The University Police Department is currently offering a nine-hour Rape Aggression Defense course taught by officer Philip Borden and campus public safety officer Elisabeth Adams. The program focuses on self-defense and awareness tactics exclusively for women in the face of potential sexual assault and will be split into three separate three-hour sessions.
The first session––scheduled for Saturday April 18––was canceled due to low enrollment. Borden explained that he volunteered to teach the R.A.D. course after University Police Chief Thomas Kilcullen recommended that they be offered at Geneseo. Kilcullen experienced the course while working at SUNY Albany. Borden attended a three-day training session at SUNY New Paltz to become a R.A.D. certified instructor.
Borden said that R.A.D. self-defense programs are offered by police departments both on and off college campuses nationwide. Students who complete the course are able to continue their training throughout their lifetimes at any R.A.D.-sponsored program. According to the R.A.D. website, the nationwide program offers classes geared specifically toward women, men, children and senior citizens. Borden emphasized that the Geneseo course––which will be offered free of charge for the time being––is open only to female students.
He added that the course is based in “not only physical options, but also awareness options as far as providing tips and things of that nature making [a woman] aware that she can do certain things to keep herself out of a dangerous predicament.”
According to Borden, the first session of the course is based in safety tips such as “where not to go, what to look for when you’re some place that’s possibly a danger.” The second and third sessions include a more physical emphasis, providing specific strategies for thwarting attackers.
UPD has offered a number of smaller self-defense programs in the past, as they are often invited to specific residence halls by resident assistants. Erie Hall residence assistant senior Paige Cuddihy organized a week of programming with UPD while working as a residence assistant in Niagara Hall during the 2013–2014 school year. The programming included a self-defense class that was open to all students, which she described as “really successful.”
“It’s hard to get people’s attention about those topics that are important for them to know so doing a program in a residence hall where it’s a more intimate setting … I thought it was a really good way to learn about that without sitting down and being lectured about it,” Cuddihy said.
Pride Alliance women and gender studies representative sophomore Thomas McCarthy expressed support for the psychological security and reassurance of safety that courses such as the R.A.D. program can provide. He added that it could be “placebo to a bigger issue, one that’s much harder to address—that the men who women know are the ones [who are] raping them usually.”
Karate Club offers self-defense classes to a number of student organizations in addition to those offered by UPD. Karate Club executive board member sophomore Nicholas Kovalevich explained that a number of these courses are offered to sororities, but they are available to all organizations and residence halls.
“The courses are good and important because if someone is put into a situation, they should know how to get out of it,” he said. “Granted, there should be more education about why people shouldn’t do this in the first place, and all the responsibility shouldn’t ever be on the victim, but that’s the model that we’re forced to work with right now. So we’re forced to sort of train the victim to prevent them from being victims in the first place.”
According to Borde, the R.A.D. program is currently offered only for women at Geneseo because offering the specifically tailored men’s course––which is less geared toward rape prevention––would require additional training, money and resources. He added that the women’s course is “possibly more necessary” because self-defense training is “something that some guys need and some guys don’t.”
McCarthy noted that the feelings of security garnered from self-defense courses could benefit students of all genders.
“I don’t know why we would have a self-defense class just for women when I’m sure a lot of people feel potentially unsafe and would like to learn those skills to make them feel better,” McCarthy said. “I think if men and women were in this class, it would be a lot more conducive to creating an environment where these issues of sexual assault aren’t like men’s issues and women’s issues anymore. It’s an issue that everyone has to talk about.”
Borden is currently working to reschedule the R.A.D. Program sessions this semester, with tentative dates on Saturday April 25, May 2 and May 9 in Schrader Hall. He may consider offering a summer program to the open to the community outside of campus and plans to continue the R.A.D. Program in future semesters.