Department of Self-Defense
When “stranger=danger,” RAD is the answer
Watch scenes from RAD, a self-defense class for women. Photo by Vernon Doucette
Are my keys, cell phone, and wallet in my pockets, rather than in my bag? Check.
Do I have a well-lit, well-trafficked route home? Check.
Am I wearing running shoes? Check.
Each night as the sun sets, these questions come to mind: will my walk home be safe? Will I be a target for assault or theft? And what can I do to prevent it?
Born in Boston, I was taught early on to be aware of my surroundings and leery of strangers. My mother was a single parent who worked full-time, and I was a latchkey kid. She kept it simple. “Stranger = danger” was the mantra I recited during my daily walks to and from elementary school, and as I let myself into our apartment every night.
That cultivated wariness lingered into my adulthood, as mom’s advice met TV news stories about rape, assault, and theft. My caution, realistic or not, spurred me to enroll in a self-defense class, not once, but three times, most recently here at BU.
At the University’s self-defense course for women, Rape Aggression Defense (RAD), I met others with similar reasons for signing up: some of us wanted to feel physically and psychologically empowered, some were fulfilling a request from a loved one, and others just wanted to kick some ass. You heard me. Kick some ass.
“My dad is making me take RAD,” explains Michelle Brosbe (SAR’12), who is traveling through Europe this summer with a female friend. According to her traveling companion, Cayla Banton (CAS’12): “I’m here because her dad is making me take it too.”
Boston University Police statistics show 5 rapes, 8 robberies, and 30 assaults at BU in 2008. “We believe the number is actually higher,” says Sergeant Jefferey Burke of the BUPD, noting that some crimes, like rape, often go unreported. “RAD helps prepare women to protect themselves in these situations,” says Burke, who has been a RAD instructor since 1992. “It’s one of the most rewarding and proactive things I do for my job — helping women to not become a statistic.”
Each year, 30 RAD-certified BU officers teach seven RAD courses at BU, training 85 to 100 women. “We host demos at the Student Activities Fair and Wellness Fair to attract students,” says Officer Peter Shin. “And we’d like to enroll more female faculty and staff.”
Shin says most classes are taught at night, but RAD instructors are willing to alter schedules to accommodate groups.
The 16-hour course covers many principles of prevention, such as how to “case” your home to see what crooks see: thin drapes, unlocked windows, a spare key hidden on site. It also teaches basic self-defense tactics that use women’s strengths against men’s weaknesses.
“Defensive stance,” cries Shin. “No!” the women in the class yell, their hands and bodies in combat position. “That’s good,” Shin says. “Yelling alerts people within earshot that you’re in danger. It also helps you breathe.”
RAD officers teach techniques for striking, kicking, ground defense, breaking chokeholds, and fighting with a close-quarter, self-defense keychain. “We show them how to use body mechanics and strength techniques,” says Burke, “so they don’t have to spend hours in the gym lifting weights to defeat someone who is larger than them.”
The course culminates with a much anticipated “beat down,” at which padded officers attack their students, who must break free using the techniques they’ve learned during the five-week course. The class later analyzes video footage of the attacks.
“I hope we don’t have to use these skills,” Banton says about her upcoming trip to Europe, “but I have confidence we can defend ourselves if something happens.”
The BU Police Department offers RAD courses throughout the year. Class schedules are updated periodically on the BUPD Web site. A $10 registration fee includes the manual, classroom instruction, and free lifetime return and practice at RAD classes.12 Comments