RAD class empowers women while teaching self-defense

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) It’s a situation no one wants to experience, trying to defend yourself from an attacker.

The RAD, or Rape Aggression Defense, the class offered by the East Carolina University Police Department is hoping to give its students the tools for a fighting chance.

Three times a semester you can find a group of women gathered near ECU’s campus, learning how to defend themselves.

“I feel like in my mind I thought I would be that girl that would high pitch scream and run for her life, but knowing that I can be powerful and strong and sound aggressive whether it’s physically or just vocally is really cool,” said Autumn Karsko, a RAD class participant.

Empowerment. That’s what the class is all about.

“We’ve had sexual assault survivors. We’ve had assault survivors. We’ve had different people that have come in and they’re really trying to focus on empowering themselves,” said Stephanie Carnevale, ECU Police Department.

The 12-hour class is the only self-defense course taught in every state since the late 1980s.

Carnevale has been teaching women in eastern North Carolina how to defend themselves since 2006.

“Seeing a lot of the issues that happen on college campuses, to be able to empower them to actually defend themselves in situations where women traditionally don’t really think about that sometimes and don’t feel like they’re able to defend themselves especially against a male attacker,” said Carnevale. “So, I was pretty interested in the program.”

“Everyone thinks it’s not going to be them, but one day it actually could be you,” said Chely Pritt, a RAD class participant.

This class is as hands-on as it gets.

Students practice on bags, classmates, and even an attacker.

“It’s one thing to hit bags and to do drills, but it’s another thing when you’re actually put in a situation where you have to fight back,” said Carnevale.

Participants are taught everything from simple jabs, to how to escape a chokehold.

“I never knew how powerful one move could be until after I practiced it a certain amount of times,” said Mallory George, RAD class participant.

They’re also taught the power of their own voice.

“Verbalization can get you out of a lot of situations before you have to go hands-on,” said Carnevale.

“I was nervous, especially when they said we were going to have to yell a lot, but then over the course of the course I’ve gotten louder, and just feeling like yeah I got this. I can do this,” said Karsko.

At the end of the course, they put those skills to the test.

“I’ve actually had to pull students off of the bad guy because they really aren’t the bad guy, but their adrenaline kicks in and their fight or flight kicks in and they actually realize they’ve learned a whole lot of skills,” said Carnevale.

Carnevale said the number one goal is to avoid any kind of situation that might be unsafe.

But if these women find themselves in one, they’ll be ready.

“If there can be one less instance of sexual assault or violence that happens against women I think that it’s doing its job, and I think that in it of itself proves that this is worth it and something that needs to be done,” said Karsko.

While the class is preparing students to escape their worst nightmares, the strength radiating from every student during the last class is hard to ignore.

“We’re able to give them something positive to take back and we’re able to educate them and make them feel so much more confident that they can defend themselves,” said Carnevale.

Another aspect of the class some of the participants said they really enjoyed was getting to interact and form closer bonds with the women of ECU’s Police Department.

ECU P.D. is set to host three more RAD classes next semester in February, March, and April.

More information on the classes can be found here.

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