Hockaday graduate Lanie Milliorn recounts her story of how she escaped an attack by a stranger with the help of Self-Defense Instructor Meg Hinkley’s training
Yell and scream, attack the eyes, hit the throat or gut and then run. These are the survival techniques every senior learns from Upper School self-defense instructor Meg Hinkley. These are the survival techniques Lanie Milliorn ’09 learned the summer before her senior year at Hockaday. These were the survival techniques that helped Milliorn escape from an attack.
As the third quarter comes to a close on March 19, Hinkley will have finished teaching the basic self-defense techniques to the seniors, though none can truly imagine themselves getting assaulted or attacked.
“Don’t scream and I won’t hurt you…Don’t scream,” he whispered in her ear.
Texas Christian University student Milliorn had just attended a friend’s birthday party near campus and was heading back her dorm with two friends her freshman year. Her friends left her alone within sight of her dorm to go to their own dorms. As she walked past Scarborough Hall, which was undergoing construction, she saw, out of the corner of her eye, a man standing behind a tree.
Before she could run or react, she felt his arms wrap around her and a sharp object was pressed against her back. His breath reeking of smoke, he whispered in her ear and told her not yell. She completely froze, unable to move.
As her attacker dragged her to the construction site, her adrenaline kicked in, and Milliorn began to stab her high heels into her attacker’s foot. She felt the weapon fall from his hands, and his arms released her long enough for her to turn around and stand face-to-face with him.
She jabbed her knee into his crotch until he fell to the ground. As she turned to sprint away, he grabbed her foot in a last attempt to control her, but she kicked and shook her foot until her shoe fell off and hit his face. Shaggy-blonde hair. A mole on his face. A flannel shirt. That was all she saw of him or would see of him since that day—Nov. 6, 2009. She sprinted to her dorm, immediately found her hall director and called the cops.
“During the attack, I was initially frozen to the point where I couldn’t speak or move,” Milliorn said. “Many people asked me if I was scared to fight back since he had a weapon—I could definitely feel the weapon on my back—but the second I decided to fight, there was nothing to stop me from escaping.”
In Hinkley’s 11 years of teaching self-defense at Hockaday, nine students—including Milliorn—have told Hinkley that they have used physical self-defense to protect themselves.
“She’s taking some information that she learned and being able to put it into action she can use. That’s not always easy to do,” Hinkley said. “Just because you’ve learned self-defense doesn’t mean you’re always going to be in a situation where you can use it. The fear involved in those situations can be overwhelming.”
Three years later and now a senior at TCU, Milliorn recalls Hinkley’s lessons as instructive but also fun.
“I remember joking around with friends and having fun, but that class honestly saved my life,” Milliorn said. “The simulated attacks are so great because they give girls the confidence to fight back and believe that they have the strength to get out of any situation no matter their age or size.”
Milliorn was informed later by the police that her suspected attacker was believed to have raped a girl just three weeks before he attacked Milliorn. To this day, Milliorn’s attacker has not been caught.
“That same year I went to a pizza joint with my friends and I saw this guy that I could’ve sworn was him. I almost fainted,” Milliorn said. “I called the police and it turns out it wasn’t him. I don’t think about it every day, but it’s definitely always in the back of my mind.”
However, Hinkley said that the majority of physical confrontations and violence can be avoided by seeing the signs.
“Treat parking lots like a war zone,” Hinkley said. “When you’re leaving the store you [should be] scanning the environment and your only job is to get in and out as quickly as possible. People target you when you’re distracted or on your phone.”
When approached by a stranger in an isolated place, Hinkley immediately said that the answer needs to be “I can’t help you. Back away.”
“You don’t want to allow the person to get closer to you and then commit the crime,” Hinkley said. “We’re so conditioned to be nice, to be helpful and to be polite, that sometimes it’s hard to say no, but you have to think about your safety first.”
More often than not, situations in which self-defense is needed do not occur with a stranger but with a friend or an acquaintance.
“The most important thing for young women to know when it comes to self-defense is that 90 percent of sexual assaults happen under the influence of alcohol or drugs with somebody they know,” Hinkley said. “So how you defend against that is not about physically fighting, but beforehand making the right choices and not getting yourself to a vulnerable situation where people can harm you.”
According to a survey taken by the New York Times in December 2011, “nearly one in five women report that they have been raped or had experienced an attempted rape at some point [in their lifetime].”
Senior Marzia said that she “really liked” Hinkley’s class and that it was important because she will be graduating and going to college next year.
“I think that it’s really important, especially with all the shootings, to know at least some form of self-defense,” Marzia said. “If you’re in a bad situation, it’s good to know how to get through it safely and to be able to protect yourself.”
Milliorn encouraged Hockaday students to learn as much as possible from Hinkley.
“My advice to Hockaday students is [to] take advantage of Mrs. Hinkley’s class and her knowledge,” Milliorn said. “Most high school students don’t have the opportunity to take a self-defense class and these are skills that you can use for the rest of your life.”