When it comes to women and their safety, Sherri Hunter thought they needed to know how to fight instead of how their attacker would fight.
That is why Hunter, a part time police officer at Kilgore College, decided to bring the nationwide R.A.D. – Rape Aggression Defense – course to the college.
Hunter’s husband, Kilgore Police Chief Todd Hunter said he had spoken with then-Kilgore College Police Chief Martin Pessink about the class before Sherri Hunter went back to become R.A.D. certified.
“We’re supporting this all the way,” Chief Hunter said.
The class is strictly for women, and Sherri Hunter said it teaches women how to use their own skills if they are faced with a situation.
“Women’s strengths are different than men’s strengths,” she said. Other self-defense classes teach women how men fight, but Hunter said women need to know how to use tactics that work for them.
Many times, women think they need to carry a gun or a knife to protect themselves, but R.A.D. student Melissa Johnson said the program has taught her otherwise.
“God built us to protect ourselves, and we’ve just learned how to use what He gave us,” she said. “Women are not defenseless. God gives us the tools. They teach us how to use the tools that God gave us.
Fellow R.A.D. student Cindy Wilburn has taken self-defense classes before, but said the R.A.D. program is the best she has done because of the intensity and the fact that it is tailored toward women.
“Just knowing that, if something happens, you have a chance,” she said.
For Anela Everett, taking the class started out as a way to give her mother peace of mind before heading off to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. By the final class, though, she said she had fun and found that it was not as hard as she first thought.
“As a young woman, looking back, I wish I had known what you’re learning now,” fellow student Misty Tharp said to Everett before the start of their last class May 29.
Tharp understands firsthand what it is like to have someone she loves in danger. Her son was kidnapped, and she said he froze instead of fighting back.
“For me, it’s just it gives me a little peace of mind,” she said. Instead of freezing up, she said she will know what to do to defend herself.
Now, she said she can take what she has learned and use it to protect her children, also.
During the course, Tracy Almanza said she realized while practicing during one of the previous classes that she would be able to fend off her attacker – in this case, Denton police officers Mike Beutner, Jim Bryan and Brian Horn in protective rubber training gear.
“That just made me feel less fearful, so it’s been good for me, for sure,” she said.
While she has not been in a real-life situation where she needed to use the information from the course, Almanza said she would rather have the knowledge.
“Any woman that walks out of their house by [herself ] needs this class,” Johnson said. “You stop to think, anything can happen at any time, and you want to be prepared.”
At the beginning of the four-week class, Hunter said some of the students will say they can’t do a certain move or they can’t make it through the class. By the end, though, she said they “leave the class feeling better about themselves.”
There is no upper age limit to the students, nor is there a fitness requirement to take the class, Hunter said. Her only restriction is that she tries to keep the minimum age at 17 years old because of the topics and the information discussed.
Although there is a R.A.D. for children, Hunter said she is not trained to teach the course.
Officers from the Denton Police Department helped with the last simulation before the students’ graduation May 29, acting as instructors and taking on the roles of “aggressors.”
“I think it’s a great class,” said Lori Morin, R.A.D. instructor with Denton PD. “I think that the women learn a lot from it. It makes them feel empowered and gives them a lot more confidence in everyday activities.”
Throughout the four weeks, Morin said women she has taught have gained enough confidence to then branch out to continue learning more self-defense, in addition to what the basic R.A.D. class taught.
“From the first class to the fourth, it’s unbelievable,” she said about the women’s progression.
The structure of the program – “just basic self-defense” – is fairly standard across the country, Morin said. With the book and signed certificate, students can enroll in future R.A.D. classes anywhere in the country for free to refresh their knowledge and their skills.
May’s class was the first self-defense class Wilburn had taken in about four years, and said some of the tips and skills started coming back. Overall, though, she said staying refreshed is key.