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BCPD Offers RAD Defense Classes For Men And Women

For The Heights

Published: Thursday, November 7, 2013

Updated: Thursday, November 7, 2013 02:11

For members of the Boston College community looking to learn self-defense techniques, RAD programs are offered on campus free of charge. Lt. Christopher Santiago of the BC Police Department has been a RAD instructor for 12 years and oversees the program. According to Santiago, 90 percent of defense is mental.

“We hope that you prepare yourself in such a way that you never have to get into physical contact with somebody,” Santiago said.

The classes are structured in four three-hour sessions, with the first session focusing on the educational piece. Students watch videos, learn risk-reduction strategies, and discuss ways to get out of dangerous situations.

The second and third classes focus on teaching physical defense techniques, and the fourth involves a voluntary simulated attack in which students can practice against an assailant.

Lawrence Nadeau, a retired officer, started the RAD program in 1989 as a result of his daughter going to college. “He felt there wasn’t a good balance of getting across education that students would pay attention to,” Santiago said. “During orientation, you’re worried about so many other things. There needed to be a better delivery system to get across information for young women about the topic of sexual assault, and to give themselves some tools for defending themselves should they find themselves in a bad situation.” Today, RAD has become an international program for self-defense.

There are different programs within RAD, in which the initials stand for different things. BC offers RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) for Women, and RAD (Resisting Aggression with Defense) for men. The men’s program is built similarly to the women’s program, but focuses on issues of domestic violence advocacy and social constraints that govern the ways in which men are expected to act.

“We talk a lot about social norming and issues regarding men in that sort of fashion,” said Santiago, citing the “men don’t cry” mentality. “What we’re really trying to teach men as opposed to women is teaching to avoid confrontation.”
Santiago said that he wishes more students would participate in the program, citing different reasons why men and women take and don’t take the course.

“I think for men, some people may be embarrassed,” Santiago said. “They think, ‘Why do I need to take this?’ That’s exactly what the class tries to focus on in terms of social-norming. For the women, there’s also that embarrassment piece. But my experience with female students is that most of them take a practical approach.

“Either their parents told them they had to take it or it’s a practical approach if they’re a senior, they probably don’t live at home, and they have the intention to live in a more urban environment for the first time. They’re trying to think ahead of things they can do to protect themselves as they enter the new environment.”
For those who do take the class, Santiago has found significant changes in the way women feel about themselves. “In terms of impact, there’s a resounding self-empowerment,” he said. “Everybody is uplifted, and feels better about themselves and a level of comfort with the techniques, that if they found themselves in a precarious situation they would be able to defend themselves.

“Many, many people who have gone through my classes are survivors. Some I can recognize the signs through their behaviors, others have privately shared that information with me. It’s a tremendous honor when somebody shares that with you.”
Santiago also noted the importance of the discussion for women, and said that the women in the class are able to learn from each other’s experiences and form a bond.

“It’s very interesting to see how an 18-year-old college freshman relates to a topic with a 40-, 50-, 60-year-old faculty member,” Santiago said. “The life experience changes so much of how they view particular threats. As an instructor, that type of dialogue between women in a safe environment teaches more that we ever could. It lets people learn for themselves.”
Students can find more information about signing up for the program at, where they will find different sites around the country.

Once the course is completed, it can be taken again anywhere for free. At BC, there is no charge for the course, and students who complete it are still eligible to take it again elsewhere.

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