November 19th, 2008 10:42 EST
Self Defense can be R.A.D
She can touch, she can smell and she can hear, but she cannot see-- anything. The once familiar walk is now unknown and foreboding. Even before she begins to physically fight, she is unnerved by the realization that she is already fighting. This fight is psychological and grave. Behind her face mask, she is gripped by fear, doubt and failure. The simple thought, "I`m going home.` is suddenly as dim as the three days of training.
A scream rips from her throat. She`s been grabbed from behind and dragged to the ground. Her arms are restricted and useless. She struggle to stay on top. Suddenly, an arm is free and, with two quick jabs to the ribs, she rolls herself free and jumps to her feet. Her vision restored, she sees her attacker still on the ground. Reflexively, she strikes a stunning kick to the groin. Turning to run, she sees another foe: 6`2" and 210 pounds, colossal. Resistance is a natural response to violence. She went home.
In 1989 Lawrence N. Nadeau devised the Rape Aggression Defense Systems (R.A.D) and began training women in self-defense. Now offered through Wayne State University`s Public Safety, R.A.D. is an intense, four-day, female-only program wherein Sgt. Kelvin Thomas, a R.A.D. instructor, teaches that by learning simple techniques and using common sense, "You don`t need any baseball bats." Sgt. Thomas should know. He`s been a R.A.D. instructor for eight years.
According to the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center, most rapes are committed with no weapon. Learning that rapes can occur in social settings and that secondary crime scenes, more often than not, mean certain rape and possible death is unsettling. "Realize that you can fight back," says Melissa Lesperance, a nine-year R.A.D. instructor, and WSU dispatcher, "you don`t have to be a victim."
"In my circumstance, it wasn`t somebody that I did not know," states Heather Dicks, a South African native who moved to the United States 10 years ago to escape her past. Dicks, then in her early 20s, worked as an Assistant Workshop Manager at the Society for the Deaf, the Blind, and the Epileptic. "It was very rewarding work," continues Dicks, "I loved it."
Two years into her employment, and comfortably working with a close knit and caring staff, her boss, a Methodist Minister and family man, attacked her. Confusion, shame and isolation quickly followed. "I didn`t know who I could talk to," states Dicks, "I didn`t tell my co-workers because I felt that they would think that I had asked for it, maybe not in words, but in actions."
Generally, people think of Jodie Foster`s Oscar-winning portrayal of a rape victim in The Accused, " but, in real life, it is rarely like that. Most people keep it well-hidden for years and years," states Mary White, Director of The Campus Health Center. "I can count on one hand the number of times that the victim was hysterical."
`No` is a constant R.A.D. command and for Dicks it meant more than rejection, refusal and denial. "It felt good to say `no` this week because my "no" was heard by others. I heard myself saying "no` and meaning it."
"What is it that we`ve taught you," asks Police Officer Eleshia Kelly, "that you can apply?" A perpetrator will often use some form of intimidation to create a hold and generate fear over the victim that puts them into submission. "Initially, before you`re approached, it`s better to fight," states White.
Eleven years after being mugged at gunpoint in Chicago, Michigan native and WSU Professor, Mairi Noverr, matter-of-factly said, "I never considered going on the offensive before this class."
Physical perfection is not essential to go to a R.A.D. class. A cultural mix of participants stood 5`3" to 5`9" with fitness levels ranging from couch potato to the athletically gifted. "R.A.D. is about empowering you," continues Sgt. Thomas, "to let you know that you can defend yourself."
Intended for every female, young and old, there are consequences for taking part. "Petting my cat was a chore this morning," chuckled Africana Studies Professor, Lisa Alexander, one day after completing R.A.D. The fourth and final night of R.A.D. consists of a three-part simulation. "We try to make it stressful, " stated Training Officer, Gary Voight, "it`s gonna be stressful."
Summing up the R.A.D. philosophy, Lt. Dave Scott said, "Turn fear into anger and anger into power."