Self-defense program on hold due to pandemic

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Written by: Victoria Mills

The Rape Aggression Defense program (RAD), a self-defense class offered by Campus Safety, has been on hold since the beginning of COVID-19. RAD leaders are trying to find ways to continue the program safely on campus, according to Fire and Safety Specialist Josh Fraker.

As listed on Southern’s website RAD is “a program offered to the Campus Community at no cost to the participants for the purpose of increasing the safety and safety awareness of its residents.” 

RAD, led by Fraker, his wife, Jessi Fraker, and Sheriff Deputy Anissa Michalek, has been offered on Southern’s campus for about 10 years, according to Fraker. Usually, RAD is offered near the beginning of each semester.

As outlined in Southern’s Title IX policy, RAD classes are offered “to promote the awareness of rape, acquaintance rape, and domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.” 

Though self-defense classes are not required by Title IX, Fraker said Southern still offered the program for students’ well-being. 

“The university has expressed a great interest in enhancing the personal safety of the student body, and the RAD program is one of the avenues through which this is accomplished,” Fraker said.

Fraker said plans were underway to offer RAD this semester when President David Smith and school administration strongly encouraged students and faculty to increase COVID-19 safety measures on campus. As a result, it was decided that RAD would not be offered this academic year.

“We were asked to put our plans on hold,” Fraker said.

According to Fraker, RAD organizers are exploring ways to safely continue the program. Some of those methods include wearing masks or face shields, adhering to social distancing requirements, offering Zoom sessions and quarantining with someone such as a roommate who would be able to safely participate in simulated exercises. 

“We would like to know options for what people would feel comfortable with [during] COVID,” Fraker said.

Junior nursing major Isabelle Yeaton really enjoyed participating in RAD during the fall of 2019. 

“It just seemed like a good opportunity to learn how to defend myself,” Yeaton said. “It was kind of a convenient way to learn.”

Yeaton said the leaders were very careful to create a safe space and made sure the participants were comfortable throughout the process. 

“[The leaders] did not force participation,” Yeaton said. “It was just a really well-rounded experience.”

Fraker said he hopes to restart RAD soon because it is a valuable resource for Southern’s community.  “Giving individuals the option to defend themselves helps build a more resilient and confident student body,” Fraker said. “Additionally, skills learned at SAU can be taken home to help enhance the safety of future workplaces and home communities.”

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