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Women’s safety in downtown Columbia a rising concern

More than a week after a woman was allegedly raped in the Tenth Street and Cherry parking garage in downtown Columbia, women’s safety downtown has become a rising concern.

ABC 17 News talked to a few women who said they feel downtown has gotten less safe in the last few years.

“I lived downtown as a college student and I would walk back and forth from work by myself, but as an adult now having graduated college, it’s a little more scary even just driving downtown,” said Columbia resident Alex Smith.

Smith frequents downtown and practices self defense at Hockman’s ATA Martial Arts center to learn skills to protect herself if she is ever in a situation where she is being attacked.

Jeff Hockman, instructor and owner of the center, said safety begins with awareness.

“You don’t want to be walking and texting, stumbling, those types of things,” Hockman said. “You need to be focused, head up, looking where you’re going.”

He said attackers are less likely to go after someone who is confident and paying attention to their surroundings.

“Most people that are attacking, they’re wanting to feel superior, especially when you’re talking about a sexual assault,” Hockman said.

Even though police patrol the area, Hockman said people, especially women, always need to be prepared for possible attack situations.

“Have a little paranoia in life,” he said. “Walk around and look at your surroundings and think, what would I do if a person jumped from behind that car? How would I react? Because if the first time you ever think about that is when you’re attacked, nothing good is going to happen.”

ABC 17 News reached out to police for their safety tips, but they were unavailable Monday.

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