By Patrick Donachie

A group of about 40 people learned about self-defense tactics at an event held to help educate the community about the dangers of sexual assault. The evening was part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The event was organized and sponsored by state Sen. James Sanders (D-Rochdale Village) and took place April 5 at Praise Tabernacle Church in Jamaica. The evening included presentations by an officer from the NYPD Special Victims Division, a social worker from the NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault and the president of Recoveries R Us, a program located in Inwood.

At the event, Sanders stressed that sexual assault incidents were both extraordinarily damaging and too frequent.

“Sexual assault is a serious crime that affects the physical and emotional well-being of survivors long after the attack is over,” Sanders said. “We are here today to raise awareness of this type of violence and do our part to educate as many people as we can in an effort to prevent future incidents from occurring and to encourage those who have been victimized to seek help.”

Avi Avramcheyiv, the founder of the NY Self-Defense Academy, previously worked as an instructor in hand-to-hand combat in the Israeli Defense Force. His experiential tutorial showed the audience that they might be able to fight off an attacker who is wielding a knife or a gun, even if they do not have a weapon themselves.

“It’s very simple to defend yourself,” he said during the presentation. “All you need are a pair of hands, a pair of legs, fingernails, teeth and you’re fine.”

Other speakers spoke about the medical and legal rights that individuals have if they are the victims of sexual assault.

Melissa Saravia, a registered physician assistant at Jamaica Hospital, told the audience that sexual assault victims would have private areas in the emergency room to ensure confidentiality and Kirlyn Joseph, an attorney at Queens Law Associates, said a public statement from a victim at a trial could have a seismic impact on the court proceedings.

“Some of the most compelling words can come from the survivor if they are able to speak to the court and share with the court the trauma they have endured, and that will greatly affect the sentence,” he said. “It’s even impactful in cases that end in a plea.”

There are about 293,066 victims of rape or sexual assault each year in the country, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, and the organization asserts that approximately 68 percent of assaults are not reported to police.

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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