect themselves from unwanted advances and potential threats, not just at home and on the street but also at work too.
“They want to protect themselves from danger and harm and we feel Female Safety Training is one of the most effective ways.
“It is a course designed to develop and encourage an increased level of awareness for women against harassment and sexual violence.
“The majority of conventional training courses rely on self-defence, but we believe that the focus should be on preventing the situation rather than focusing on the last resort – physical violence.
“Self-defence will be included in the training, but the emphasis will be on other measures we can take to keep ourselves from harm and understanding the mind-set of the attacker. It’s how we can de-escalate a situation.”
The expert instructors, many who have military or police backgrounds, teach execs simple moves they are likely to remember in the event of a crisis – including how to get out arm holds.
Instead of being taught complicated martial arts manoeuvres and throws, they are instructed how, as a last resort, to break the finger of anyone that shows overly aggressive tendencies – and hold on in order to incapacitate the would-be attacker.
Some of the top tips that are taught on the one-day course include always carrying your handbag on the side that is closest to the buildings when walking down streets, to minimise the range of would-be muggers – and also use that hand to talk on mobiles.
One of the participants, who asked not to be named, said: “As a businesswoman, I often have to travel for work and regularly find myself with down-time in a foreign city I do not know.
“I learned that so many of the things I do without thinking could put me at risk.
“I would always tell hotel staff how long I’m staying for when I check in, but Steve pointed out that that tells any would-be crooks among the workers how long my room is going to be occupied for.
“Leaving the television on and the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door is definitely a must.
“Other times I’ve been too nervous of my surroundings to do anything but stay in my hotel when not in meetings. Now I feel more confident to assess potential risks and hopefully enjoy myself more.”
Participants are also encouraged to learn the layout of airports before they arrive, and how taxis operate there, in a bid to look confident when stepping out of a terminal rather than unsure and potentially vulnerable.
Instructor Sheila Herbert said that, during an argument, one of the most important things to do is not to tell somebody to ‘calm down’ – and instead try to turn the conversation into them agreeing with you.
She said: “Never in the history of calming down has anyone ever actually calmed down by being told to ‘calm down’.”
Sheila, a 25-year police veteran, added that men attack women differently to how they attack other men, and it is rare for a bloke to punch a lady square in the face.
Instead they tend to poke with a finger and grab in order to restrain their victim, but participants on the course learn how to break simple grasps and bear hugs.
She said: “If you can break their finger, and hold on, you will de-escalate the situation because they will be incapacitated, for as long as you hold onto their broken finger.”
Kicks and knees to the crotch of a would-be sex attacker are ineffective because it is surprisingly difficult to connect with the testicles, which are the most sensitive part of male anatomy.
She added: “If you are going to attack the groin area, I wouldn’t recommend a kick or strike. I would grab them and keep hold – twist if necessary.
“Especially if it’s a sex assault, that has a high likelihood of stopping them.”
Former soldier and police officer Steve Cook also issued a warning that ‘routine kills’, as people tend to lose concentration when they are travelling around familiar areas.
Steve said that the crux of the course is heightening situational awareness to minimise potential risk.
Other things discussed on the course, which costs in the region of £170 per person but can be tailored to company needs, include making sure not to offend locals by dressing in a way that might be against local culture – and on the occasions where it might not be prudent to call police.
Participants are also taught what to do in the event of a sexual assault in order to preserve vital evidence that be more than likely to lead to conviction.
The course offers advice on a variety of different ways to manage risk, in a bid to keep people as safe as possible in different scenarios.
Blue Mountain Group have a dedicated training facility in Heckfield, Hampshire.