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Teen-Age Assault Victim Fights Back With Self-Defense Book

July 21, 1990

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. (AP) _ A teen-age girl roughed up by a man who pulled her from her bicycle and dragged her into woods is fighting back with a self-defense book for her peers.

At first, Amber Erling couldn’t bear to stay home alone after the 1989 attack, when she was 14.She enrolled in karate to help regain her confidence and before long was holding self-defense workshops with her karate instructor and mother.

Prevention is the main lesson of the book, called ″Safe & Sound: A Parent’s Guide on Self-Protection for Kids.″

″I figure if I can save one person, it will work,″ said Amber, now 15 and a high school sophomore.

Amber’s mother, Susan Erling, said her 90-pound, 4-foot-11 daughter was wearing ballet practice clothes when a man in a car pulled alongside her as she rode her bicycle on a Brooklyn Park street near her home.

The man grabbed Amber’s moving bike and dragged her into the car as she kicked, screamed and bit him. He drove to a nearby park and dragged her out of the car and into the woods, where her screams attracted residents. The attacker fled when a man came running to her aid.

″Since we can’t always take the bad guys off the streets, we need to make their disgusting job of attacking kids much tougher,″ Amber said in a statement promoting the book.

″We need to teach kids how to be imperfect victims, the kind of victims that child attackers hate.″

In many cases, efforts to ward off an attacker are just what experts advocate.

Allen Garber, an FBI supervisory special agent in Minneapolis, advises parents to instruct their children to create attention by making noise if they’re attacked.

″Child abductors don’t want attention,″ Garber said.

Mrs. Erling and Amber’s karate teacher, E. Gordon Franks, suggest in the book that children should jab or bite attackers if they can’t flee immediately, unless the attacker is armed.

As law enforcement officials recommend, the book advocates submission in the face of weapons.

″Although martial arts schools may teach a kid how to directly defend against a particular weapon, we feel that it’s wiser and safer for a child not to directly resist at all,″ the book says.

″Instead, a child should resist in an indirect way by looking for an opportunity to escape when the attacker is distracted or slightly off-guard.″

The book also warns against the danger of only a little knowledge of self- defense for children.

″Unfortunately, there are drawbacks to giving children just a brief education in self-defense, especially if the child somehow gets an over- confident or invincible attitude as a result,″ the book says.

The mother, daughter and karate teacher had the book published themselves. The first printing of 5,000 books has nearly sold out. Mrs. Erling said they are planning a second run.

Mrs. Erling and Franks spent about $7,500 each on the endeavor, Mrs. Erling said. The book sells for $5.95. A videotape, book and curriculum guide cost $100 and have been ordered by about 10 Minnesota school districts.

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