BOSTON (CBS) – Beacon Hill women are still on edge after the sexual assault of a 20-year-old woman a week ago, and two similar cases in Roxbury have not helped to lend any peace of mind to residents.

Police released a sketch in the Roxbury cases and surveillance video of a suspect in the Beacon Hill case, but no arrests have been made.

While the attackers remain at large, a health club offered a free self-defense class to women.

“We’ve been in Beacon Hill since 1989 so we really care,” said Jeremy McCabe, manager of Beacon Hill Athletic Club on Friend Street. “We just wanted to give back and help out.”

Mary Ann Norton read about the class online and brought her friend Jamie Marini. The two say the proximity of the recent assaults convinced them to give up their Saturday afternoon.

“I sometimes take it for granted that I’ve always – knock on wood – been safe. But that’s silly because I should always be prepared,” said Marini who works in the Financial District and travels through Downtown Crossing every day. “God forbid something does happen.”

About a dozen women showed up for the Saturday afternoon class, taught by professional fighter George Birkadze.

“Damage your opponent and run away,” Birkadze instructed them. “You’re not doing any martial arts. You’re trying to save your life.”

The black belt told his students that attackers often target weaker victims, so physical techniques and style aren’t important. Instead of trying to fight someone, Birkadze says to disarm an opponent by asking a question. Yelling a strange word that gets attention, like “fire,” is also an effective plan.

“The problem is ‘no’ normally means nothing. If you yell ‘help,’ probably no one will help. Unfortunately.” said Birkadze.

The women learned simple defense moves that rely on the element of surprise, like head-butting an opponent or striking him behind the knees.

Boston Police said they are stepping up patrols near the places women were attacked.


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