Self-defense classes empower women just in case


Published: Saturday, January 28, 2012 at 7:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 28, 2012 at 7:29 p.m.

When Jane's daughter asked the question, she knew something was wrong.

Facts

About the class

What: Rape Aggression Defense class
When: Feb. 1, 6, 7, 5:30-9:30 p.m.
Where: Santa Fe College, Building S, 3000 NW 83rd St.
Cost: Free, sign up with Sgt. J.P. Hood, 367-4108

"What's the definition of rape?"

Four months before she worked up the courage to ask the question, Jane's daughter had been sleeping on an air mattress with her closest friend and fellow Girl Scout. She woke up with the other girl on top of her.

She froze. She waited for the girl to stop. They were both 12.

After months of counseling, breakdowns and finally moving to a new town, Jane and her daughter took a self-defense class offered by the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.

The Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) class is free and is designed for women who want to learn how to protect themselves and prevent situations where they might be vulnerable.

When Jane's daughter was attacked, she was sleeping in the other bedroom. When her daughter told her, she expected the attacker to be an older boy. She never would have thought it was her daughter's friend.

Deputy Shawn Pagel started the RAD class in October 2006, a few months after she joined the crime prevention unit. She said women would call into the department asking if the Sheriff's Office could teach them how to defend themselves. The answer was no. She knew something had to change.

The 12-hour course, split up over three nights, is taught at Santa Fe College by Pagel and others at the Sheriff's Office. Though they try to hold the class once a month, budget cuts don't always allow it.

The first night is what Pagel calls classroom work. It's the little reminders to keep vigilant: Don't walk alone at night, let friends know where you are and when you should be back, go on double dates so you won't be alone.

"Ninety percent of what we do is prevention," Pagel said. "The other 10 percent is the physical aspect."

The second night teaches techniques to get out of situations when someone grabs you or when someone is on top of you. These are maneuvers that Jane's daughter now knows, and is confident to use, if anything would happen to her again.

Jane and her daughter have taken the class three times before, and her daughter wants to continue to come back. Pagel said many women come back and are encouraged to return for the practice.

Pagel has had women ages 11 to 86 participate in the program. Some come from abusive backgrounds, others knew someone who was assaulted, and then there are the women who want to prepare themselves in case something were to happen.

The idea is to learn the skills before you have to use them, Pagel said.

The third night focuses on scenarios, or role playing. Though it is optional, she said, it puts women in real-life situations where they can practice the techniques they learned on padded officers who "attack" them.

Pagel said some women shy away from this part, but it is vital to get the initial shock factor out of the way so if something were to happen, you could remember what it was like.

"If you act like a victim, you're more likely to become one," Pagel said.

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