Rape Aggression Defense courses hosted at BYU



    A carefully and powerfully placed kick echoes through the Heritage Halls Central Building as it hits an “aggressor” dressed from head to toe in thick black padded armor. The room erupts in cheers and shouts encouraging the “victim” to follow up that kick with a head butt or strong elbow in the stomach.

    This exercise is just part of the simulation training for instructors of the Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) classes. These special instruction courses were hosted by BYU last week.

    “Those suits may look tough, but you can still feel everything. Girls can kick a lot harder than you think. After getting struck a few times, you will really start to feel it.” said Officer Josh Gilmore from Idaho State University. Gilmore has participated in ISU’s RAD program for several years and came to BYU to act as an “aggressor” in the training exercises.

    “RAD’s goal is to help women develop and enhance optimal self defense methods and give them viable considerations when attacked in a sexual assault situation,” said Capt. Steve Williams of the San Diego State Police and regional director of RAD.

    Thelma Gowans, a corrections officer for the Toole County Sheriffs Office, said the course has helped her gain more confidence.

    “It helps to have practical experience and not just read about the skills in a book,” she said.

    Since it’s beginnings 10 years ago in Virginia, the RAD program has grown to include over 3,000 instructors in 350-400 campus settings across the United States, Williams said.

    One member of the Springfield Police Department, Debbie Hatfield, said the classes teach valuable skills for women.

    “So many are raised to be passive peacemakers. They don’t punch and they are afraid to defend themselves. It’s good for women to learn that it is okay to hurt people that are trying to hurt you,” Hatfield said.

    21 potential instructors attended this three day RAD seminar. They came from various locations in Utah, Idaho and Colorado and from many backgrounds and occupations in law enforcement, rape crisis, BYU Housing Administration, and fitness instruction.

    “It’s scary, big guys, big black suits,” said Chris Gifford a fitness instructor from Santaquin who was sponsored by the Utah County Sheriffs Office. “But you feel really good when you’re finished. It gives me a little more confidence and experience. This is something that I can do to help my community.”

    While the program itself is only offered to women, men who are training to be instructors must also go through the simulations as a victim.

    “By far more women are victims of sexual assault, what we want is for the men to have an experience of how it might feel to be a woman–to experience the taunting, the cat calls, and the fears of a sexual assault situation. It will give them a much greater appreciation of the feelings and experiences that women must go through,” said Sgt. Ryan Judd of University Police and Utah State Director of RAD.

    BYU has been involved with the RAD program for four years now and offers classes to students every semester. The Springville Police Department has the only other program in Utah thus far, but after the instructors courses are complete, we will have RAD programs in all four corners of the state, Judd said.

    “Crime is everywhere. We are not immune to it at BYU. Both on campus and off, our students have and will experience all sorts of things. In addition to our safety lectures, this gives women a practical way to respond in sexual assault situations,” Judd said.

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