LA CROSSE, Wis. -- No one thinks it's going to happen to them. But almost one in five women in the U.S. have been victims of rape or attempted rape at some point in their lives.

And if you don't think it happens here, think again. The La Crosse Police Department says local instances of rape are on par with national statistics.

News 8's Jenna Troum and photographer Kevin Hoy spent the past two months with some women in our area who are fighting back.

Self defense classes are nothing new, but one program here in La Crosse has a very specific purpose: teaching women how to terminate a sexual assault.

Every woman in this class has a story.

"I wound up in the hospital a couple times," said Donna Dwyer.

"I was 12, he was 17," said a rape victim.

"I was really concerned about leaving the building late at night," said Jackie Urban.

They're here to learn how to defend themselves from sexual assault. Some of these women are taking this class as a precaution. And some are victims who want to be able to say it won't happen again.

"I was raped when I was 12. And it's amazing how strong those memories can be when-- it's the silly things. I mean my rapist was a football player and so to see even someone come to school with ice packs on their shoulders coming straight from a sports practice would get me,” said one victim.

It's not the first time she's been a part of this class. The last time she took it, she couldn't bring herself to go through with graduation, when students have to fight their way out of a simulated attack.

"To put myself in a situation where it was dark, that I was in the grasp of someone bigger, stronger, and just knowing that I was fighting to keep that from happening again, I just, I don't think I could've done it,” she said.

But years later, she's back.

"I want to just prove to myself that this can never, ever happen again. I want to know that I have the ability to fight off an attacker if this would ever happen.... I mean, it's the insurance policy. No one thinks their house is going to burn down either. But they still get the insurance," she said.

It's an insurance policy Sparta resident Jackie Urban wants to have for life.

"No one's ever attacked me or anything like that, but I don't want anyone to have the opportunity," said Urban.

Urban has never taken a self defense class before.

“I was almost offended that I'd have to think about defending myself," said Urban.

She enrolled in the class after she thought she heard someone breaking into her house one night. It turned out to be nothing, but she realized she wasn't prepared to defend herself.

“It made me realize I was really unprepared for anything like that. Started hyperventilating and all that. Got really scared and didn't know what to do," said Urban.

And it's Master Larry Klahn's job to teach them. Nearly 4,000 women have gone through his program at Three Rivers Martial Arts in La Crosse. There have been 22 documented saves.

"Why do we keep doing it? We do it for literally the one. The one person who desperately needs it. The one person who will stop an assault before things get rolling. The one person who has been assaulted at one time in their past can now put it down and say it'll never happen again. That's why we do this. That's why we've always done it. And that's why we're going to keep doing it," said Klahn.

And this time around, the victim who’s taken this class once before hopes she’ll be ready. But she’s not sure.

"That's always the debate, I guess," she said.