Protection from within
One in four women polled nationwide reported being sexually assaulted during college, according to the USF Police Department.
University Police Lt. Bill Pollock said that rape often goes unreported.
In 1999, only one rape was reported at the USF Tampa campus.
As lead instructor for USF?s Rape and Aggression Defense (R.A.D.), a self-defense class designed for women, Pollock teaches women how to use their bodies for protection.
?The goal of the R.A.D. program is to empower (women) with a new sense of awareness, confidence and true ability to ultimately survive and escape during an abductive attempt and/or assault,? Pollock wrote in a letter for R.A.D. students.
The R.A.D. program was created by a Virginia police officer in 1989 and has been taught by R.A.D. certified police officers at USF since May of 1994.
?Women should take the R.A.D. class because it enhances (their) options of self-defense,? said UP Sgt. Karen Pierce, who has taught R.A.D. classes since April 1996. ?Not only is this my belief, it is also the R.A.D. objective.?
Inside the classroom
The R.A.D. program is part classroom-style reading and discussion and part hands-on training in self-defense moves. Before moving onto physical training, instructors focus on risk awareness and risk reduction. Students learn how to be more cautious at home, at work, in their dorms, at parties, in parking lots and in their cars.
Svetlana Stoyanova, president for the Society of Women Engineers, took the R.A.D. class with other members of SWE in July. During the part of the course about safety precautions, Stoyanova said she got valuable information.
?If someone bumps into your car at night, drive to the nearest gas station or any well-lit place with people,? said Stoyanova. ?Don?t get out of your car in the middle of a dark road.?
Instructors try to help students make informed decisions about issues that affect their personal safety. To help women make a safety plan which will work for them, instructors provide reading materials comparing the efficiency and practicality of self-defense devices such as mace, pepper spray and hand guns.
Abusive relationships are another area of concern addressed in the R.A.D. program. Women learn that rape is not a crime about sex, but about over-powering another person. Class discussions include a study of abusive verses healthy relationships, focusing on the ways that one person may try to control another in an abusive relationship. Such awareness of controlling behavior can help women make relationship decisions that may ultimately keep them safe.
Once students have become versed in the facts of rape and have learned some possible ways to reduce their risks, they are ready to learn self-defense tactics that are based on martial arts.
?They taught us a lot of self-defense techniques,? said Stoyanova. ?And that was just basic training.?
Pollock explained that a woman being assaulted will generally be smaller than her attacker and is not likely to have the same upper body strength of a man. However, the techniques taught focus on the strength she does have ? her hips. The majority of the R.A.D. self-defense techniques come from this area and are designed for a one-on-one attack. Men are not allowed in the class, which helps women to feel more comfortable practicing these close-body contact moves.
After honing down their new moves, students get a chance to see how much they?ve learned. Instructors dress in padded suits and simulate attack situations for each woman.
?There are two simulations that the students will go through,? said Pierce. ?The first one simulates being at an ATM machine, and the second is simulating just walking down the street.?
Although Pollock, Pierce and Stoyanova agree the simulation helps women gain confidence in their newly acquired skills, they also said it can cause a degree of anxiety for students as they anticipate the attack and attempt to fight back.
Stoyanova passed the simulation, but said she was shaking afterward.
?It was much scarier than I thought it would be,? she said.
?Even though I knew these people, I knew the defense techniques and everything, when they actually grabbed me, my mind went blank.?
Pierce said that if a student is nervous, the suited instructors will stand still and allow the student to practice striking them. This often helps the student to get over her initial anxiety and to gain enough confidence to go through with the simulations, she said.
?(There is) a certain amount of apprehension and nervousness that goes along with the unknown,? said Pierce. ?To aid in reducing (students?) nervousness, usually one of the female instructors will go through the first simulation to show the students what it (should) actually look like.?
She said students are never forced to go through with the simulations if they do not want to.
The attacks are video taped so that students can watch themselves using the techniques, which allows students to see how they did during the simulation.
?Most of them are awe-struck because they deployed techniques that they did not know they did,? Pierce said. ?This again empowers the student because now they see themselves doing techniques that 12 hours earlier, they did not know.?
To insure student privacy, the video tapes are erased at the end of each class.
The class budget
Originally, R.A.D. was paid for only by the police department budget. Seeking more funding, Pollock approached the physical education department three years ago and suggested that the police officers could combine the basic and advanced R.A.D. classes, then being taught only at the police department, and teach them as one semesterlong P.E. course.
The P.E. department?s acceptance of this offer has helped to generate more funds for the R.A.D. program, but Pollock is still seeking a sponsor to help pay for training and equipment, such as the $1,200 simulation suits.
Students can sign up to take the basic R.A.D. class as a noncredit course through the University Police Department. Graduates of the basic class may opt to take the advanced class where they will learn additional techniques, including knife and gun defense.
Women who would like to earn college credit for their efforts may register for the two credit hour R.A.D. class offered through the Physical Education and Wellness Department. This class begins with the basic R.A.D. program and moves on to the advanced material within the length of one semester.
Student groups wishing to take the course together can call 974-2156 to coordinate a class time with the instructors. A minimum of eight students and a maximum of 18 students will be necessary in order to keep the 4:1 or 5:1 student-teacher ratio.
USF students may take the noncredit class free of charge, though a $10 deposit (which is returned upon completion of the course) is required. USF alumni may take the class for $25 (plus the refundable $10 deposit) and community members outside of USF may take the class for $50.
Lasting a lifetime
Anyone who takes the R.A.D. class receives lifetime membership, meaning a student can retake the course at any time. This provides women with ample opportunities to keep their self-defense skills sharp and at ready disposal.
?This lifetime membership also means that if a R.A.D. student leaves the Tampa area, they can call the toll free number inside their manual and find the nearest R.A.D. facility and the same lifetime membership applies there,? Pierce said.
Stoyanova said she recommended the class to all her friends, including her mother.
?Every woman needs these skills, and the confidence that she can do something about a dangerous situation and not just scream and faint,? she said. ?It?s worth the time and effort.?