Authorities urge victims to fight back
By: Jana Hollingsworth,
The violent death of Leah Gustafson last Saturday has many Superior residents feeling uneasy about personal safety.
Gustafson was stabbed to death in her home by her own sword early Saturday after the assailant was allowed into her apartment building. Jason Borelli has been arrested and charged with first-degree intentional homicide in connection with the murder.
Self-defense experts say it appears Gustafson attempted to fight off her attacker, and she used her cell phone to call 911 — two things that should be done when attacked.
“It looks as if she fought like a mad dog, and I guess she got overwhelmed,” said Charlie Law, Chief Deputy of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department and a teacher for rape defense. “She did the right things.”
The most important steps to take when alone, Law said, are to be aware of surroundings, have a plan in place and avoid looking like a victim.
“If something happens, it’s your choice if you want to fight or not,” he said, “but we heavily suggest you fight. You’re trying to fix the problem.”
When you’re alone, park under street lights, keep your car locked, check the backseat before entering the car and carry your keys in your hands, said Kelly Burger, executive director of the Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse in Superior.
“Walk with a purpose, and don’t look down,” she said. “If you live alone, keep your door locked and don’t rush to answer it.”
Capt. Charles LaGesse of the Superior Police Department said some residents have called in the wake of Gustafson’s death asking what should be kept in a house for defense.
He suggested pepper spray for those having small children who don’t want weapons in their homes. If a weapon is a choice, he cautioned letting it fall into the wrong hands.
Law said “weapons of opportunity,” like snow shovels in the hallway, should not be left in the open. He suggested getting to know neighbors to assist each other if something goes wrong, and keeping a cell phone close to where you sleep.
LaGesse has also taught self-defense classes and said a victim must be offensive.
“Strike hard in tender areas,” he said, suggesting punching a throat, groin or eyes and using keys and fingernails.
“When someone is bigger or stronger than you, strike vulnerable points with whatever weapons come to hand,” he said.
Most people are assaulted by someone they know, LaGesse said, and when deciding whether to trust an acquaintance, the decision must be based on a careful read of that person and the situation you are in.
“Be wary unless that trust is earned,” he said.
If you find yourself at a party or bar where people are acting inappropriately and you are uncomfortable, he said, leave.
“Listen to that little voice and realize that a lot of personal safety is personal choices and where you put yourself,” he said.