More than 20 women in the Lethbridge real estate industry took part in a self-defence course Tuesday afternoon, after a man was arrested two weeks prior for allegedly assaulting a woman who was showing him a home.
The incident took place on May 29th, when 42-year-old Maneesh Kumar Khokar was charged in connection with an incident in which a 23-year-old female sales associate was sexually assaulted while showing a home to a prospective buyer.
Khokar is scheduled to appear in court on July 16.
In the meantime, women in the industry don’t feel safe just standing idly.
“I just wanted to help organize something like this to take a step,” said Kirby Maronda, a sales manager with Galko Homes.
“It’s so easy to just not do anything. We haven’t had anything like this over the years.”
In collaboration with Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) Lethbridge Region, Maronda was one of the organizers of the class, taught by local instructor — and Brazilian jujitsu black belt — Justin Tavernini.
“Today came about with a phone call,” said Tavernini. “I got a phone call asking for some help and I was more than willing to provide my service.”
From a situational standpoint, Tavernini says that this course is different than other self-defence classes he has taught.
“Normally when I do a self-defence course, [it’s for] in a parking lot, or an alleyway — so a little bit more of an open space —versus a confined house,” he said. “So I’ve almost revamped my program specifically for this group.”
The black belt says that the call forced him to consider the situations that women in real estate put themselves in every day.
“I put myself in the shoes of a real estate agent, and I started to dissect their job — what they do, how they interact with people — and I started to see all the flaws and I started to see all the situations where they are vulnerable,” Tavernini explained.
“They put themselves in a situation where they are alone with a complete stranger in a house.”
WATCH: (Feb. 20, 2019) Lethbridge man to be added to sex offender registry once sentenced is served
Maronda says that incidents like the one on May 29 are rare, but it doesn’t make the need for education any less important.
“Me myself, working in show homes for 13 years, if you just feel like your stomach is telling you that you need to get out of the situation then don’t put yourself in the situation,” said Maronda.
“You need to have a little more protection or knowledge to give you peace of mind.”
Maronda says that she hopes Tuesday’s session spurs further change in the industry.
“I would like to see just more awareness in the industry as a whole.” said Maronda, “The community — everybody thinks Lethbridge is safe, and it feels safe, but if we take extra steps to ask you for your licence to go show homes, I think that kind of is the next step and where things are going to go.
“We do have a lot of ladies that work for us and that want to feel protected, and don’t feel like it’s a burden to do that and that it’s annoying. It’s just going to be policy.”