Rape Aggression Defense class for women: An empowering journey

Lisa Piccolo
Peace and Justice Editor

Loud voices fill the air as a group of women move around the dance studio of the Robert J. Mellow Center practicing different moves. But, they’re not dancing. They’re training to take on an attacker.

Throughout the month of November, eight Marywood women learned defense strategies at the Rape Aggression Defense class sponsored by the security department. There were eight women in this class, with eight different stories. These eight women were members of the student body and the faculty.

Amelia Rose Campbell- Drexler, a master’s student here at Marywood, was one of the students in this class. And, even after the first week, Campbell-Drexler said she started to feel more empowered.

“I was getting out of my car late last night, after the second class, and I was just thinking, even with the moves I know now and the awareness I have now, I even feel like I could protect myself and escape or have a better chance of escaping a potentially dangerous and fatal situation,” Campbell-Drexler said.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network’s website, in a survey conducted by the National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.”

Statistics like that one readily establish the need for courses like this. According to Elizabeth J. Sechler, director of housing and residence life and also an instructor for the course, more courses like this are needed to help empower women. “It’s a lot of time investment, but it’s a lot of value too,” Ms. Sechler said.

Escaping a dangerous situation is one of the most important reasons why instructors teach what they do. The moves that they teach are only for those occasions where a woman really needs them, not for every day use.

Many things were taught in this class. Terms such as “rape” and “sexual assault” were defined. The RAD program manual defines rape as, “Sexual intercourse with a person against her or his will, through force, threat, and/or intimidation.” Sexual Assault, as defined by the RAD program manual, is, “Sexual abuse/fondling/touching of a person in areas of the body considered private, against her will, by force, threat and/or intimidation.”

Also discussed were some strategies for staying safe, such as making sure that doors and windows are locked before leaving the house, and what to do if one feels like they are being followed.

The RAD program also teaches the power of thinking “I will survive”. Participants are taught that if they think they will survive the situation, they will.

Even in training, Campbell-Drexler acted as she would in a real situation. She worked through every move strategically, making sure she didn’t freeze up.

“It was amazing just to see how much I would unleash and just get used to my body in a different way and that’s the way of survival,” Campbell-Drexler said.

With every class came a review of what had been learned in the previous class. During the reviews, all eyes and ears were on the instructor, reviewing the steps and making sure that what the class was doing was correct.

Each new move built on the basics, putting them into perspectives for those in the class. During the multiple reviews that took place, each move, each foot placement, was done multiple times to make sure each move was correct. This was done to improve something called muscle memory, so that if a woman was to be attacked the moves they had learned would automatically kick in.

According to Campbell-Drexler, the skills taught in class are skills that she would like to pass on to future generations.
“I hope it has a ripple effect to other women’s empowerment as well, because they will see me as vessel of strength and confidence,” Campbell-Drexler said.

Campbell-Drexler recommended this class to all women.

“I just don’t think there is anything wrong with a woman owning herself and being her own advocate and being empowered and feeling strong. There is nothing wrong about that and so I wouldn’t want anyone to shy away from this opportunity,” said Campbell-Drexler. “It’s really great.“

For more information on rape statistics, visit the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network’s website, www.rainn.org.

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