Defense courses for women have been around for a while — such courses even became the latest Hollywood exercise fad. But a lot of people on campus might not know about the Rape Aggression Defense System, or RAD, a program offered to women by Princeton’s own Department of Public Safety and co-sponsored by the Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources and Education office.
“The RAD basic self-defense program that we offer here at Princeton is a 12-hour defense class,” said Sergeant Sean Ryder, an instructor with the RAD program and a patrolman at the Department of Public Safety. “[The 12-hour program] is quite a commitment for most students, so what we do is split the 12 hours into three lots of four hours.”
While the RAD system is a national defense program with multiple levels such as advanced, extreme, RAD for seniors and RAD for kids, the five instructors at Princeton have been running the basic defense program since 2007. “This is not a class designed to teach women how to perform 8-foot flying kicks through the air, nor is it a martial arts program,” Ryder said. “This is realistic, basic self-defense training that relies on recognizing risk. Beyond that, if ever a woman is aggressed or an individual expresses that he or she is about to attack that woman, then we are hopefully going to impart knowledge so that she knows how to deal with some basic strategies and techniques.”
The RAD system is available at various different colleges and universities across the United States. According to the program’s website, the program aims to “challenge society to evolve into an existence where violence is not an acceptable part of daily life.”
As for student interest, Ryder said the program has generated plenty in the few years that it has been running. Ryder noted that many students embark on some kind of travel during school breaks as part of internships, research projects and more. “Because of this, a lot of students recognize that they will be in places of the world where women may not be as well-respected, and that is one of the reasons why taking a course like this is beneficial to them,” he said.
The program maintains a strict level of anonymity for its students. “What RAD recognizes is there are women who take these classes who are the subject of on-going harassment or something along those lines,” Ryder explained. “RAD also recognizes that some women may be a little anxious or intimidated if they’re asked to perform or pursue these techniques in an environment where they can be seen by passersby. As instructors at Princeton, we’ve had to comply with the RAD course instruction, which is to make sure that we are instructing in an environment where the students [of the program] can’t be seen.”
RAD is offered to more than just students of the University: Faculty, staff members and members of the greater Princeton community are welcome to take this course. “I don’t ever want to be in a situation where I’m turning away any woman that says ‘I’d really like to take this defense course.’ We want to encourage as many females into the program as possible,” Ryder said.
Ryder aims to have students understand that there are always going to be risks. “We really don’t live in a bubble,” he said. Ryder explained that he aims to make people more aware of their own surroundings and capabilities. “A lot of women have never had to throw a punch, never had to kick somebody and don’t really know what their capabilities are and how it feels. [We want to] show women some techniques that, heaven forbid, they ever have to really use, but if it ever came to it, they have those tools and they know they can use them.”
The classes are usually held on Monday evenings, and each course runs for four weeks. The next course will be held in November of this semester.