Diane Jenkins is constantly reminded of her daughter Amy St. Laurent, who was murdered a decade ago after disappearing in Portland’s Old Port.

Each celebration that St. Laurent should have been part of, like her sister’s wedding last summer, is bittersweet. She would have been the maid of honor.

Jenkins takes some comfort in knowing that the foundation she started to memorialize St. Laurent has helped protect hundreds of women.

The Amy St. Laurent Foundation has helped fund Rape Aggression Defense System training by the Portland Police Department. Since 2002, the department has been training women in self-defense and teaching others to become trainers.

“These women that go through the class, they come back to go through again and they bring somebody else, or they have told somebody else about it,” Jenkins said. “Absolutely, I’ve felt it made a big difference.”

Registrations are being taken this week for the next five-class self-defense course, which will begin Feb. 8 at the police station on Middle Street.

St. Laurent was 25 when she was killed in 2001. Jeffery “Russ” Gorman was convicted in 2003 of murdering her after offering her a ride from a friend’s apartment.

The self-defense course has helped hundreds of women avoid situations where they might put themselves in danger and helped women escape from dangerous situations, said Coreena Behnke, a Portland police officer who coordinates the program for the department.

“It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever been involved in,” said Behnke, who, like the other instructors, is a volunteer. “You can truly empower someone’s life.”

The department offers the classes six to 10 times a year. A $25 donation to the Amy St. Laurent Foundation is suggested to help pay for ongoing training, educational materials and supplies.

Detective Maryann Bailey, another instructor, said the simulations used in the training are educational and help students understand that they could use the self-defense skills if they needed to.

“The primary focus is escape,” she said. “Do what’s necessary to give them a few seconds to remove themselves from the situation.”

Behnke said students have ranged from 13 to 86 years old.

On her desk, Jenkins keeps her eldest daughter’s picture, the same one she has had there for 10 years. Time makes the loss more bearable, even if it doesn’t heal it, she said.

It’s a pain that no mother should have to endure, and if self-defense training can help prevent it, then that’s an important legacy for her daughter, she said.

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: [email protected]