Fight or flight: Self-defense course teaches women to deflect, escape possible attackers


Photo by Victoria Gaytan

Tabitha Morrow, freshman biology major, practices kicking an attacker in class, as Campus O cer Ken Kennedy holds a practice pad. 

Founded in 1989, The Rape Aggression Defense program, also known as RAD, is a women’s self-defense course offered at Missouri Southern. Officer Ken Kennedy, chief of campus police has instructed over 45 classes since its introduction to Southern in 2005. According to RAD International online, this organization has certified more than three thousand instructors and more than one hundred thousand women worldwide.

The main idea of the course is “to develop and enhance the options of self-defense, so they become viable options to any woman who’s attacked,” said Kennedy.

The ever growing national acceptance of this system is preparing women across a wide range of ages in the event of an assault.

As Kennedy stated “while it’s primarily traditional age students taking the class, I’ve instructed elderly women in their seventies also.”

The RAD program is a comprehensive course for women which begins with spreading awareness. According to a national survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one out of every four women polled were sexually assaulted while at colleges across the nation.

Students in attendance will be taught to abide by the rules of “ fight or flight,” and shown how to weigh their options on whether or not to evade an attacker or combat the threat head on.

RAD does not promote the use of any concealed carry rearms, knives or other lethal weapons. Although, students are made aware that the use of personal tasers, batons and pepper spray is condoned in the event of an assault on campus.

“We are not teaching women to spar with an attacker. The idea is to deflect or stun the individual so that the potential victim may escape their attacker,” said Kennedy.

The Women’s Self Defense course originally consisted of only four evening sessions and was worth zero credit hours. As of fall 2014, the program underwent some significant changes thanks to Southern’s kinesiology department. Soon after, the course was reintroduced and now offers one credit hour for completion and was redesigned to last a full semester.

The course is offered every semester, and is typically capped at 24 students per section. Students who take the course will become proficient in fluid, hands-on self defense techniques and learn to evade attackers across a wide array of practical circumstances.