Female students take turns punching and kicking a UA Police Department officer who wields a combat sports training pad. These women are training to keep themselves safe on campus through self-defense techniques and risk avoidance.
The Rape Aggression Defense, or R.A.D., Systems program, which UAPD uses for its self-defense curriculum, has taught a curriculum of basic physical defense for women since 1989, according to the R.A.D. Participant Manual.
UAPD Capt. Kathryn Huddler has coordinated the program since it first came to the UofA in 1997, she said.
The purpose of the course, called “Women’s Self Defense,” is to educate women in techniques to prevent assault, Huddler said. These techniques do not just teach women how to physically defend themselves, but also to avoid potentially dangerous situations.
“We start off with environment type stuff and then move into physical techniques,” Huddler said.
By the end of the class, the instructors test everything the students had learned since the beginning of class with different simulations and scenarios, Huddler said.
Senior Jazmine Fray, who is majoring in Business Information Systems, took the self-defense course in the 2018 fall semester, she said.
While Fray thinks that generally, the UA campus is very safe, she also thinks that dangerous situations can arise anywhere at anytime, so she is glad that she took the course, she said.
In a 2017 student campus climate survey, 266 of 2,830 UA students that responded to the survey said they experienced non-consensual sexual contact at some point after coming to college, according to the student survey. Of those surveyed, 17.4% indicated that they did not feel safe on campus.
Fray enjoyed the environment of the class because it made her feel empowered as a woman, Fray said.
“We were stronger and able to defend ourselves," Fray said. Knowing other women wanted to go through this with me just made me feel very good about the class. It made me more anxious to get to class so we could learn more.”
The officers would begin the classes with warm-ups, after which they would teach the students a new self-defense move, Fray said. Then, they would go over all of the moves they had learned that week, so that they could commit them to memory.
“Although it was over a very tough topic, we did have a lot of fun in the class,” Fray said. “I don’t want people to think that like ‘Oh, it’s intimidating. It’s going to be hard.’ You are going to have fun, but you are also going to learn about serious things.”
Fray liked that the officers addressed common myths about sexual assault in the course, she said.
“They had a list of things that they’ve heard guys or women would say about sexual assault or sexual harassment,” Fray said. “So now I am better educated about it. And if someone was dealing with that type of situation, I can correct them and say ‘Hey, that’s a myth. That’s not true. This could happen to anyone.’”
UAPD Lt. Michael Oakes thinks the physical training is helpful because it trains women not to panic in the heat of a dangerous situation, he said.
“(The women) are targeting vulnerable areas on men, or the attacker, not all attackers are men,” Huddler said. “Those vulnerable areas: eyes, face, neck, groin area. We are teaching them some of those areas and what to do in those areas.”
Another important aspect of self-defense is vocalization, Oakes said. Teaching the female students to firmly shout “No,” as they strike their attacker helps passersby hear the assault in progress and help sooner.
“We want an environment of empowering the women, even if they don’t get the technique down, we certainly are empowering them to scream and yell, things like that,” Huddler said.
Female students can enroll in the self-defense course, PEAC 1901, for the fall semester on UAConnect.