OUPD’s Rape Aggression Defense class empowers women

RAD seeks to empower women through teaching self-defense tactics and techniques. The OUPD offers the free program to any OU affiliate and the surrounding community.

Photo courtesy of RAD Systems

RAD seeks to empower women through teaching self-defense tactics and techniques. The OUPD offers the free program to any OU affiliate and the surrounding community.

The Oakland University Police Department (OUPD) aims to empower women through its Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) program — a multiple-session class that teaches women realistic self-defense tactics and techniques. 

The nationally-offered program was established in 1989 by Virginia Police Officer Lawrence Nadeau. The program was brought to OU in 1998, led by Coordinator Lt. Terry Ross.

“Since that time we have had a number of OUPD officers assist in instructing the program with well over 10,000 students,” said Sgt. B. Beldo, RAD supervisor.  

The OUPD offers five RAD classes: Basic Physical Defense, Advanced Self Defense, Aerosol Defense Options, Keychain Defense Options and Weapons Defense System. Open to all girls and women of ages 12 years and older, the program is six class sessions of three hours each and a total of 12 hours if the group does a simulation — a chance for the students to practice the skills they learn in a safe environment. 

The self-defense tactics are taught through a series of steps. First, a certified instructor will explain the concept and show the technique. Then, the students try the movements themselves with who they call “Casper” — a ghost individual. After practicing, students can opt to try out the technique on torso dummies, or pair up with a partner. Finally is Simulation Night where students can participate in a variety of situations and try the techniques they learned using some power on a person. 

The course intends to cater to many learning styles and participation is not compulsory. 

“We do have survivors in the class,” said Sgt. Beldo. “The last thing that I would want is any of our instructors putting a survivor [in a simulation], even just practicing, like how to get out of a chokehold. We wouldn’t want to put somebody who may have actually lived through and survived that [through the simulation] and create that trauma again. So, the students set their own level of participation.” 

According to Sgt. Beldo, men develop more power using their upper bodies, where women use their lower bodies. RAD teaches women how to hit like women, he said. 

“Usually ‘you hit like a girl’ is seen as a way to call someone weak,” Sgt. Beldo said. “When women are shown and taught how to hit like women — how to develop power using their body mechanics — they are very strong.”

The class is free to all OU students, faculty and staff, and it’s also open to anyone who is not affiliated with the university. For those who are not affiliated, the OUPD asks for a $35 donation that goes to supplies for future classes. However, they do not turn anyone away if they are unable to pay the donation. 

Macomb Community College student Claire Carbon, a former OU student, joined the program independently. 

“I decided to participate because everybody needs to know self defense and I sure as heck knew I needed it,” Carbon said. “Not only did I gain confidence out of the class, but I got a friend. I also gained more respect for officers and their struggles, and I got the freedom to defend myself in certain situations.” 

To register for the program, go to calendar.oakland.edu to find upcoming classes, or email [email protected] for more information.