Protecting and Serving Her Community
It isn’t an illusion: Women walking out of York College’s Grumbacher Center look a little more confident than when they went in. Most likely, they’ve just come from the RAD (Rape Aggression Defense system) self-defense training, offered by York College and the Spring Garden Township Police Department.
Awareness gets top billing for the reason for the training. Prevention is its costar as the major weapon in keeping women safer.
Today is different from yesterday. Gone are the days when the streetlights were used primarily to let kids know when they needed to go home. Summertime meant jumping on your bike in the morning, maybe coming home for lunch, definitely for supper, and being “in” when the street lights came on.
It’s a luxury we took for granted, never anticipating there would be an end to that innocence.
Kids now rarely play outside, and videogames and electronics are only part of the reasons neighborhoods are ghost towns during the day. Parents are only too aware of the dangers of allowing kids to possess the simplicity of days gone by.
Reality dictates that we must all pay attention to our surroundings, our gut feelings, and, sadly, the daily news.
No training can be a 100 percent guarantee to personal safety, but it can up the odds and spike self-confidence.
RAD training is given by Officer A. Graybill of Spring Garden Township Police Department, with assistance from other officers from SGTPD as well as York College police officers.
The training is free. Graybill is that impassioned about teaching a woman to have less of a “victim mentality” and to gain skills in preventing calamity. The focus of RAD is to give both physical and, maybe even more importantly, mental tools to ensure that women get to go home, rather than to the hospital. Or worse.
She is definitely up for the challenges of coaching women of all ages to think about safety. Graybill said that even as an adolescent, safety was on her mind.
Graybill recounted how she and her sister were visiting colleges, and while her sister was examining things like curriculum, classes, and activities, her interrogations were centered on the safety of the campus.
She’s been teaching RAD for 15 years and has seen a lot of changes since its local inception in 2002.
One of the most prevalent changes is that parents often feel that it is too dangerous to let kids go just about anywhere on their own.
College campuses are more risky than in bygone days, and when the director at York College approached the Spring Garden Township Police Department about starting RAD training and offered to fund the trainee who would then train security at the college, Graybill was the most logical choice. Being a petite woman, Graybill embodies a stature many women can identify with.
The current classes are four in number, three hours each. Mental strategies are as important as the physical—not only for prevention, but also for dealing with an actual attack. One of the ultimate goals is for “muscle memory” to kick in from practicing repetitive moves.
At the final session, simulated attacks are implemented on students. The scenarios, which are totally optional, bring reality, even if it’s a “manufactured” reality, to what is learned in the classroom in conjunction with the physical drills.
Trainers are dressed in fully protective gear and replicate what an actual attack may be like. The student is not told in advance what the “assault” will technically be to make it more lifelike.
Though this can be the most stressful part of the training, it can also build the most confidence, even if the student does not react the way she may think she would.
Over the years, Graybill has had numerous diverse reactions to the simulations. One of the most memorable was a young woman who had done very well on all the drills, but there was just something “different” about her, related Graybill.
“Something in her eyes,” says Graybill.
The young woman told her her biggest fear of the class was doing the scenarios. Graybill reiterated that it was not mandatory to participate to complete the training.
After taking a big breath, the woman said, “You don’t understand; I do have to do this.” Following that proclamation, she “kicked butt” and was fine the next time she took the class.
The young woman never revealed why it was so important to her, but knowing she got her through it cemented Graybill’s commitment and her mission of why she teaches.
Another recollection was of a woman who had been shot by her ex-husband; he had also killed her boyfriend. She took the class because her ex-husband was being released from prison.
Another student was an older woman who had been pushed down by her attacker; she had survived but wanted to be more self-reliant.
Working through these women’s emotional baggage was just as important as teaching them the physical moves and mental preparation. And it’s very difficult to tell a woman that she may at some point actually have to hurt someone.
It’s a mindset especially of the older set that is arduous to overcome. Former generations of women were taught to be polite, pleasant, sweet, and non-confrontational. It’s a mentality that could be very dangerous.
Age is a non-issue when it comes to the training, as children as well as grandmas have taken it. One pregnant mom brought her 8- and 10-year-olds after they were approached in their own yard by a stranger. She herself came back for a later class after the birth.
York College proclaimed in the beginning that the class would always be offered for free so that nobody would be turned away because they couldn’t afford a $10 class. Free, however, doesn’t indicate subpar or bargain-basement instruction. In fact, just the opposite.
The ultimate hope, of course, is that participants never need to engage this schooling. We as women can make ourselves less likely victims. Some key points:
Put down your phone. You can’t tell if someone is following you and watching you if you’re engrossed in conversation or apps on your phone.
Be aware of your surroundings. Only then can you notice something that is out of the ordinary.
Don’t put yourself in a situation that could be bad. Going out and getting high or drunk and then stumbling home could put you at risk of being attacked.
Keep doors and windows locked at home. Yes, even if you’re at home, keep them locked so you don’t have unexpected “guests.”
Call 911 if someone you don’t know is at your door.
Keep your car locked at all times. This not only protects you from having someone hide in the back, but it also keeps someone from stealing valuables from your car.
Trust your gut feelings. This could be one of your most powerful weapons. Don’t doubt them. Worry about apologies later if needed.
“I’d much rather apologize later than have it go the other way,” Graybill emphasized. BW
For information on future classes, email Graybill at firstname.lastname@example.org.