American River College counselor Joe Sjolund opened his first Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) class, a nine-hour, two-day self-defense course, by briefing students on the sexual assaults that occurred around campus this semester, including the Subway restaurant rape, the attempted sexual assault that occurred near the ARC nature trail and the series of rapes committed at nearby Interstate-80 and Madison Avenue.
The class was the first of it’s kind for ARC, coming to the campus following a push by Sjolund, who in his 20 years as a counselor has dealt with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Sjolund hopes to expand the class to other Los Rios campuses.
“I was approached by the CARE (Cooperative Agencies Resources for Education) program through E.O.P.S. (Extended Opportunities Programs and Services) about teaching self-defense to their students. Therefore, I looked for a national company that specifically taught Women’s Self Defense, since this is the population I would mostly be working with. That is how I discovered the R.A.D. program back in 2008,” Sjolund said in an email with the Current.
The class, which was limited to women ages 14 and up, was full and mainly attended by younger women. The small ARC Ranch House, where the class was relocated for size to due to “popular demand,” was packed, according to Sjolund.
Sjolund, who was trained as a R.A.D. instructor in 2008, was assisted by counselor Kim Herrell and adaptive PE instructor Raye Maero. Sjolund took time to thank Los Rios District Chief of Police Sears and ARC interim President Pam Walker, stating, “It’s because of them that we’re finally getting this program off the ground.”
“What I liked most about R.A.D. is they not only taught self-defense, but included awareness and avoidance, as well as the important topic of sexual assault and rape,” Sjolund said.
According to the class, one in three women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.
The R.A.D. program is over 25 years old with 11,000 certified counselors, and is nationally certified by law enforcement, the Universities of California, the California State Universities and the California Community Colleges system.
“At the time Student Services Vice President Pam Walker was very supportive, and helped cover the cost of my training, and helped with the purchase of equipment. However, due to the severe budget cuts the college was facing, we were not able to offer the class,” Sjolund explained. “I started a self-defense fund with my own money, through ARC Foundation, with the hope that if funds didn’t return to the college I would try and fund a R.A.D. program myself.”
The class began with a powerpoint presentation detailing sexual assault statistics and definitions, including those for “rape,” “sexual assault,” “forcible sodomy,” “stalking,” “non- or impaired consent” and “abduction.”
Sjolund went on to cover risk awareness, risk reduction, risk recognition and risk avoidance, detailing strategies to avoid dangerous scenarios both at home and in public.
Sjolund mentioned services such as the free ARC evening shuttle as an option for reducing risk for students, encouraging students to “remove the foundation of opportunity” from the “victimization triangle,” meaning that by taking simple steps to become more aware of their surroundings and personal safety, women can help reduce their risk of being sexually assaulted.
Herrell then briefed students on rape poison awareness, detailing the different substances most commonly used as rape drugs, including alcohol, GHB, roofies and Ketamine.
Following the lecture, the class moved to the practice gym, where Sjolund, with the assistance of Herrell and Maero, taught the participants vocalizations, defensive stances and strikes.
“I am happy to report that with now interim ARC President Pam Walker and Los Rios Chief of Police Cheryl Sears we were able to train 11 new R.A.D. women’s self defense instructors throughout the district. We are hoping this program will grow, and eventually be offered at each campus in the district,” said Sjolund.