New rape aggression defence can improve personal safety — March 2008

Self defense should be easy to learn, easy to retain, and relatively easy to employ during real confrontational situations— that is the philosophy of the Rape Aggression Defence Program (RAD) and, as of March 15, 2008, female staff, students and faculty will have the opportunity to take part in this internationally renowned self protection course on campus.

Coordinated and organized by Special Constable Richard Sabourin of the Carleton University department of safety, this 9- to 12-hour course offers practical self-defence tactics and techniques for women. The program is taught by a team of nationally certified female and male instructors and focuses on teaching women about prevention and awareness in addition to physical skills through a combination of lectures, discussions and basic training in self-defence techniques.

Shift Manager Rick Young began researching the program last June and Sabourin took over the implementation in August. Sabourin believes that RAD will benefit women on campus because they will learn the skills they need to prevent incidents before they occur. “The program will also empower them to physically defend themselves against a violent attack should there be no other options.”

Currently, Carleton’s RAD team consists of three male and six female instructors, three of whom are senior residents and six of whom are special constables in the department of university safety. According to Sabourin, the majority of instructors are female because “they make the course more comfortable for the female participants. However, male instructors also teach the program because both men and women need to be part of ensuring overall personal safety on campus.”

Men who wish to become RAD instructors must have either a law enforcement background or specific private security experience (e.g., working in a university department of safety).

According to senior resident Melissa Sharpe, who participated in a recent training session, the RAD program has a distinct advantage over other self-defence courses she has taken. In particular, participants have the option of applying the skills they are taught by participating in simulations. These role plays are designed to engage participants in an assault that simulates a potentially dangerous real-life situation as closely as possible.

“During the simulated attack, the situation felt very real and serious,” she explains. “My heart was pounding, the adrenaline was flowing and I really had to fight even though I knew that I would not be hurt.”

Sharpe thinks that the videotaped simulations have two benefits: one, she learned a lot from watching how other participants responded and being able to see the results that different reactions produced; and two, she felt a lot more confident about her ability to adequately use the techniques in a real situation to defend herself.

“The program is so good that I think every university student should have the opportunity to take it,“ she says. “These are important skills.”

Equity Services provided additional financial support for the program to ensure that faculty, students and staff could attend free of charge. Similarly, Housing and Conference Services provided campus residence rooms without charge to ensure appropriate space for the training.

Although RAD is currently offered only to women, all-male classes may be run in the future, if requested. The maximum number of participants in each course is 16. The program is also being offered at other campuses across North America and, as Sabourin points out, there is a free lifetime return and practise policy—any individual who completes RAD can retake the program anywhere that it is offered in Canada.

Readers who would like more information about participating in the program can visit

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