Hollywood S.I.N.G. to J.Lo’s R.A.D., girls’ defense class

There’s a scene in the beginning of “Miss Congeniality” in which Sandra Bullock’s character demonstrates how to take down an attacker. Dressed like a Bavarian maid, she uses what she calls the “S.I.N.G.” method on her unsuspecting partner, much to the delight of the audience.

Girls attend the R.A.D. self-defense classes. (Photo courtesy of Jim Lopez)

Get rid of the frilly dress, add in some bright red helmets, and imagine just a pinch more brute force and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what goes on at the College’s R.A.D. sessions.

R.A.D. stands for Rape Aggression Defense System, a national program that “is a comprehensive, women-only course that begins with awareness, prevention, risk reduction and risk avoidance, while progressing on to the basics of hands-on defense training,” according to the College flyer advertising the four-week course. The program was led by College patrol officer Jim Lopez, affectionately referred to as “J.Lo” by his students, in the Travers/Wolfe Fitness Center on Feb. 10, 17 and 24 and March 3.

Eight girls warmed up in the middle of the room, chatting as they stretched before what would be the final class of the semester. Before the real test would begin, Lopez asked if the girls wanted to pair up and review any moves.

ld” were called out, the girls’ voices cheerful despite the fact that they were being held in head-locks.

“Get in your stance,” Lopez called out as the students took turns escaping their partners. Attackers beware: Lopez suggested that the girls aim for the groin and thigh during their attempted escape.

Up until this point, the class seemed fairly simple; the girls would learn defensive moves and then practice on their partners, miming the blows they would give a would-be attacker. How, though, could this prepare them for a real assault?

The entrance of a man covered head-to-toe in bright red pads made it clear that this was merely child’s play in comparison to what the rest of the class would offer.

The man was 1986 College alum Bill Bastedo, a retired police officer who now works for Princeton Healthcare Systems. He was sent by the organization to act as a human punching bag for the girls, who would have to fight him off as though he were attacking them.

One by one the girls donned elbow and knee pads, gloves and helmets, lining up to take their turn. They cheered each other on as they ran through a number of scenarios in which they are approached on the street by an assailant, or must fight off a thief at the ATM. There was no “Charlie’s Angels”-esque choreography; the fighting was scrappy, with the students kicking, punching and even head-butting Bastedo, doing anything within their power to get away while shouting, “No!” or “Get off of me!” as loudly as they could.

During one scenario, the girls were asked to close their eyes as Lopez led them into the room, disorientating them with loud noises so that they wouldn’t know where the attack was coming from.

“I think with your eyes closed you lose that extra sense that you need … but your other senses heighten … it’s nerve wracking,” said senior psychology and women’s and gender studies double major Danielle Cassidy. Later, she admitted that, even after the scenario, her adrenaline was “still pumping.”

When asked why she chose to participate in the course, senior criminology major Rebecca Kelley said, “At first I wanted to take it because I was interested in not only wanting to rely on my size and my quickness, but also on finesse, having skillful movies.” She went on to say, “I felt that when the scenarios happened, I was using things I learned and I wasn’t thinking about it.”

At the end of the class, the group sat and discussed what they would take away from the course.

“You’re looking at things differently, or at least I hope you are,” Lopez said of the girls’ increased sensitivity to dangerous situations, such as walking alone in a parking garage.

The girls agreed, and some believed that they were better prepared for any danger that may come their way.

“Just having it behind me makes me know I can do it,” Kelley told the group.

Now that the girls have completed the College’s R.A.D course, they are eligible to take a R.A.D class anywhere else that it is offered, free of charge. While certainly a perk, the most important thing they take with them is an increased confidence in their abilities to defend themselves.

“You can do this. It can be done. You can survive,” Lopez reminded them.