Rape Aggression Defense trains women to repel attacks

Officer Tom Swope and Sgt. Candice Cox of the Beaumont Police Department

Rape – it’s an ugly word for an abhorrent act. And “sexual assault” covers an even broader range of attacks.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate approximately one in five women and one in 71 men are raped within their lifetimes, and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) estimates more than 293,000 victims age 12 or older are raped and sexually assaulted each year. That comes out to about one sexual assault every 2 minutes in the United States. Add in kidnappings and other types of assault, and the numbers go up exponentially.

Sgt. Candice Cox of the Beaumont Police Department is teaching women to fight back to repel assaults and escape assailants. The program is called R.A.D. – Rape Aggression Defense – but Sgt. Cox says the system trains women in the skills necessary to fend off any type of attack, whether it is sexually motivated or not.

“The word ‘rape’ gets people’s attention,” said Sgt. Cox. “That is not the only type of attack women face. The defensive techniques we teach women in R.A.D. will help them escape rapists, muggers — anyone who is trying to hurt them.”

The R.A.D. system is a program of realistic, self-defense tactics and techniques. It is a comprehensive course taught by women for women that begins with awareness, prevention, risk reduction and avoidance, progressing on to the basics of hands-on defense training. This self-defense course empowers women with skills that minimize risk or injury in the event of an attempted assault or abduction by an assailant. The course is nine hours long without simulations or 12 hours with simulations.

R.A.D. system training courses are available across the nation and in Canada. Since its inception in 1989, more than 900,000 women have learned R.A.D. techniques, according to the program’s website.

According to Cox, she, Officer Heather Wilson and Officer Tom Swope instruct women in the course. Swope often acts as the aggressor in scenarios, and uses his knowledge and training to help the women in the class learn how to counter his attacks. Wilson is a tactical defense trainer in the police department and demonstrates strikes and kicks women can utilize to get away from potential attackers.

She said, “They learn it, demonstrate it, do it repeatedly and put it into action.”

When she says “put it into action,” that’s exactly what she means. During a 12-hour class, Officer Swope approaches the trainee as an attacker. In certain scenarios, he attempts to grab the trainee from behind or comes toward her menacingly. The trainee utilizes the R.A.D. techniques, repelling the attack by any means necessary. That could involve repeated hand strikes, or even a swift kick to the groin.

Cox said female trainees from age 14 to 75 have completed the course.

“Many different groups and people have participated,” Cox revealed. “Last summer, I taught a class of a group of high school students who had just graduated and were heading to college. It’s a really good program for women going to college.”

DOJ statistics demonstrate her point. According to a DOJ special report, for the period from 1995 to 2013, females ages 18 to 24 had the highest rate of rape and sexual assault victimizations compared to females in all other age groups.

Cox encourages women to bring someone along with them for the training for support and to experience the benefits of learning self-defense.

 “We’ve had mother-daughter trainees come in together,” she said. “That is a very good idea. It can be comforting and inspiring. When a trainee sees their friend or loved one participating in the simulations, it gives them the confidence to think, ‘I could do that.’”

Cox says she takes the training courses very seriously, and no one enrolled in the training will be made to feel uncomfortable.

“It’s a women-only class,” asserted Cox. “We’re not there to demean them. No one is going to be making fun of them or laughing at them. We’re not going to make them do anything they’re not comfortable doing, only what is on their level of comfort. We won’t force anyone to do anything beyond their means or anything too taxing. We don’t force them to participate in the scenarios, although most want to by the end of the training.”

Cox said the program guide for the course contains mature subject matter, but the topics need to be addressed.

For example, Cox explained, “Rape is an uncomfortable subject no one wants to talk about, but it needs to be discussed. We even have the word ‘rape’ on our shirts to encourage discussion. Whether or not the women taking the class have been assaulted in the past is unknown. We don’t ask. We hope the training will help the women in the classes to avoid attacks in the future.

“We’ve had instances in the city that involved women being the victims of sexual assaults and other attacks that could have resulted in different outcomes had the women been trained in R.A.D. techniques.

“We let women know that they don’t have to say, ‘This is going to happen and there’s nothing I can do about it.’ The whole purpose of the training is for the victim to escape from an attacker or aggressor. We tell them, ‘Find your exit.’ That’s the goal.”

So far, Cox and her team have trained between 80 and 90 women in R.A.D. classes, and she hopes to see that number grow. The classes are free of charge. The next one is April 15-16, but Cox schedules them as needed, so interested groups should call to arrange dates that work for them.

Don’t hesitate to sign up and start training, said Cox, because you won’t regret it. And your life could depend on it. Call (409) 880-3825 or (409) 880-3837 to get started.