The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Tampa, Florida, released a harrowing video on February 15 of a woman fending off a sexual assault. But even though the video is distressing to watch, it comes with an encouraging message for women everywhere: “Keep fighting.”
The video of Alma’s escape went viral on Twitter, where it’s been played over 5 million times.
On January 22, 2023, Nashali Alma, 24, was working out alone in the gym at her apartment complex when she saw a man standing outside the front door. She let the man in and resumed her workout, but after a few minutes, he approached her menacingly.
“As soon as he was approaching me, I pushed him. I said, ‘Bro, what the F are you doing? Get away from me, stop trying to touch me,’” Alma said in the video. “He started chasing me around the bench, and we ended up on the other side of the gym.”
WARNING: The following video may be disturbing for some viewers.
u201cA woman shares her experience after fighting off a man who physically assaulted her in her apartment complex’s gym.nnNashali Alma wanted to speak out about her experience to encourage other women who’ve dealt with similar incidents to speak out.u201d
— HCSO (@HCSO)
A fight ensued, and the alleged attacker, Xavier Thomas-Jones, 25, eventually got Alma on the ground, but she wouldn’t stop fighting him back. She used all four limbs to kick, grab and punch Thomas-Jones until he finally relented. Then, she ran out of the gym to a nearby apartment and called 911.
Within 24 hours, Thomas-Jones was apprehended by law enforcement and now faces charges of sexual battery, false imprisonment and kidnapping.
“I was disgusted by the suspect’s actions, how he preyed on this young woman,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a press release. “This woman’s strength, courage, and determination are inspiring. I know that her bravery to share this story will impact the lives of many other women.”
Yes, he has been arrested.
— HCSO (@HCSOSheriff) February 15, 2023
Alma attributes the escape to her tenacity and urges women everywhere to do the same if they are in a similar position.
“I would tell every woman always to keep fighting, never give up,” Alma said. “As long as you fight back and show him that you’re strong and you’re not giving up, I believe it’s possible to escape.”
“It’s better to reach out to law enforcement sooner than later,” she continued. “The sooner they have the information, the sooner they can catch that person.”
According to the Joplin Police Department in Montana, Alma did the right thing. The department says that if you are attacked by a rapist and decide to fight back, you must be “quick and effective” and “target the eyes or groin.” It’s also important to “make noise to discourage your attacker” and to try to “escape, scream, and be rude.”
It’s a sad state of affairs that women have to give each other words of encouragement to help them survive a potential sexual assault. But it’s important for women like Alma to share their stories to help others who may find themselves in the same position. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office should also be commended for sharing the video, so people know how to thwart a potential attacker and for starting a conversation about women’s safety.