For many female college students, feeling and staying safe can seem like a challenge. Mason Police’s Rape Aggression and Defense System (RAD) classes make it easy for women to learn how to defend themselves in the event of an emergency for free.
The program, which is held several weekends a year and is free to Mason students, faculty and staff, is designed to teach women ways to protect themselves against violent aggressors when there is no one around to help. Mason Police’s website says that RAD is “one of the best women’s self defense courses available.”
Unfortunately, the RAD program at Mason has not seen a high success rate, according to Lieutenant Patricia Millan, who directs the program. Millan began working with RAD in 2001 and has since seen its success waver.
Millan explains that there has been a lack of interest among Mason women to attend the sessions, likely due to their long hours. Classes are typically offered weekends in two six-hour installments.
Several organizations and Greek life members have asked Milan to shorten the courses, so members can attend as a group. Unfortunately, this is not an option for Millan.
When a police officer becomes RAD-certified, he or she is required to teach nine- or 12-hour lessons. If the length of the course is reduced, vital information is lost and attendees walk away unprepared. Since Millan and the officers at Mason are trained according to these rules, they are not permitted to teach anything short of what is required.
However, lack of interest and timing are not the only factors affecting the success of the program.
Millan has had to compete with other organizations to book rooms on campus for hosting sessions, and the staffing at Mason’s police headquarters has wavered, keeping Millan from being able to staff the class at times.
“The biggest thing is that people sign up for free, but then a beautiful weekend comes along [and participants do not show up], so we need at least five students to authorize overtime for the officers. Unfortunately, we have to factor that in,” Millan explained.
The program is not only offered at Mason. It is taught at over 400 universities across the United States and Canada, and it has been endorsed by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA).
When Mason cannot host RAD sessions, Millan directs attendees to Falls Chuch City or other locations where the class is taught. But she is not certain if off-campus sessions are free for students.
The next RAD class at Mason was scheduled for the weekend of October 3 but had to be cancelled due to a lack of interest. Millan is hoping to reschedule the course for November.
In addition to scheduling hiccups, the program has also faced criticism in the past for staying too traditional in its teachings and ideas. Some critics believe its lesson plans do not treat participants like the powerful, strong women they are. Basic lessons like having one’s back pressed to a wall in an elevator have been criticized.
Still. Millan believes RAD is the perfect way to teach girls the fundamentals.
“Yes, it’s fundamental it’s basic self-defense definitely. But it’s implemented in a way that someone who has never been in a situation can learn and work [her] way up. We still apply modern time scenarios to the training,” said Millan.
Dimly lit paths and and late-night classes at Mason make walking around campus after dark risky for female college students, thus warranting the need for a program like RAD.
“We teach them techniques and skills so they learn how to strike, we talk about what-if scenarios, we follow [the RAD] curriculum then questions pop up during teaching,” explained Millan.
Millan encourages everyone to attend RAD. She offers half-price discounts to women in the area who are heading off to college, so they can learn the basics for keeping safe. She also encourages everyone to sign up in groups, so attendees can have fun learning with friends or family.
“It not a guaranteed solution but it’s a way to help you,” Millan said.