The Impact of R.A.D: The Rape Aggression Defense System

By Catherine Frederick on October 4, 2017

“The mission of the R.A.D. Systems is to establish an accessible, constantly improving and internationally respected alliance of dedicated Instructors. These Instructors in turn, will provide educational opportunities for women, children, men and seniors to create a safer future for themselves. In doing this, we challenge society to evolve into an existence where violence is not an acceptable part of daily life.”

Rape Aggression Defense Systems, otherwise known as R.A.D, is a program found on college campuses and community centers. It crosses boarders and oceans. It is designed to teach self-defense to those most in need of it.

Young women enter college with the haunting statistic hanging over their heads. 1 in 4, 1 in 6, 1 in 5. The numbers will vary depending on the survey and the population that they’re defining, but in any case, by the time they reach college age, young women are completely aware of the likelihood of encountering sexual violence in their lifetime.

We know the tricks. Stick together. Don’t accept drinks from strangers. Don’t walk alone at night. R.A.D, however, offers a different solution. When keeping your head down and policing your drink is no longer enough, R.A.D offers to teach young women how to protect themselves from attacks in a way that doesn’t merely involve running or screaming. R.A.D. is offered on college campuses as either a weekend program that lasts 9 hours, or as a 1-credit, semester long class.

Due to needing one more credit in order to complete my graduation requirements, I chose to forgo ‘Rest and Relaxation’ and ‘Bowling,’ and decided instead to take a class that would keep me active, help teach me skills that I could use later in life, and also give me outlet in which to punch out my frustrations (something I’ve felt I needed since, oh, around late November 2016.)

So far, the class has lived up to my expectations. Now that we’ve gotten past syllabus week (and a hurricane), my classmates and I have jumped straight into defensive stances, blocking, parrying, and punching. Soon, we will be adding kicking to that repertoire, as well.

This isn’t a class where you stand evenly spaced in a room and repeat after the instructor until they pat you on the head and tell you to head home for the day. While you do stand in a circle and practice your stances and your movements in front of the watchful eye of trained law enforcement officers.

You also line up and take turns warding off padded blows from those same officers, as well as receiving tips on how to keep calm and keep breathing during a fight, how to draw attention to yourself during an attack, and how to read a person’s body to know which direction an attack is coming from.

The girls in the room with you aren’t there because they have to meet a requirement. There are plenty of ways to do that (let me refer you back to ‘bowling’ and ‘rest and relaxation.’) These girls are here because they’re tired of looking at statistics and wondering if they’re going to be one of those numbers one day. They’re there because they want to be able to fight back if the worst were to ever happen. And you can feel that seriousness in the air. These girls mean business. And they’re not all athletic tomboys, either. There’s not a type. They’re not all people who want to learn how to fight for the sake of knowing how to punch someone. These people are varied. Tattoos, and colored hard, and tall, and short. These girls aren’t all intense, CrossFit gym members, although there might be one of those in there. These are girls that put their hair up in high ponytails, and wear a bike helmet on the way to class, take off their rings before throwing a punch.

These are all normal girls, laughing in the main entry of the police station before class, who either refuse to become a statistic or want to stop what’s happened before from happening again.

At the end of the semester, a police officer will dress up in a full body padded outfit, and these completely normal girls will show what they’ve learned and try their best to kick the crap out of him. They’ll use blocks and punches that are now muscle memory, and they’ll try to prove to themselves and their teachers that they’ve learned some valuable skills. And they’ll probably be successful.

So, if you get to college, and you’ve got that statistic running through your brain and rattling about inside your skull, there are options for you. Sign up for a semester or for a weekend. Drag a friend along with you, and meet a bunch of cool girls that are completely different from you, but want the same thing in life.

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