JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Flashes of my predator entered my mind: trying to remain strong I held my head high. I’m no longer a victim.
In May, 15 women, including myself, attended a Rape, Aggression and Defense class at Child Youth and School Services to learn to protect ourselves from sexual predators.
RAD is a national program where participants learn 27 self-defense techniques from nationally certified instructors during 12 hours of training.
The participants in my class had unique backgrounds and came to the course with different objectives. One woman wanted her deploying husband to have peace of mind, another to gain confidence. I attended to confront years of fear.
One at a time the women introduced themselves. Shaky hands and timid voices, some were reluctant to tell the real reasons for attending.
Marianne Marks, a Wichita Falls, Texas, native and Air Force spouse, spoke quietly making little eye contact with anyone. She explained that she wanted to attend the class to gain self-confidence.
“I want to stand up for myself,” she said.
After introductions, Jane Mouatassim, our instructor, said there are methods of self-defense people can apply before a situation becomes physical.
“Possessing a practiced plan of action is the key to survival,” she said.
As she continued to talk about risk reduction strategies, women interjected with questions. We shared experiences and concerns. The open discussion put the group at ease, and just in time for practical exercises in the gym.
We formed a circle around Mouatassim going step-by-step through vocal commands and defensive maneuvers.
“The degree of defense should be proportionate to the intensity of the aggression,” Mouatassim said. “Your voice can protect you.”
She stressed that by saying, “no” in a firm voice some predators will back off. They go after easy targets. They don’t want to fight.
The sound of women yelling, “No, get back!” echoed through the gym. Going through the motions was an effective way to practice the techniques, but the real test of strength was actually punching and kicking the pads.
As I waited to put force behind my new self-defense moves, I could feel my anxiety rising. Emotions I buried for years were right in front of me. I had to face my fears. With each punch, I gained more confidence and that fear started to leave. Just the presence of the other women helped relieve some of my stress.
After 30 minutes of punching drills and defense stances, Marks, a tall, lanky woman who hunched during introductions, held her shoulders back and her head high. She was slowing leaving her shy cocoon.
“I was really nervous at first, but I feel more confident now,” said Marks. “I feel stronger.”
Marks returned the next weekend with a smile on her face, standing tall.
After learning the basics during the first session, Mouatassim taught us how to fend for ourselves during specific situations, like when being choked or knocked to the ground by a predator.
I could have benefited from RAD years before when my attacker choked me. I didn’t realize at the time how basic self-defense could have helped. I never imagined I would be attacked, but it can happen to anyone at anytime.
“It’s better to have the knowledge and not need it then to need it and not know,” said Tania Sellers, a participant and Pretoria, South Africa native.
RAD is not only designed for victims: it is for any woman who wants to learn self-defense.
Latecia Mesngon and her daughter Hope, 14, came to prepare themselves.
“I want my daughter to have a foundation of how to defend herself,” said Latecia, the family readiness group leader for B Company, Madigan Army Medical Center.
“I learned a lot and feel motivated,” Hope said.
Hope said she would recommend her friends take the class so they too can be prepared for an attack.