Rape, Aggression, Defense: the RAD program was brought to Red Oak ISD to protect young women from assault, murder, and abduction.
Twenty Red Oak middle and high school students underwent the five-day training, all ranging from 12 to 16 years old. The basic 12-hour course was also transformed into an Empowerment Camp.
The camp incorporated a lecture by inspirational female guest speakers and the RAD physical defense program.
One speaker included Vella Chancellor, a gynecologist who touched on the health aspect and discussed sexually transmitted diseases, the importance of contraceptives and other pertinent health issues.
The final speaker was Samantha Vickery, the juvenile district attorney for Ellis County. She spoke about legalities of domestic and sexual assaults, dating violence and stalking.
Brittney Sullivan, a 31-year-old Cleburne woman who burned her face on a curling iron after an epileptic seizure, addressed the topic of inner beauty. She spoke about the relationships she had and how they changed after she was burned.
Her story moved Samantha Jasso, 16, who will be a junior in the fall.
“I took out that inner beauty is the most important. And she talked about how it’s all about faces and makeup and how you look is really important to the eye but then I saw her, and I didn’t really look at her face but how pretty she was in the inside,” Jasso explained.
The RAD program appealed to Jasso because “I have a close friend of mine who has been attacked before, so I thought of her when I thought about it.”
Jasso learned defensive stances and different techniques that she can use if she feels threatened or attacked. When Jasso shared with her friend that she was participating in the program, she offered her to go through it, but it would have been too traumatic. The friend was proud that Jasso went through the program so she would be prepared.
Through the program, Jasso admitted she found her assertive side and overcame her fears. The extrovert claimed she was not a fighter and initially her instincts urged her to flight, not fight. When instructors came at her with the pads, she ducked and ran. On the second day, she was a confident fighter.
What she learned about herself through this experience is “That even if I think I can’t do it, I can. And even if it scares me, I should still do it.”
THE WOMAN BEHIND RED OAK RAD
RAD is a woman-run and lead program. So, two Red Oak ISD employees traveled to Houston to undergo the intense three-day training in order to be able to present the program at home.
Red Oak ISD administrative assistant Denise Brown and paraprofessional Margarita Gallegos jumped at the opportunity when they heard about the RAD program coming to the district.
For Brown, it was the confidence and empowerment the program brought that inspired her to impact others. But Gallegos said she was influenced by personal experience.
Gallegos disclosed she is a victim of sexual assault and when she heard about the opportunity to train the young women, she was immediately on board.
Gallegos agreed that if she had undergone the RAD program before her assault that it could have been prevented.
“I think I would have known the signs,” Gallegos explained. “I would have been aware and the gut feeling I had. Those are some of the things we’ve taught in the class.”
Through the training, both instructors explained how the girls were timid and shy the first day but blossomed quickly, finding their voices and toughness.
“There’s progression in their voice, and you’d be surprised at how many times just saying, ‘no’ firmly [can help],” Brown elaborated. “We teach them it’s about yelling and not screaming. And they have to use that deep, firm voice and sometimes firmly saying no in a loud voice will make a guy back off.”
But not only did the students learn more about themselves but the instructors identified new characteristic within themselves.
Gallegos stated she was once more introverted and is now able to teach a course in front of a group and be more assertive. “It has helped me come out of my shell and find my voice.”
“It makes me proud and tear-up because I know some of them,” Gallegos expressed. “I’m happy to be able to help them especially the ones that came in a little more reserved and they are now coming out of their shell.”
Meanwhile, Brown, who is soft-spoken, learned to exercise her firm voice.
Brown added, “I would love to recognize the ROISD Education Foundation. They provided a grant that funded the expense of the pads and targets and student and aggressor suits. Their grant funded that and without those pieces the suits and pads, it would be very difficult to do the hands-on training part.”
The RAD program was established in 1989 and is the largest women's national self-defense program in the nation with over 900,000 women who have taken the basic program.
Red Oak ISD Chief Kevin Denney was prominent in guiding the RAD program to the district. As a police officer in Irving years ago, he trained in the RAD program.
“It’s a system of self-defense that we teach women not just against robbery but against abduction, assault, and murder,” Denney explained. “We are teaching them skills that they need to use in order from them to escape an abduction or assault. It’s is more about delivering hits and getting away.”
Denney explained how the empowerment camp was essential during the transitional time for the young women as they transition to more freedom and independence.
Even though the basic training of RAD focuses of physical defense. The camp also focused lecture on awareness, avoidance, safety and security and surroundings.
“We always tell them, ‘the physical stuff is great, but if you never have to get into that physical confrontation, then you’ve won,” Denney emphasized.
The program will become an annual camp for middle and high school Red Oak students. The instructors and Denney hope attendance triples and other districts will adopt the program.
Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450