A Pretty RAD Class

Jan 19, 2016, 15:55 PM by KirstiAnn Clifford

UTMB Police offer Rape Aggression Defense course to empower women

“Run!” “Get away!” “Hit him!” “Give him a hammer fist!” It’s a Thursday night, and more than a dozen women fill a UTMB police training room, shouting encouragement and suggesting ways to fight back as one of the women gets “attacked” by two men. 

It’s hard to keep in mind that the simulations aren’t real. The two aggressors are actually UTMB police officers in padded suits who are also instructors for the Rape Aggression Defense course, known as RAD.

The 12-hour basic self-defense class is designed for women and provides personal safety education through a blend of threat-avoidance strategies and real-world assault-resistance tactics. RAD is taught nationally and endorsed by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. In Galveston, the UTMB Police Department provides the classes free of charge to all women ages 12 and up.

“I’ll be sore tomorrow,” smiles Sgt. Chris Fultz, who acted as a “RAD Aggressor” on the third and final day of class. “Many women don’t realize their own physical power. In the scenarios in which we pose as attackers, the students use the techniques they’ve learned and oftentimes surprise themselves with how effective they are at defending themselves in a confrontational situation.”

The physical self-defense techniques were new to Connie Holubar, director of operations at the Galveston National Laboratory, who was encouraged by her college-aged sons to take the class.

“I was a little nervous beforehand because I had never made a fist and punched anyone in my life, but it turned out to be a lot of fun,” said Holubar. “I wanted to have some confidence that if anything happened to me, I’d have some idea of what to do. I hope I never have to use these techniques, but it’s really empowering to have them. I told everyone at work that they should take this class. It makes you more aware.”

Even those who have a background in martial arts found the class to be empowering. Ashley West, a Web designer in Information Services, has practiced martial arts for 17 years and has taken the RAD course four times. 

“It’s great to augment my skills, and I usually bring a friend with me who has never done the class before,” said West. “It’s awesome that UTMB offers this class for free—it costs a couple hundred dollars at other places. Since it’s provided as a community service, it gives a lot of women who may not have the resources otherwise the opportunity to learn some great skills.”

While RAD teaches some physical self-defense skills, it’s not to be confused with your typical martial arts class. 

“The goal is not to inflict damage—it’s to survive and get away,” said Sgt. Shawn Carr, a RAD instructor. “Risk reduction and avoidance are two main themes throughout the course. The first part of the class goes over various topics, from cybercrime to personal safety while driving. For example, we talk about parking in well-lit areas, paying attention to your surroundings, watching your ‘six,’ which means watching behind you and out to the sides.”

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, there were more than 19,800 sexual assault victims in Texas in 2014—and the U.S. Justice Department estimates that nearly 70 percent of rape/sexual assaults go unreported.  

Carr and his colleagues have trained hundreds of women in the community, and say that if they can help prevent one person from getting into a bad situation or give her the skills to get out of a bad situation, then it’s worth it. 

“The greatest part of any class is seeing the transformation from a nervous and scared person to a confident individual who has important tools to protect themselves,” said Carr. “Sexual assaults and attacks don’t happen here at UTMB often, but there are no guarantees. To think otherwise is naïve and to count on it never happening is not a good bet.”

All students who complete RAD receive a lifetime return and practice policy at any RAD Basic Physical Defense Program offered anywhere, regardless of instructor, free of charge. 

For more information on the RAD program or to sign up for a future class, email utpdrad@utmb.edu or visit www.utmb.edu/police/RAD.asp.