While O’Fallon is a generally safe community, its proximity to the St. Louis metropolitan region means women want to protect themselves in various surrounding.
That’s why the O’Fallon Police Department offers a Rape Aggression Defense for local women age 16 and up. A few spots are still available for the April session.
“Many of our residents travel to St. Louis for work, sporting events, and entertainment. We have found that many of our participants are concerned about their ability to protect themselves while working in or visiting there,” said Detective Nick Stewart.
“The techniques we teach and the importance we place on being aware of your surroundings, are valuable tools in helping women protect themselves against being victims of any crime, not just sexual assault,” Stewart said. “We also stress listening to their intuition.”
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The Rape Aggression Defense Basic Personal Defense System is a national program of realistic self-defense tactics and techniques taught for women only.
Stewart, who has taught seven previous classes, said the comprehensive course begins with awareness, prevention, risk reduction and avoidance, while progressing on to the basics of hands-on defensive training.
RAD is not a martial arts program.
“Our courses are taught by certified instructors and provide you with a workbook/reference manual. This manual outlines the entire physical defense program for reference and continuous personal growth,” he said.
“Our system of realistic defense against various types of assault utilizes easy, effective and proven tactics and will provide a woman with the knowledge to make an educated decision about resistance.”
Stewart, Lauren Patterson and Diane Coppotelli have taught the class since 2016. In their seven sessions since, they have taught more than 100 women the basic RAD class.
“The feedback we have had has been extremely positive. Many of our participants say the class has improved their self-confidence, and that they feel they would be able to protect themselves if put in a real-life situation,” he said.
Stewart said the class helps to build a sense of community.
“The participants get a chance to interact with police officers in a non-confrontational and non-enforcement setting. And as an instructor, I can say that I have learned something new from each and every class,” he said.
This is not a new initiative, though.
“Years ago, the O’Fallon Police Department had certified RAD instructors who would teach the class, but as those officers changed assignments or left the department, we had a several year break where the class was not offered,” Stewart said.
“In 2016, in an effort to bring this valuable program back to OPD, we reached out to R.A.D. Systems of Self Defense and coordinated to have an instructor trainer class at the O’Fallon Police Department,” he said. “The week-long instructor class trained more than 20 instructors from across Illinois and Missouri.”
Stewart said they are glad they brought it back, as it’s very empowering for women.
“It shows them they are able to protect themselves from an attacker and gives them tips on keeping from becoming a victim. The class is very open and two-way participation is encouraged,” he said. “We have found that some participants have a specific worry or fear that they want to discuss, and we make sure to take the time to address those concerns.”
The RAD class is 12 hours of instruction broken up into 3-hour blocks. This class will be held at the O’Fallon Police Department on April 3, 10, 17 and 24 from 6 to 9 p.m. Registration is required and class sizes are limited to 20 participants.
“One of the suggestions we have received is that the ‘Red Man’ simulations during week four should be more difficult. ‘Red Man’ is the head-to-toe padded suit that I wear on week 4 when we put the participants through practical scenarios. Participants get to punch and kick full force in order to escape the ‘Red Man.’ This is part of the reason we limit the class size to 20,” Stewart said. “After being beat-up 20 times, I’m worn out!”
Classes are a $25 donation to the Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois. Registration must be received by March 29.
“We would never turn away someone who wanted to take the class but was unable to afford the donation,” Stewart said.
For more information and an application, please visit https://www.ofallon.org/programs/pages/rape-aggression-defense-for-women
People may also contact Detective Nick Stewart at