As Georgetown’s annual Take Back the Night week begins, the university’s first Rape Aggression Defense course ended on Saturday.
Sponsored in partnership with the GU Wellness program, the four-week intensive course used live simulations with certified instructors to teach women risk-reduction strategies and basic self-defense techniques for sexual assault prevention.
“[The] RAD system is really about providing . options of self-defense so they become viable options to the woman who is attacked,” said Rachel Bridges, director of communications for the Office of Faculty and Staff Benefits. “We feel that physical safety is a really important component of [wellness] and empowering people . to defend themselves really goes a long way towards peace of mind and mental wellness.”
According to [the RAD Web site](https://www.rad-systems.com/), RAD Systems is a network of self-defense instructors established in 1989 to provide free and easy self-defense instructions to women and children. The network established Resisting Aggression with Defense for men in 2001.
Deven Comen (COL ’12) said the class prepared her for potential situations in which self-defense was needed.
“It reviewed what I already knew about self-defense and gave me the ability to use full force which is something you are usually not able to execute,” Comen said. “I would especially recommend it [to] someone [who] has no prior knowledge of self-defense.”
RAD instructor Elizabeth Fenerich recommended that every woman on campus take the course, saying the techniques learned will benefit women for the rest of their lives.
“Whether or not they are going to use [what they learned about the defense techniques] is one thing, but they should at least have that in the back of their mind because it builds confidence, it gives you options. . I know that if this happens this is what I can do,” said Fenerich, who is also a DPS Hate Crime Officer and an LGBTQ liaison within DPS.
The course stresses that the most important aspect of self-defense is to develop a defensive mindset.
“A [defensive mindset] helps you to stay focused and calm so that you don’t panic and gives you time to use whatever you have in you to defend yourself, whether it’s a physical or mental defense,” Fenerich said. “It also raises your confidence and reminds you . no matter what the attacker does to you, you have to keep telling yourself, `I will survive.'”
Andrew Powell, assistant director of Support Services at the Department of Public Safety, said it is important for survivors to know the resources and support systems available to them.
“Off campus, the D.C. Sex Crimes Unit is specially trained [on] how to handle and investigate sexual crimes and interview the survivor,” Powell said. “There is also the D.C. Rape Crisis Center that operates 24 hours a day and provides support resources for survivors.”
On campus, survivors of sexual assault are referred to Jen Schweer, the sexual assault and health issues coordinator in Health Education Services. Her office is located in Village C West.
According to the RAD Web site, it is estimated that physical assaults against women result in more than 5,000 deaths and 1 million injuries per year in the United States. To date, over 250,000 women have attended RAD Basic Physical Defense classes.
New classes will be open to students beginning next semester at no cost to students.
The Women’s Center will provide additional resources and support to survivors this week in Georgetown’s annual Take Back the Night week.
The week’s events include Open Mic night, a “Law & Order: SVU” screening and a student documentary screening. It ends on Friday with a rally and a vigil.
“Take Back the Night is a student group dedicated to raising awareness about sexual assault, rape, violence against women and other acts of gender-motivated violence,” said Kristen Cates (COL ’11), co-chair the event. “As a student body and as a community, we must focus on breaking the silence and speaking out in opposition to the injustices against women that occur daily all around the world.” “