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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

RAD course teaches women’s self-defense

For the past four weeks on Thursday evenings, Harris Center has been filled with a different type of activity. At 4:30 p.m., the concert hall, usually packed with hundreds, opens up for 13 women. For the next two hours, the typical noises of parties and movies are replaced by discussion and instruction.

With its last meeting yesterday, Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) wrapped up a four-week women’s self-defense class. Taught by Grinnell College Security Officer Amy Van Mannen and Grinnell Police Officer Theresa Petersen, the class teaches women how to avoid and escape dangerous circumstances.

“We teach the students basic techniques that don’t require a weapon,” Van Mannen said. “We want to empower them so that they can help and have more confidence in themselves. We spend the first day in the classroom talking and then the rest of the class is getting comfortable and [working on] self-awareness.”

The techniques do more than just teach the class how to hit and draw attention—they give the women a greater awareness of their own ability.

“I’ve never known how far I could actually go,” said a student who is contractually obligated to remain anonymous. “If my ability is short in one area, the training taught me how to make up for that in a different area and that was extremely important for me. . . that knowledge gave me a lot more confidence.”

The class teaches a variety of skills from how to set up your dorm room to how recognize an unsafe situation before a problem arises.
“[I’ve learned to] pay attention to details in other people’s body language, the way they’re speaking to you and to know your own comfort zone and what goes beyond that,” another student said.

Van Mannen and Petersen have been teaching the class on and off for the last nine and ten years respectively. They are devoted to the RAD curriculum and said they believe that all women should know these basic techniques of self-defense.
“I put my daughter through the program, and she’s 12,” Van Mannen said.

Van Mannen and Petersen’s experience puts a lot of the women at ease.
“They both have strong personalities,” the second student said. “They definitely are very vocal and they can both be very physical. I have a lot of respect for both of them.”

Van Mannen and Petersen’s roles are to facilitate a comfortable environment so that the women can safely explore their learned techniques.
“They’re always like ‘do it, don’t be scared. Like, punch hard. be vocal,’” said the first student. “I think the way they express themselves telling us to do this stuff not be scared and just go out there that was a big motivator.”

Yesterday’s class was the culmination of the program and each of the girls fought with Grinnell Security Officer Bob DeBerg, another RAD instructor.

“On one hand, this is an environment where you know you’re going to end up winning,” the first student said. “But on the other hand, when I first saw [DeBerg] come out I was like he is really big, I didn’t really freak out but I was like ‘How am I going to tackle this problem?’ It was an interesting experience having to finally apply everything I’ve learned and remember it in the actual situation.”

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