Franklin, TN police department teaches women, teens self defense

Learning different holds and techniques to stop a physical assault wasn’t something Williamson County’s Gina Ross thought about before taking self defense classes.

But, according to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women in the United States have or will experience some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. And in Tennessee, a 2019 statistic found that 22 of every 25 sexual assault victims were women.

Ross said she didn’t want to become a statistic.

That’s why she recently enrolled in a weekend program with the Franklin Police Department, where she not only learned how to stop a would-be attacker, she also learned how to be more aware of her surroundings, so hopefully, she would be able to prevent an attack before it starts, she said.

Since they began more than 16 years ago, the Franklin Police Department’s Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) classes have helped hundreds of women like Ross.

The three-part, nine hour classes are designed to educate women on awareness building, prevention, risk reduction and avoidance, and they feature hands-on self-defense training with experienced police officers.

“There’s a big difference in confidence and the way they speak and, in the way they look around the room,” said Franklin Police Department Lt. Amy Butler, the program’s leader, of the women who finish the training. Butler has led the program since its inception

“Participants walk away from this experience with a renewed feeling of confidence that they can avoid or overcome an attacker. We just show them how.”

Throughout the training, participants cover a variety of topics.

“The first night, we talk about risk avoidance, risk reduction and target hardening. It’s about practical ways to keep yourself safe, and how to portray confidence,” Butler said. “The second night is more of a skills training as they learn strikes and kicks. (And) the third night is scenarios, where they get to practice what they’ve learned.”

Unlike many programs, participants as young as 14 can join.

Butler says there’s a reason for that.

“So much bad can happen in high school,” she said. “I think it’s really important that we incorporate self-defense skills, especially when moms and daughters can take the classes together.”

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), one in nine girls and 1 in 20 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault.

Classes for this high-school age group are important to Butler because she’s witnessed the benefits of training first-hand, she said.

“We’ve had cases in the past where I’ve had RAD students that were high schoolers that we then end up on calls with,” she said. “One of them that comes to mind is a former student that was attacked by her ex-boyfriend and managed to get the guy off of her.”

For past participants like Ross, programs like RAD are incredibly important in helping women of all ages feel comfortable in their abilities.

“I think every woman should take this program.” she said. “I would recommend it to everyone because it’s workable and usable for every age level and ability.”

Franklin’s Police Department offers RAD classes in February, May, June and July, but it can also host groups on an as-needed basis.

For more information, or to register for or schedule a class, contact Lt. Amy Butler at [email protected].

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