Women Fight Back

Twenty women wait quietly in a small hall down at the police station. Yelling and cheering can be heard from the other room. Suddenly there is a loud thud against the wall. The women gasp in surprise and a few laugh softly. The door opens and a young woman in black boxing gloves, matching knee and elbow pads, and a helmet steps out slouching slightly and gasping for breath. “I knocked him flat on the floor,” she says with a big smile. All the women cheer and clap as they crowd around her and help take off the pads.

For the last two weeks these women have been learning to defend themselves at RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) class, a nationally accredited self-defense program specially designed to fit a woman’s strengths. According to Lt. Chuck Aurin, a campus police officer and long time RAD program instructor, it’s a big part of the police station’s operations and they are excited to be holding their first class of the year. “This class is one of the largest we have ever had,” Aurin says. “Taylor and I had been signed up for this class since September,” explains Sita Ramnarace. “We heard about it through the e-mail.” Ramnarace, Taylor Kung and Ashia Milligan all work in Undergraduate Admissions. “I think every woman should know how to defend herself,” says Kung. “It’s very empowering.”

After two weeks of bookwork and instructional drills these ladies are getting to put their new self defense skills to the test with what the RAD instructors like to call “simulation night.” During simulation each woman is confronted by two aggressors and must use the skills she has learned to escape out the back door of the room. “I’m nervous about simulation but I think it’s an important thing to do so you can get over your fear,” says Rachael Bergmark, a Senior Public Management Major. “When you are waiting out in the hall you can hear a lot of noise from inside, but you don’t know what’s going on.”

Freshmen Valerie Urbina and Elis Abech, who have taken self defense classes before, weren’t sure what to expect especially on simulation night. “Usually when I fight I know what I’m doing, but this was different because it’s a surprise attack and you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Valerie says. “After the first two weeks my expectations weren’t very high for simulation. But, wow, it was amazing. It really impressed me.”

What makes RAD unique from most self defense programs is that it focuses on more than just punches and kicks. A large part of the program is learning risk avoidance. “It’s important to listen to your fear,” says RAD instructor Corp. Angie Glass. “As women we have a sixth sense; we know when something isn’t right. We are not only teaching these women how to defend themselves if they are attacked, we are teaching them to listen to that sense and avoid situations that could put them in danger.” The first week’s four-hour class focused on bookwork and discussion. The women got a chance to discuss their feelings and get their questions answered. “Two of my friends were victimized,” Bergmark says. “This class has helped me deal with that. I feel more aware of my surroundings now, and I’m not afraid because I know I have the power to defend myself.”

In the second week’s class the women work on their moves. Smiles fade from their faces and the laughter turns into shouts of “stay back” and “no” as the women begin to vocalize while they practice punches, kicks, and blocks. “We try to give them a tool box of moves to use so that if one doesn’t work they can try something else,” says Sgt. Tammy Di Grazia, one of the police station’s first RAD instructors, said, “The main goal is to escape and survive. The moves don’t have to be fancy; they just have to be effective.” Michele Mancuso, along with two of her classmates, came to RAD because their anatomy professor gives extra credit for it. “I think it should be a required class for all women because everyone should know this stuff; it really works. It will benefit every woman,” she says. “This is an amazing class and I hope they continue to do it.”

“I really enjoyed this class,” Bergmark says. “It was fun learning all the techniques. I would like to learn more moves and see more new programs here.” “The instructors are very caring and encouraging, dedicated to what they are doing,” adds Ramnarace.

After the simulations are over the women crowd around to watch their simulations on the projector screen. They smile and laugh as they watch themselves beat up on the two aggressors. “It’s all like a blur when you are doing it,” says RAD instructor and former RAD student Sarah Tobkin. “It’s amazing to see yourself doing the moves without even thinking about it.” Lt. Aurin and Corp. Bill Hernandez, who were the night’s aggressors plop down on the floor exhausted. “These guys were animals,” Bill says. “If I saw them on the street, I’d run the other way.

For more information or questions about the RAD program contact Sgt. Tammy Di Grazia at 279-3500 or Lt. Chuck Aurin at 297-3504.