Several women turned out Saturday for a self-defense course developed by the Charles County Sheriff's Office.

"Personal Safety for Women" was presented at the Prince Frederick campus of the College of Southern Maryland. The course was offered last month at the college's Leonardtown campus, and it will be taught Dec. 10 at the La Plata campus.

"Our goal is to provide women with tools to prevent them from becoming victims of robbery, sexual assault or abduction by raising their awareness and providing them with personal safety tips and simple self-defense techniques," Capt. Dennis Burks, the course instructor, said in a statement about the class.

Information about the course, which is listed as LAW-5050, is available at or by calling 301-934-7521 or 301-870-3008, Ext. 7521. The cost for the class, which meets from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., is $44.

This year, the sheriff's office and the Maryland Sheriffs' Association issued self-defense tips that were aimed at helping women avoid becoming victims of sexual assault.

In a statement at the time, Charles County Sheriff Frederick E. Davis (R) said rape was a problem affecting communities throughout Maryland. "We have a responsibility to our daughters, sisters, wives and friends to give them the resources necessary to keep them from becoming a statistic," he said.

In 2003 there were 38 rapes and attempted rapes reported in Charles County, and in 2004 there were 32, according to the sheriff's office.

The personal safety tips from the sheriffs' association were based on interviews with convicted rapists who discussed what they looked for in a victim.

* The time of day rapists are most likely to attack a woman is in the early morning between 5 and 8:30. Grocery store parking lots are the No. 1 place from which women are abducted. Other parking lots and garages are second, and public restrooms rank third.

* Attackers look for women with long hairstyles that could be easily grabbed. Women talking on cell phones, searching through purses or doing other activities while walking are easier targets because they are distracted.

* A woman who resists by fighting may discourage her attacker because the attempted rape becomes too time consuming. The men interviewed said they would not pick a woman carrying an umbrella or any similar object that could be used in defense from a distance.

* If someone follows you on a street or in a garage, elevator or stairwell, look the person straight in the face and ask them a question or make small talk. If they believe you could identify them in a lineup, you lose appeal as a target.

* If someone approaches you in a menacing manner, hold your hands in front of you and yell "stop," "stay back" or "I have pepper spray." Most of the rapists indicated that they would leave a woman alone if she yelled or showed that she would not be afraid to fight back.

* If you are grabbed around the waist from behind, pinch the attacker either under the arm between the elbow and armpit or on the upper inner thigh -- hard.

* If the attacker puts his hands up to you, grab his first two fingers and bend them as far back as possible. After the initial hit, always go for the groin.

* Always be aware of your surroundings. Take someone with you if you can, and don't dismiss any odd behavior. Pay attention to your instincts.

"We want women to know they are not alone," Davis said. "If they feel unsafe, they can call us, and we will help them."

Davis said local law enforcement agencies are concerned that national FBI statistics indicate that only 37 percent of all sexual assaults are reported to authorities. "If a woman does become the victim of this horrendous crime," the sheriff said, "I urge them to report it to us. We will help them through it, not just by apprehending the suspect, but by ensuring victims have all the help and support they need to get through such an emotionally painful ordeal."

Courtney Young practices self-defense with Capt. Dennis Burks at the "Personal Safety for Women" class.Gabbi Bellucci, left, and Christina Briggles practice the knee strike in the self-defense class, which was taught by members of the Charles County Sheriff's Office. Capt. Dennis Burks starts off with classroom instruction before teaching physical defense.