Women learn self-defense techniques in UTPD class

Natalie Sullivan

A group of 25 women learned how to perform choke holds, kicks, punches and eye gouges in UTPD’s training room Monday night. 

The women were participating in a UTPD-offered 12-hour rape aggression defense course, which is designed to teach women self-defense techniques they can use against attackers.

UTPD officer Carolina Villarreal, who teaches the rape aggression defense course, or RAD classes, said it aims to provide women with information about what to do in dangerous situations. 

“We focus on awareness — how women can be attacked, different targets that attackers look for, how attackers think,” Villarreal said. “In case of an attack, we want women to know how to defend themselves and survive.” 

Villarreal said the course is broken into three separate sessions, which typically run about four hours each.

“First, we talk about how to minimize risk, awareness, date rape and how to avoid unsafe situations,” Villarreal said. “Then we practice offensive and defensive tactics, and participants get the chance to practice with equipment.” 

According to Villarreal, the classes provide a safe environment for women to practice real-life situations.

“At the end of the course, we do an optional simulation where women face off against a supposed attacker,” Villarreal said. “Everybody’s in protective gear — pads, headgear, and extremities — so it provides a controlled environment where women can practice these techniques and know they’ll be successful.” 

UTPD Sgt. Brian Dillenberger, who teaches the class along with Villarreal, said sexual assaults are especially prevalent among women in their early 20s. 

“One in three college women will be victims of sexual assault or attempted assault in their lifetimes,” Dillenberger said. “Most of the sexual assaults UTPD records are among victims who knew their attackers.”

Dillenberger said, although 2.3 million women reported attempted sexual assaults in the U.S. last year, 71 percent of women who took a self-defense course, like RAD, were able to avoid rape. 

Nutrition senior Genesis Valdes said she came to the classes after feeling unprotected while traveling abroad. 

“I was in Costa Rica this summer, and, sometimes, when you’re alone, you feel kind of defenseless,” Valdes said. “By taking this class, hopefully, I’ll at least be able to do something or be able to protect myself in an unsafe situation.”

Villarreal said UTPD started offering the classes in 2001, and holds two RAD sessions each year, one in September and the other in October. Classes are open free of charge to both students and faculty and staff. 

Dillenberger said the classes are designed so that the techniques are easy to learn.

“You don’t need a black belt to be able to use these techniques,” Dillenberger said. “We just want women to realize what they can do with what they have available to them.”

Psychology sophomore Anissa Garcia, who attended the class, said, while teaching women to protect themselves is beneficial, she still thinks men should be taught not to assault or rape women. 

“In today’s society, I feel like people always blame the victim, so I feel like women should learn how to protect themselves,” Garcia said. “But to teach men not to rape — that aspect is going to take a while, so I think, in the meantime, doing something like this is a good idea.”