GRESHAM, Ore. - News of Whitney Heichel's murder has sparked a conversation about safety and personal defense.

The recent abduction and murder of 21-year-old Whitney Heichel is making women pay closer attention.

Portland mom, Sharon Peters has a 21-year-old daughter who works downtown and said she is constantly telling her daughter to be careful and protect herself.

I say be proactive, not reactive. Be ready, said Peters.

The City of Portland's WomanStrength program spokesperson Sara Johnson said setting boundaries and using your voice are two of your best weapons.

That's sound advice and the same advice Johnson gives to the women who take her class.

If I trust my gut, hopefully, but not always I'll be able to know or sense danger, said Johnson.

Eighty percent of assaults against women are by acquaintances dating partners and intimate partners, she said.

When a tragedy or something traumatic happens to women, it not only raises our awareness, it makes us more scared. I validate that fact because I think it's realistic for people to feel a heightened sense of fear after something like that happens, said Johnson.

In addition to teaching assertiveness both physically and verbally, she teaches how to have internal assertiveness where her students ask the questions: Do I feel good about being able to protect myself? Am I capable of it?

Set boundaries and your voice is your best weapon, she said.

You do whatever it is that you have to do in that moment to stay safe, said Peters. Make sure you are always ready because you just never know, she added.

If someone is holding a gun or a knife to you and you freeze, every situation is different, but use mental focus, said Johnson.

Take a breath, access the situation and think about your best escape plan, she added.

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