Self-defense classes offered on campus this week help empower women

Mikaela Cannizzo

Students gathered at The University of Texas Police Department on Monday evening for the first class of a three-day course aimed at teaching women self-defense techniques and risk-reduction strategies.
The Rape Aggression Defense System is a national program taught at UT by trained officers since 2001. Lt. Laura Davis said the program is held free of charge twice a semester. Following Monday’s session, the program will continue with classes held Tuesday and Wednesday night at 5 p.m.

“We consider this as just one program of many, but overall, it gives you a good basis,” Davis said. “You don’t have to get different level belts or anything to be able to do it; they’re very basic moves, so anybody can do them.”

Other than physical techniques such as escaping attackers and understanding defensive postures, Davis said the class teaches students about crime prevention and staying safe in a wide range of situations, including walking on campus, traveling and participating in social media.

While the RAD classes offered this week are for women only, Davis said the University has held RAD for men in the past. She said these classes are not offered as frequently because of a lack of requests and interest among the male population on campus.

Davis said women who participate in the course gain self-awareness and empowerment. An optional simulation is offered on the last day of the program, which puts women in real-life situations to practice the techniques they have learned.

“You’ll see the difference between a female who takes the class on Monday and when they come out on Wednesday and what they realize they can do,” Davis said.

Erin Burrows, Voices Against Violence prevention and outreach specialist, said the organization helped UTPD implement the RAD program at UT by using grant funds from the Department of Justice to purchase equipment and provide funding for officer training.

Burrows said VAV promotes the idea that self-defense is not prevention.

“Prevention for us is about changing the behavior, the attitudes and the beliefs of people who are causing harm,” Burrows said. “Self-defense is about increasing someone’s skill set and what they can do to decrease their vulnerability of experiencing violence.”

While Burrows said these classes have the ability to increase self-awareness and improve methods of attack, but the training will not necessarily decrease the likelihood of sexual assault or rape.

Psychology junior Anissa Garcia said she completed the course during a previous session and is considering signing up again to improve her skills and knowledge. She said she wants other students to be proactive about their safety, too.

“I have and will continue to encourage people to take the RAD class,” Garcia said. “Any person can be the victim of an attack, and everyone has the right to be prepared.”

According to the UTPD website, another opportunity to attend the RAD course will be available in May. Registration is currently open, and students can sign up on the website.

Davis said she encourages students to attend the two remaining classes this week, even if they did not participate last night. She said no registration is required at this point, for the remainder of the week. Comfortable clothing and athletic shoes are recommended for the classes, Davis said.