Female Warhawks empowered at UPD’s Equalizer


If you were to look inside Spirit Hall in Bayou Pointe Event Center last Tuesday you would see girls shouting “Stop!” and holding out their palms to ward off fake attackers during Women’s Equalizer Self-defense program.

At first glance, the exchange might have seemed silly but it could actually be the difference between life and death for some women.

According to the director of the University Police Department, Tom Torregrossa, UPD brought Equalizer to campus at the request of female students.

There was a worry about women’s safety on campus so the police department trained Meghan Olinger, assistant director of Bayou Pointe Event Center, and Sonni Bennet, coordinator of spirit groups, in law enforcement-based defense tactics.

They are now the only two civilians in the U.S. qualified to teach the Equalizer course.

“We are just average people,” Olinger said. “That’s why UPD approached us. We look like we are just one of y’all. So, if we can do it, you can do it.”

Not only are the defense tactics taught law enforcement-based, they are also focused on women defending themselves from sexual predators. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women are going to be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. Olinger and Bennett both agree that women need to be prepared for these possible situations.

“We both are so passionate about this training and I mean to the point where we want to shake every woman in our lives and ask ‘Why didn’t you come? I know you were watching Netflix. You have no excuse not to come,’” Olinger said.

Participants don’t have to have any experience in self-defense, but Bennett warns that the program is physically challenging especially if you aren’t used to strenuous exercise. 

“I’m not trying to scare anyone off,” Bennett said. “I’m just trying to be realistic.”

Although the class is designed to welcome women without any self-defense experience, it is an event that can be enjoyed by experienced fighters. Senior communication and Spanish major, Emily Healy, is trained in martial arts yet continues to participate in Equalizer anyways. She said she learns something new from the program each time she comes.

“You can never stop learning,” Healy said. “Having the knowledge of how to defend yourself and developing natural reactions creates a sense of self-confidence and it leaves you feeling empowered.”