R.A.D. program teaches Williams women self-defense

After four weeks of intensive training, the Rape Aggression Defense Systems class met for the last time on Tuesday and Thursday to apply what they have learned in full-speed dynamic simulations of assaults.

Director of Security Jean Thorndike-Wilson and Assistant Director David Boyer had worked on real-life simulations which might put to the test every woman’s self-defensive skills. All the students in the class passed with flying colors. “I feel sorry for anybody who might try to attack these women,” Boyer said.

The class met for four three-hour sessions where the women were introduced to the basic physical techniques of dealing with an assault— including kicks, hand strikes, breaking handholds and throwing off an attacker.

The students’ reaction to the class is one of excitement and satisfaction. “Dave Boyer and Jean Thorndike-Wilson were excellent instructors,” Lily Filip ’00 said. “They moved at a challenging pace, but it was still no trouble to keep up with the techniques we learned.”

“Jean and David were great—very supportive and helpful. I learned a lot, but we also had lots of really good laughs,” Allison Litten ’00 added.

The course was meant to teach the necessary physical skills of dealing with an assault, as well as increase the students’ awareness of dangerous situations—and it successfully accomplished those aims. “Apart from just learning how to fend off an attacker, the course dealt with being aware of the situation around you; in threatening situations we were taught to keep a plan of action in mind,” Filip said.

The last session of the class was extremely exciting for both students and instructors; they were all impatient to see the results of the training program. For that purpose David Boyer put on a padded suit and presented himself as “the aggressor,” who was supposed to assault the students both verbally and physically, challenging their ability to defend themselves. The padded suit was meant to protect him from the kicks and blows of the students. Still, Boyer ended up lying exhausted on the floor after each “fight.”

“This is a lesson for everybody—before you sign a contract, you should read very carefully—I didn’t quite know what would be involved,” Boyer said jokingly.

The actual situations that Thorndike-Wilson and Boyer suggested were an attack from the back at an ATM machine and the so-called “UK Psych”—motionless simulation, in which the woman entered a dark room and was exposed to verbal assault by Boyer and two security officers, but was not allowed to move until physically attacked. All the students made it successfully to the exit which proved they had achieved the main purpose of the class—being able to remove themselves safely from an uncomfortable situation, even if physical response has to be involved. “The dynamic simulation allowed me to prove to myself that I actually could fend off an attacker,” Filip said.

The course left all the students thinking that the one Physical Education credit they earned was the smallest benefit gained from the experience. They all said they felt increased self-confidence.

“The class was excellent,” Adrienne Denson ’00 said. “It exceeded all of my prior expectations.” This is the fifth self-defense class Denson has taken and she considers it the best of all. “I decided to take the class because I was very interested in self-defense and the empowerment of women,” she said. “I recommend that all women take it sometime during their college career.”

“I would highly recommend R.A.D. to anyone interested in building self-confidence or self-defense skills,” Filip said. “It was an invaluable experience for me.” “I would highly recommend it to all my friends,” Litten said. “Not only do you learn a lot, but it’s a lot of fun.” Clara Thaler ’98 was happy she could take the class before leaving Williams. “Jean and David were excellent instructors, and the course was educational, fun and empowering,” Thaler said.

Instructors Thorndike-Wilson and Boyer were very satisfied with the students’ performance. “Believe it or not… when we started the course, some of these women were very timid…and look at them now,” Boyer said.

“The women have done well,” Thorndike-Wilson added. “They have learned all the techniques and now they can use them.”

The main objective of the class, according to R.A.D. publicity, “to develop and enhance the options of self-defense, so they may become viable considerations to the woman who is attacked,” was successfully accomplished according to both instructors and students. The class will meet one more time for a peaceful discussion of what they have learned.