LSU alumna Claire Ohlsen works to push off an attacker during a Rape Aggression Defense program simulation at LSU. In the red suit is former police officer and LSU Associate Dean of Students Matt Gregory. (Credit: Andrea Gallo)
Angelle Bickham, a biological sciences freshman, punches an attacker during LSU’s Rape Aggression Defense program simulation Sunday. In the red suit is former police officer and Associate Dean of Students Matt Gregory. (Credit: Andrea Gallo)
By Andrea Gallo | LSU Student
A sharp chorus of the word "no" clanged on LSU's campus this past weekend when about 15 women punched, kicked and sprinted during the fall's Rape Aggression Defense program.
The program consists of a series of self-defense classes in which women learn physical and psychological components of defending themselves. It's important for women to learn how to physically fend off attackers while verbalizing their anger, RAD Instructors Kathy Saichuk and Ashley Granger stressed.
In a three-day span, the women go from learning basic defense techniques to a simulation where they sport helmets and padding as men act as attackers. The simulations increase in difficulty with each of three scenarios.
"As young women in college…we can't just be vulnerable," said Angelle Bickham, a biology freshman. "We have to learn to stand up and be powerful."
Anne Tangi, an LSU alumna took the RAD class a year-and-a-half ago and was back over the weekend to fine tune her skills. RAD has a policy that welcomes back anyone who previously has taken a class.. Since this was Tangi's second go-around, her simulations were more difficult than first-time participants.
"It is scary," she said about the simulation. "You don't know what to expect and you're questioning whether you can get out of it…once you get through it, you're just like, hell yeah."
The two men who embodied the aggressor roles in Sunday's simulations were Matt Gregory, LSU's associate dean of students who is a former police officer, and Jeff Lemoine, an LSU Police Department sergeant.
"It's hard for them," said Saichuk, who is also LSU's health promotion coordinator. "They have to become a personality that doesn't fit."
The recent abduction and killing of University of Louisiana at Lafayette student Mickey Shunick may have spiked women's interest in the class, Gregory said, noting that whenever incidents involving women being attacked garner media attention, there tends to be a spike in self-defense class enrollment. Saichuk said they taught the class "night after night" when Baton Rouge convicted serial killer Derrick Todd Lee was at large in the early 2000s.
While the simulation portion of the class is a chance for the women to practice their skills, it's also teaches them to think on their feet, regardless of whether recall the techniques perfectly at the time.
"There is no wrong," Granger, counselor in the University Center for Freshman Year, told the women. "The whole idea is to protect yourselves."
The experience made Dove Cormier, an LSU food science graduate student, more self-assured that she can resist an attacker despite her petite size. She is cautious about walking around by herself at night, she says, but that sometimes it's unavoidable.
"Whenever I'm angry at something or someone, I'm not scared. I'm ready to fight."