Women empowered by rape defense class

Posted: October 11, 2013

The Winchester Star

Shenandoah University student Kristina Troxel practices a kick while Smith holds a pad during Thursday night’s defense class.
Shenandoah University Public Safety Officer Adam Smith holds a pad while student Vanessa Melisi practices during a Rape Aggression Defense training class Thursday evening at the school. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)
Shenadoah University students Kristina Troxel (from left), Vanessa Milisi and Agnes Froehlich practice moves demonstrated by SU Public Safety Officer Kelcey Webster Thursday evening during the Rape Aggression Defense training class at the school. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — In a conference room on Shenandoah University’s campus, six women simultaneously used their hammerfists on an invisible attacker.

“No!” they yelled in unison.

The hammerfist is a defense technique in which an individual brings her fist down on the bridge of a person’s nose like a hammer.

On Thursday, Kelcey Webster and Adam Smith, two of SU’s public safety officers, taught the technique during a free Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) training class at the Aikens Athletic Center.

Webster and Smith are certified RAD instructors who teach the nine-hour course (taught in three 3-hour sessions) to female students and faculty to help them identify dangers and use strategies and techniques to ward off attackers.

“We felt there was a real need for students on campus to have training that will make them aware of their surroundings,” Webster said. “The biggest thing is empowering women through confidence and decision-making for themselves.”

It is the first class of its type on campus in at least the last five years, according to Smith, who said it is more of a proactive measure than a reactionary one.

“There’s no daunting statistic on campus [of attacks],” he said.

So far, 16 women have completed the program, with 15 currently taking classes.

Senior Agnes Froehlich is taking the class to be self-sufficient.

“I’d like to be able to take care of myself when I’m by myself,” she said.

Froehlich is moving to Pittsburgh soon and wants to be ready.

“I want to be able to handle myself in a bigger city.”

During Thursday’s class, students practiced defensive stances and attack methods and learned about bodily areas of weakness — nose, neck, eyes, fingers, chin, torso, groin, top of foot and forearm — and some principles of defense, such as avoiding panic, obtaining balance and using “personal” weapons like a knee or a fist.

“I just thought it would be a good skill to have in my back pocket,” said sophomore Rachel Stalker about the class. “You never know what can happen to you.”

Freshman Vanessa Melisi said she feels comfortable at SU but wants to be prepared when she goes back to her home in New York City.

To get ready, she practiced on her boyfriend, dealing a swift kick to his knee.

“Yeah, it worked,” she said. “He dropped.”

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com