After 15 years of being available solely for women, the Lehigh University Police Department is offering self-defense classes to males in an effort to change the conversation regarding gender violence on college campuses.
The Rape Aggression Defense program is a 12-hour training that tackles topics such as aggression, violence and de-escalation.
Lehigh University Police Chief Edward Shupp said the RAD program will now be available for men after the LUPD received numerous requests to expand the eligibility for participation to all genders.
“The objective of the program is still the same,” Shupp said. “The program teaches participants how to avoid problematic situations, how to de-escalate a situation by body language and also how to defend themselves physically.”
According to The Express Times, the RAD program for men will teach participants to better recognize and avoid aggressive behavior, and how to reduce aggression and violence on campus.
Brooke DeSipio, director of the Office of Gender Violence Education and Support, said men are also victims of gender violence and offering classes for men affirms that.
“Gender violence is not just a women’s issue, it is everyone’s issue,” DeSipio said.
Despite the title, the program does not exclusively deal with rape prevention, but also helps to lessen aggression within all circumstances, Shupp said.
The program consists of four, three-hour sessions starting with book learning, video analysis and hands-on training, and ending with a hands-on simulation where students defend themselves against RAD-certified police officers.
Additional benefits of the program include connecting with LUPD officers and learning about the legal process of reporting gender violence, DeSipio said.
The self-defense aspect of this program is very important, but the educational aspect carries a lot of significance said Monica R. Miller, assistant professor of religion studies and Africana studies and director of women, gender and sexuality studies. She said it is important that the public is educated about violence and not tilting the conversation toward the victim-blaming mentality, which frequently occurs with sexual violence.
From a gender violence education and support perspective, DeSipio said the RAD classes are a great way for both genders to feel empowered. However, she said it is important to remember that the responsibility is always on the potential perpetrator to not commit an incident of gender violence
Even if an individual participates in a RAD course, it is not his or her fault if an incident of gender violence occurs against him or her, DeSipio said.
Rita Jones, director of the Women’s Center, said beyond self-defense, the RAD classes help participants develop confidence and a heightened personal awareness and men need to have the same opportunity as women. She said that RAD classes provide an outlet to help individuals feel more comfortable in public spaces, but taking the class doesn’t suddenly protect a person from any kind of situation with violence.
“Violence is a really complex issue and one class, five classes or years of classes doesn’t change someone’s position of being a victim necessarily,” Jones said.
Miller said that any program committed to reducing physical violence against vulnerable subjects is a very good thing. However, she said in order to talk about violence against vulnerable communities, it is necessary to expand this conversation to include attention to sexuality and all LGBTQ counterparts and the trans community.
“On one hand, we have to keep in mind that certain types of demographics are disproportionately impacted and when you add gender, race and sexuality to that conversation, we can’t be fool ourselves by thinking that violence only occurs to particular people,” Miller said.
The program teaches lessons that have life-long benefits for women and now the men who choose to participate.
People often laugh when discussing sexual violence against men, Miller said, but it does happen, and whether that violence is seen as valid or not valid is another sensitive, but complex conversation that needs to occur.
The RAD program will be held March 17, 18, 23 and 24 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Sayre Park Village Lodge. LUPD said the course can only accommodate 20 participants per session.