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The One Class Every Woman Should Take

It’s called R.A.D.

I know. It’s kind of a cheesy name, but it stands for Rape Aggression Defense. This is a class offered across the country by certified R.A.D. instructors who are often members of the police department.

The University of Massachusetts Police Department offers this course to women on campus, including students, staff and faculty, free of charge. This four night course teaches behaviors and self-defense techniques that will help to keep women out of danger.

The first night covers smart behaviors that can help keep you safe. For example, when you are in a parking lot, walk down the central aisles, not through the cars so that if someone tries to grab you, you’ll see him coming. At night, always do your best to walk in well-lit areas where there are people, and if you decide to go out drinking, always keep an eye on your drink, and only take drinks from people you know and trust or better yet, go get it yourself.

The course also covers suspicious behaviors that you should watch out for. There are common behaviors that we, as women, sometimes see that we need to stop as soon as we see them. When a guy does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, put a stop to it right there. If you’re at a bar or a party and some guy brushes up against you and it doesn’t seem like an accident, or if he grabs your butt or any other private part, don’t let him get away with it. Grabbing your private parts isn’t just inappropriate, it’s indecent assault and battery. Tell him that, and he will most likely forget any thoughts he had of trying to harm you.

This sort of behavior could be drunken stupidity, but it might not. The offender could be testing your response. If you let the offender brush up against your breasts because he’s reaching for something in front of you once, it could just be an accident. But if he does it again, and you still don’t react, he might think he can grab you and you won’t react, then he might go further and further. The behavior escalates. This is why you must put a stop to it right away. If he brushes up against you and it could be an accident, just say, “watch where you’re going,” or “keep your hands off me,” and that should put a stop to it. You are chosen as the target of this kind of negative attention or behavior because the offender thinks you’re a victim; he doesn’t think you will defend yourself.

The second two classes focus on what to do if the offender doesn’t back off. This is where you learn what to do if it comes to physical contact: if he grabs you, if he tries to hit you, if he tries to strangle you. The first thing they tell you to do is yell and not scream. People scream all the time and for all different reasons, but you can’t tell why someone is screaming. However, you can always tell when someone is yelling out of panic.

The instructors then explain the techniques, why they’re effective and show you how to do them. Then, you actually practice yelling while using these techniques in the air and against bags in a repetitive fashion with the intention that they become more of a reflex than something that you have to think about. When you’re being attacked, there isn’t any time to think about what you should do. Your reaction should be to attack the easiest targets, then run away. This class doesn’t teach fighting, it teaches survival.

In the last class you actually put these techniques to the test. Certified male instructors put on “aggressor” suits, which are head to toe pads to protect them from harm, and in different scenarios they actually attack the women who choose to participate in the simulation. The women also have elbow and knee pads, helmets, and gloves to protect them from harm.

As someone who has taken this class, I can honestly say that the simulation accurately invokes the sense of panic and fear that you would feel if you were really being attacked even though you are in a completely safe environment.

When you’re being attacked, you feel like you’ve forgotten everything and you revert to survival mode to try and get out of there. Watching the other women while they were being attacked, I could see them effectively using the skills we learned. These techniques had become second nature. It’s scary to participate, but it’s also extremely empowering. Everyone who did it, even those who didn’t know if they could or didn’t know if they wanted to, felt far more confident in their abilities after the simulation.

The best part of this program is that after you have completed the course, you are a lifetime member and can retake this class to brush up on your skills anywhere it’s being offered for free.

Every woman should take this class so that no woman has to be a victim. It’s free here at UMass, and the R.A.D. officers would love to see more women take this class. So look for UMass R.A.D. on Facebook and check out the UMass Police Department web site for the dates of upcoming classes. There won’t be any more classes until next semester here at UMass, but if you’re eager to take R.A.D., check out the official R.A.D. website to find out where classes are being offered near campus or near your home over the summer.

Sara Crossman is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at scrossma@student.umass.edu.

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