Realtors do the things safety experts tell you never to do.
They get into cars with perfect strangers.
They sit alone in unlocked houses and invite people – again, strangers – inside.
They meet people (strangers!) in isolated places and go with them into homes and buildings where no one else can see them.
“It’s a huge risk,” said Steve Rosbarsky, who with his wife Amanda conducted a self-defense course for real estate agents at the Missoula Organization of Realtors office Friday.
It’s a risk that until recently, Rosbarsky – who for years worked as a real estate agent himself and whose brother, Matt, and mother, Vickie Amundson, still do – never thought twice about. At least, not until last year, when a Malmstrom Air Force Base airman was charged with raping a Great Falls real estate agent at knifepoint.
It was an “aha!” moment for Steve and Amanda Rosbarsky, who run the Missoula Taekwondo Center and already conduct self-defense classes for women. Real estate agents around Montana likewise took notice.
Friday’s workshop attracted a small group, one that quickly moved from nodding and smiling at safety tips – always make sure a client goes into a room before you, never go into small enclosed rooms such as bathrooms with clients, and always have an escape route – to a far more somber dynamic as the couple got into worst-case scenarios.
Trust your gut, was their main message. Somebody gives you the creeps? Ask another agent to come along on the showing. Demand a copy of the person’s driver’s license; in fact, make that office policy for every client.
“The word we want to keep going back to is being assertive. If you feel uncomfortable, say it,” Steve Rosbarsky said.
But when your sixth sense turns out to have been justified, when your creepy client suddenly grabs you and tries to assault you, then what?
Let’s just say “the circle” works wonders. As does “the shrimp.” Both are basic martial arts moves easily learned by beginners. Group members also practiced hitting an “assailant” – in this case, one of the Rosbarskys, holding a padded shield – either with the heel of the hand or an elbow, shouting as they did so.
“Hey! Hey! Hey – ow,” MOR’s Carol Kraft shouted as she jabbed hard at Amanda Rosbarsky’s shield. “I don’t think I’d say ‘ow’ if I were in a situation,” she hastened to add.
The idea isn’t necessarily to take an assailant down, but to give yourself enough time to get away.
“Escape and evasion,” the Rosbarskys said again and again, underscoring the adage that she who fights and runs away lives to fight another day.
Amanda Rosbarsky said that when she did some research in preparation for Friday’s workshop, she found that 30 percent of real estate agents had faced “self-defense situations.”
That statistic was borne out Friday. Of the six women in the group, one had come up against a gun-toting neighbor and another literally fled a townhouse when two men began behaving inappropriately.
Both escaped unharmed. And that, said Steve Rosbarsky, is the ultimate goal.
“Overall, your well-being is more important than a commission,” he said.
Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, email@example.com or @CopsAndCourts.