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REUTERS - A Seattle woman who became a folk hero by fighting off a would-be rapist in a public bathroom has sparked a boom in women's self-defense classes, making a meme out of the war cry she used in battle: "Not today!" followed by an expletive.
Kelly Herron, 36, was taught to "be loud and fight like a savage" in self-defense training at her workplace three weeks before the March 5 incident in which she defeated her male assailant and locked him in the bathroom where he was arrested.
Since then, after publicity about the attack, women have flocked in unprecedented numbers to the same course that helped Herron, and internet searches for the course have increased tenfold, according to Jordan Giarratano, owner of Fighting Chance Seattle, the karate and kickboxing school that prepared Herron.
At a special free course on Tuesday, more than 200 women came to learn self-defense and meet Herron. Many shouted "No!" as they practiced Giarratano's tactics, such as using hard bone to strike fleshy areas.
Herron began with an emotional address, raising her finger and telling women they can "stand up and say 'not today.'" The room burst into applause.
"It was definitely empowering," said Julia York, 35, one of the attendees. "I really loved that this was actually a story where the woman was able to fight off the attack. We don't hear about that."
Herron was training for a marathon when she stopped to use the restroom in Golden Gardens Park. Her assailant, hiding in a stall, surprised her, threw her to the ground and tried to sexually assault her, according to the police report.
Though Herron suffered a gash above her eyebrow and bruises on her face and arms, she escaped by punching and clawing back. A police mugshot of the defendant showed him with a reddened and swollen face with a large bandage over his right eye.
"Without the class, I think I would have still screamed 'not today, motherfucker!' That definitely came from within. But the self-defense tactics came from the class," Herron said.
Since Herron's story made headlines, Giarratano said he has fielded daily inquiries from companies wanting to contract his service for employees.
Web searches, which previously totaled 50 to 100 a month, shot up to 1,000 per month, he said, and the monthly workshops in his gym are now weekly.
Reporting by Daniel Trotta in New York and Tom James in Seattle; Editing by Richard Chang