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This waitress acted on instinct to defend herself. Now she wants to empower women

The offending patron was immediately arrested after police saw the now-viral video.
/ Source: TODAY

A male diner thought he could get away with groping a waitress. He was wrong.

On June 30, a customer attempted to touch server Emelia Holden's butt as he walked by while she working at Vinnie Van Go-Go's pizzeria in Savannah, Georgia. A security video that was released on Sunday, and has quickly gone viral, shows Holden's quick-thinking defense tactic: she is seen immediately grabbing the assailant by the shirt, throwing him to the ground and reprimanding him for his actions.

According to the Savannah Morning News, the man, who was later identified as Ryan Cherwinski, 31, of Palm Bay, Florida, was arrested at the restaurant that night after local police viewed the footage. He was taken into custody and charged with sexual battery.

The surveillance video was first posted to Reddit's "JusticeServed" column Sunday and has since received more than 50,000 hits.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, where women from all industries have come forward to discuss personal experiences of sexual misconduct, accusations have surfaced about dozens of high profile people — from chef Mario Batali to film industry titan Harvey Weinstein. Though the incident at Vinnie Van's was negative, Holden's fierce reaction has spurred an outpouring of praise and has since turned into a platform for many to discuss self defense as a tool for female empowerment on social media.

"I mean, for me it's amazing how many positive responses I've gotten from this. I've had so many different women share their stories of sexual assault where they wish they could’ve handled it in that way," Holden, 21, told TODAY Food. "Parents have also reached out to me and said their daughters feel empowered."

Some have expressed praise with gifs on social media, celebrating a young woman standing up for herself.

One tweeter wrote, "let this be notice to any other pig that thinks they can lay their hands on anybody."

Another said this incident could help teach a lesson to "others who think they can do the same thing."

On Holden's Facebook page, one person commented, "Sorry that happened to you. Incredible how you made it into something positive!!!"

Holden told TODAY that she acted on "instinct," and has received no previous self-defense training, though she has since been offered professional lessons by instructor James Finizio of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Savannah.

"I offered to train Emelia for two reasons," Finizio, who frequents the restaurant where Holden works, told TODAY Food. "I come from a family of strong women and admired Emelia's courage to stand up for herself, her boundaries and her body. And then because I saw the potential of how else that situation could have played out."

Finizio also said he sees the potential for how the situation could have played out, especially if the man had reacted to Holden's actions with violence or anger, rather than surprise.

"Be realistic with your self defense pursuit. You must be willing to invest in your own safety," he said. "These situations unfold too quickly to rely on someone else."