Women concerned for their safety around campus might be interested in the University’s Rape Aggression Defense Class, sponsored by the LSU Office of Wellness and Health Promotion in conjunction with LSUPD.

The Rape Aggression Defense Class better known as RAD, is part of a national program that has been training women around the country in self-defense since 1989 and has been present at the University for over two decades.

RAD classes are held at the University once every semester, although Assistant Director of Wellness and Health Promotion Kathryn Saichuk hopes to begin scheduling them more frequently. The 12-hour course takes place over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and includes lectures along with individual self-defense instruction and role-playing simulations. The most recent class was held on Feb. 22, 23 and 24 in the Nelson Memorial Building.

Although the sessions are held on campus, they are open to anyone in the community who is interested. The cost is $25 for faculty, staff and students of any college or local high school, and $45 for the general public. RAD also offers a lifetime return policy, so someone who has attended a RAD course once can attend another course at any location and practice the skills they have learned.

Saichuk wants female University students to participate.  She also encourages those who are considering the course not to be intimidated by the time commitment involved.

“Everyone says, that’s 12 hours, it’s so long,” Saichuk said. “But we’re talking about your life.”

As per RAD’s national guidelines, only females are permitted to take the course and the only males allowed to be present are RAD certified members of a police force.

Saichuk said that the majority of participants are appreciative of the single-sex policy, which differs from many other self-defense courses. In her experience, she has observed groups of all females talk more and demonstrate a higher confidence level. Saichuk also noted that the all-female atmosphere created a more comfortable environment for the delicate topics that are discussed.

“We’re talking about sensitive issues,” Saichuk said. “We’re talking about sexual assaults and inappropriate sexual contact. A lot of people prefer the class to be all female, especially when it comes to sharing about personal experience.”

The class normally has around 20-30 participants, which Saichuk says is ideal for providing the women with individualized instruction. The emphasis of the RAD classes is placed on getting out of a dangerous situation with as little harm done as possible. All of the techniques taught are purely safety measures.

In addition to physical self-defense, the class emphasizes safety skills and thinking logically under pressure. For instance, in some situations, Saichuk said that it is better to be compliant than to fight back.

“If someone wants your purse, giving it to them can be the smartest thing you can do,” Saichuk said. “That’s a replaceable thing. A life is not replaceable.”

Participants are encouraged to fill out an evaluation after course completion. Saichuk reported that the most common responses from the women is that they felt a stronger sense of confidence.

Saichuk said the Rape Aggression Defense Classe can be extremely beneficial for those who frequently have to walk by themselves or go places after dark. She added that practice and preparation are two things that will prevent someone from freezing up or panicking in the heat of the moment.

“It’s a memory in our brains, and if you practice enough, and you do it enough times, it becomes an automatic response,” Saichuk said.

Saichuk encourages all females in the area to take the class and hopes that it will encourage a sense of preparation and awareness on campus. Additionally, Saichuk said that students should take the precautionary measures of downloading the Shield app and utilizing the bus system.

“It’s all about learning how to be aware, and being aware without making yourself crazy,” Saichuk said. “You don’t want to live in fear, but it is a daily practice.”

LSUPD Training Coordinator Lt. Jeffrey Lemoine is one of four trained LSUPD officers who instructs the class, and has been an instructor for both basic and advanced classes for over 15 years. Lemoine said he got involved with the program around the time that Baton Rouge serial killer Derrick Todd Lee was active around LSU’s campus, and there was a big demand for self-defense courses.

Lemoine said one of the motivating factors for getting involved with the program was when he once encountered two young ladies who flagged the police car down for a ride and to ask if the area was safe.

In my experience at the time, we had not had any problems in that area, but the perception was there for the female students that the area was a big problem,” Lemoine said.

Lemoine also became interested in the program after he had the task of investigating a rape.

“The details were truly heartbreaking,” Lemoine said. “I began searching for a way that I could do something to prevent crimes before they ruin someone's life and to change perceptions about safety on campus.”

Lemoine emphasized that a big aspect of the class was teaching young women their options, so they could determine whether it was best to comply or resist in the event of an attack. The other biggest aspect is the self confidence and awareness it will provide University students with.

“Live life with confidence,” Lemoine said. “Come see us and practice in a safe environment.  Remember, no one will ever take better care of you than you will yourself.”

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