Elizabeth Smart, SUU team up to offer self-defense courses

Avery Hunter is learning how to defend herself.

The Southern Utah University freshman took her first self-defense course offered by the school. She has already learned ways to get out of the grip of an attacker and increased confidence.

"Late at night when I go to my parking lot, it’s darker, and sometimes I think to myself, 'Oh, what if something does happen?'" Hunter said in an interview with FOX 13 News on Wednesday. "Because of this class, I know I can walk through my parking lot with confidence. If something does happen, I’m the one in control."

The Elizabeth Smart Foundation, the Malouf Foundation and SUU are partnering to offer the Smart Defense class to students starting this fall. The courses teach martial arts-based self-defense techniques but also mental health skills including meditation, boundaries, bystander awareness and healthy relationships.

"What is being taught is a lifelong skill," said Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped as a child and held captive for nine months in a case that generated international attention.

SUU President Mindy Benson said her university was honored to be the first school to offer the courses, which gives college credit to students who take it.

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