Women learn self-defense as part of free FAU program

Rape Aggression Defense is open to women from FAU, as well as the local community.


A participant who attended the Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) program uses her right leg to kick the RAD “aggressor” played by an instructor. Photo by Violet Castano

FAU provides a series of self-defense classes for women every year, and at 46 people, this summer’s turnout was the largest class it’s ever had.

Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) is a series of classes sponsored by FAU police for women 13 and up to learn how to protect themselves. Female FAU faculty, staff, students, and community members took part in the July 11-13 training that taught free martial-arts inspired defense tactics.

“We live in a world where you have to be on your guard and it’s good to prepare for the worst … and this class prepares you,” said freshman Haylee Schichtel, who attended the program.

Sonia Baez, FAU police’s accountant and 10-year instructor of RAD, said the program first came to FAU in 2002 and offered classes in the fall and spring. But due to popular demand, they introduced this year’s summer program for the first time.

“We teach women little techniques to get away … We teach them to be vigilant and wary of their surroundings,” she said.

One participant said she took the class so she could feel more capable of protecting herself.

“There have been situations in which I’ve felt uncomfortable and I want to be able to defend myself and have instincts so I don’t feel so helpless,” said high school student Iona Barca.

On the first day, the students are given training manuals to go through. The second day is spent learning all of the defensive positions, and the third day is when their training is put to the test.

An instructor clad in protective gear acts out an attempted attack, and each woman must successfully defend herself to earn a RAD certification. Following this achievement, students have the opportunity to get certified in higher level RAD programs.

The woman in blue performs a defensive technique against the instructor who plays as an aggressor. This portion of the RAD program requires women to protect themselves with the lights off to simulate a night-time scenario. Photo by Violet Castano

The instructors are comprised of seven police officers and two trained civilians.

“I feel comfortable knowing it’s the police department … If anyone’s going to be really knowledgeable about this, it’s them,” said Cristina Cornwell, an FAU faculty member and RAD attendee.

Baez was first encouraged to take the class by a colleague, and she saw its importance right away, she said. After taking the class, she immediately volunteered to become an instructor.

“It really impacted me, especially coming from an abusive relationship,” she said.

The situation was the same for officer Ulysses Boldin and Sgt. Chase Picotte, who had both witnessed sexual abuse firsthand.

“It was unlike any program we had seen before … [It was] an interesting thing to do,” Boldin said.

RAD was first established in 1989 by United States Marine Lawrence N. Nadeau. Since its creation, the program has been taught nationwide and is the only self-defense program to be certified by both the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement and the National Academy of Defense Education.

However, the RAD program is not the only thing women can use to further protect themselves.

Terrie Lora, the FAU police communications manager, explained that there are many other resources women on campus can use.

FAU Alert is a system that notifies FAU students, faculty, and staff of possible threats from storms, active shooters, and more via text message, email, phone call, outdoor sirens, etc.

Lora also emphasized the importance of the app “Friend Walk.” To use the app, the person shares their location with a friend. Both their friend and the FAU police can view the person’s location as they continue their trip.

If the person feels threatened at any point, they can press an emergency button that will alert their friend and the police.

Lora also strongly recommends that students take advantage of the non-emergency line, which is (561) 297-3500. An example of this would be if a person wanted an officer to escort them back to their car or dorm at night.

She said, “They feel they’re bothering us, but they shouldn’t. Push that non-emergency. We are here to help.”

Nimisha Rajendran is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or any other stories, email [email protected].

Margaret Mifsud is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or any other stories, email [email protected].