Reading through comments following a recent report of a sexual assault on the Galloping Goose Regional Trail in Langford, Kris Greffard was shocked to see the number of women who were afraid to go out on local trails on their own.
Greffard, a law enforcement officer who lives on the West Shore, said she loves taking advantage of the trails and being so close to nature, especially with her kids and dogs.
“When it comes down to our community it amazes me to see how many people feel unsafe about using our local trails,” Greffard said. “I think it’s unfortunate.”
After seeing so many women speak up about their safety concerns, Greffard decided to take to social media to educate women on how to be safe.
Using small videos on Instagram and Facebook, Greffard tackles topics such as walking in isolated areas, interacting with strangers, and walking through dense forests where someone could hide.
She hopes these small snippets will give women something to think about and tactics to employ so they feel more comfortable going out on their own and will be safer.
“I really think it’s important we go back and take ownership of our personal safety,” Greffard said. “I don’t want people to think they can’t use their local trails.”
Teaching people how to be safe, de-escalate situations and protect themselves is Greffard’s job. She has been an officer for 11 years and has a background in control tactics. She teaches other officers and bylaw officers about self-protection and control tactics and also runs Sheepdog Self Protection with her husband, a company that provides reality-based self-protection training to men, women and children of all ages.
Some tips Greffard offered include: make eye contact with strangers to show them you’re confident, be aware of your surroundings by not being distracted by a phone or music and walk tall with shoulders back and your head on a swivel.
“If women are distracted, be it with headphones in, under the influence of alcohol or with their head in their cell phone, these are the people that get potentially targeted because they’re not paying attention to what and who is around them,” Greffard said.
Having a confident, strong presence has the ability to deter an attack, Greffard said.
The goal is to teach others how to prevent confrontation and walk and talk their way out of a conversation before a situation escalates.
Greffard said the street interview, a situation when a predator may ask their target a seemingly harmless question, is a way for them to gauge a situation.
In the recent sexual assault report on the Galloping Goose in Langford, police said a man was reported to have asked a 16-year-old female victim for directions, which she provided to him. He then shook her hand and pulled her in to hug her and gave her a kiss on the neck before she pushed him away.
“They use the street interview to try to test the waters,” Greffard said. “It will allow them to get closer towards you and it’s really important to recognize those cues.”
Greffard said she is hoping to post short videos a few times a week. Each one will tackle different topics and will be specific to locations on the West Shore. If women want to pursue additional training, Greffard said she encourages it.
“I really think we need to take account of our personal safety and not rely on law enforcement and not blame it on predators because that’s not going to change,” Greffard said. “The one thing that we can change is our mindset around protecting ourselves.”