Auburn University’s self-defense course provides safety lessons for female students

Published: November 03, 2017
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Over the course of six classes per week, approximately 180 women gather in the Student ACT on Auburn’s campus to learn how to enhance their safety and utilize self-defense techniques to get away from a potential assailant. They’re enrolled in the Auburn University Department of Campus Safety and Security’s Rape Aggression Defense, or R.A.D., program.

“R.A.D. is a comprehensive women-only course that begins with awareness, prevention, risk reduction and avoidance,” said Keith Walton, campus safety officer and certified instructor for the national R.A.D. program. “After those, they progress onto the basics of hands-on defense training.”

Auburn’s R.A.D. program involves three hours of classroom lecture and nine hours of physical techniques. It concludes with simulation training, where instructors equipped with padded suits “attack” the students. Students defend themselves using various methods they’ve learned, such as ground defense, striking motions, wrist grabs, choke holds and knee strikes. The students are taught to rely on physical strategy–not individual strength–to target the vulnerable areas of the attacker.

Local instructors go through 30 hours of training from the national organization.

“We have instructors from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the Auburn Police Division who also help us,” said Walton.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college. Walton has been teaching the class since 2006, and he said he’s thankfully never heard of one of his students having to defend themselves.

“I have not had a student say they had to use the techniques, but some have said that the training has helped them to be more aware of their surroundings, which is 90 percent of self-defense,” he said.

Madison Atwater, a senior in human development and family studies, said her mother has been urging her to take the class since she was a freshman. She said the class has helped her become more aware of the people and situations around her.

“I’ve learned how to be more aware of my surroundings, such as if somebody puts something on your car, a lot of times they’re trying to get you to come out. You don’t do that. One thing you can do is call the police,” Atwater said.

She’s encouraged her friends to take the course before they leave Auburn because they talk about what’s she’s experienced after each class.

“I’ve learned several physical defense techniques, which is fun because I get to take that back and teach it to my friends,” said Atwater.

Auburn’s R.A.D. program is an elective for one hour of class credit. Students can sign up for it when choosing their classes for the upcoming semester. The course number is PHED 2200.

For more information, contact Campus Safety and Security at 334-844-8888 or

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