Program provides lifetime of defense

By Laura Graesser

Since 1997, the Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) program, a self-defense course for women at the University, has worked to make women on campus safer and more aware in all aspects of their lives.

“This program is unique in that it is a very comprehensive self-defense program to deal with any situation,” said Tony Ortiz, crime prevention coordinator for the Division of Public Safety, a main sponsor of the course. “We’re teaching how to protect yourself and the people you love.”

A 12-hour program over the course of four sessions, RAD emphasizes risk-reduction strategy as well as hands-on defense training, said Ortiz, an instructor who has been with the program for seven years.

“Unlike other self-defense programs, you learn not only how to defend yourself in a situation, but also how to be aware and make good decisions so you don’t get into a dangerous situation in the first place,” Ortiz said.

In the RAD courses, 90 percent of the self-defense training is learning about risk reduction and the other 10 percent covers physical defense. The risk reduction aspect includes tips to guard oneself at home, work and while traveling. This philosophy has resounded with such participants as Carrie Malloch, a single mother who took the course a year ago.

“You learn how to think like a criminal would,” said Malloch, an employee at the University of Illinois Employee Credit Union. “Then, you can learn how to protect and defend yourself from those criminals.”

The University RAD program held at IMPE is one of three programs available in the area, and is one of hundreds offered around the country and Canada as part of RAD Systems.

According to the RAD Systems Web site, more than 250,000 women have taken the course in the United States and Canada since its inception in 1989. While the University program is not as old, it has helped many women to develop a plan of action in cases of attack.

“People always say, ‘It’s never going to happen to me,’ but those are the people who it does happen to, and they need to know how to protect themselves,” Malloch said.

While the program costs $12, Ortiz said it offers a lifetime return and practice policy that enables past participants to come to any classes in the future for free. Donna Jessee, a civil service employee for the University, took the program about seven years ago and has gone back several times.

“Sometimes I get off work late or come in early when not many people are on campus, and it’s valuable to know what RAD teaches,” Jessee said. “No one is immune from danger.”

Ortiz has trained a variety of women during his time as an instructor, ranging from 10 to 70-year-olds and the able-bodied to the physically handicapped. In addition, about one third of women who take the class have been either raped or attacked sometime in their lives.

“We want women to have a mindset of survival,” Ortiz said. “We show women how to be empowered and take control of their lives.”

For more information on the program,visit