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SWE and UNC Police host Rape Aggression Defense course

A UNC Police vehicle on March 25, 2023.

When asked by Rape Aggression Defense instructors how many female students carried pepper spray with them on campus, almost every student in Phillips Hall 367 raised their hand. 

The students were attending an introductory course for Rape Aggression Defense hosted by the Society of Women Engineers at UNC and UNC Police on Sept. 18. 

The collaboration generated over 170 student RSVPs on HeelLife. 

While the UNC RAD program typically teaches free practical defense techniques in a 12-hour course, the “express” program, taught at the event, allowed students to learn key aspects of the longer program condensed into under an hour. 

At the event, first-year attendee Addisen Heavner said she believes self-defense is important because women are “united” by issues of assault and violence.

“That is a reality for all women,” Heavner said. “I fully believe that women should know self-defense.”

Jenèvieve Surkin, president of SWE at UNC, said that after completing the full RAD course in the spring, she wanted other women on campus to benefit from the tactics and resources she learned.

“I felt like that would be really relevant to SWE, especially since we are often late at night walking back home from campus,” she said.

The event included instructions and demonstrations of realistic defense methods, including different strikes, blocking techniques and contact points to use when attacked.

The course also emphasized the importance of verbalization during an attack, and instructors taught students to project their voices while practicing defense techniques.

Surkin said that women knowing the power of their voice stretches beyond the realm of self-defense — it is also important in the classroom.

“I have my wits. I know what I'm doing. I have a few moves," Surkin said. "And then I go to RAD and all of a sudden it's like, wait a second, my voice is also really powerful."

SWE works to ensure that women in STEM fields are being heard. Surkin, along with alumna Brenna Harrison and Sara Cockman, founded the UNC chapter of the organization in 2019. 

Now, the organization holds events for students to craft their resumes, participate in career panels and build community. SWE also helps women find careers in STEM by networking with companies that recruit through the national organization. 

Participants had the opportunity to connect and ask resume-building questions following the self-defense presentation.

SWE secretary Jordan Saunders said that even though the culture between women at UNC might be competitive in an academic setting, when it comes to safety, she thinks that “women are always there to protect other women.”

Heaver said while first-year orientation discussed the realities of sexual assault and rape on campus, the University could further discuss the psychological impacts of sexual violence. 

“Why did it take an organization to hold this event? Why couldn’t the University hold this event?” Saunders said. 

She added that she wishes the University made the RAD course more accessible to the student body.

An interest form featuring RAD courses for all students can be found on the UNC Police website, and they encourage gender-nonconforming students to express interest for whichever class best accommodates them. 

The Society of Women Engineers will host a resume review and career planning event at 7 p.m. on Oct. 2.

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