Warrior Sisters Fight Back
By Alondra Abreu
“Yoga pants? Check. Sweat-proof shirt? Check. Sneakers? Check. I’m ready for my first self-defense class,” said Juana, 32, a home attendant, as she left her apartment.
Juana, along with girls and women 10 and older, are attending a self-defense workshop taught at no cost by Warrior Sisters at the Williamsbridge Oval Recreation Center. It’s once a week, for six weeks, and will teach women and people who identify as women how to protect themselves against hate crimes, violence, and assault.
“As a child, confrontation was something I tried to avoid,” said Juana. “But as I got older it seemed like that was inevitable.” Juana, who asked that we not use her full name, was married for 11 years and had two daughters when she began to be physically abused at home by her ex-husband. “Out of all places, in my own home,” she said. “I never thought I would see myself in that predicament.”
The Warrior Sisters was started in 2013 by a small group of women who believe that free, empowerment-based, woman-centered self-defense education should be available to every woman.
“And the best part is that this program is free,” said Juana. “So there’s no excuse to not go to every session.” Aside from having the classes, the women that attend also discuss the threats faced by women daily. “It’s comforting,” she says. “It’s a program that is by women, for women.”
This is why Juana made a vow to commit to six sessions in January and February. A commitment to all six classes is required, said organizers, because it allows women to build muscle memory, so that they can use lifesaving self-defense skills in a moment’s notice.
“If I would have known then what I know now,” said Juana. “I would have never let him keep putting his hands on me. What started as arguments turned into a situation of life or death.”
Juana said her husband gripped her by the throat until she passed out on various occasions, leaving bruises along her throat and face. “After the first time it happened it was like a domino effect to every other time it happened after that,” she said. “I didn’t want to tell anyone because I felt useless – I wasn’t able to defend myself.”
After three years of putting up with the abuse, her oldest daughter took it upon herself to call the police and file a restraining order, said Juana. It was her daughter who first encouraged her to take the classes. Since then, Juana has moved in with her sister and has been working to support her daughters.
And although, the Warrior Sisters organization started with just a handful of women, in just two years it has grown into a full-fledged non-profit, with representatives building communities and facilitating training and events in cities across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
“I am forever thankful to the these amazing women who have opened up their doors and arms to me,” says Juana. “Not only was I taught self-protection, but I met some remarkable women throughout the way.”