There are two classes at the University of Nevada, Reno teaching women safety techniques, giving them the ability and the knowledge needed to protect them from danger: Girls on Guard and Rape Agression Defense—or RAD.
Human and sex trafficking, domestic violence and other violent acts against women have been receiving more public awareness due to an increase in media attention and isolation due to COVID-19, according to university police. The University of Nevada, Reno is attempting to educate students on the signs of danger and make them feel confident in their self-defense skills through courses taught by UNR Police Department officers and officials.
Girls on Guard is taught at the E.L Wiegand Fitness Center. According to the UNR Recreation Portal Girls on Guard is “a women’s self-defense session focusing on risk awareness, risk reduction and personal safety.”
RAD is a women’s self-defense class taught by police officers like Joshua Reynolds, deputy chief of UNRPD. Only female presenting people can take the course.
“I always start my semester, the first couple of classes we do not do any physical self-defense. We talk about risk avoidance, risk awareness and risk reduction. That is 90 percent of self-defense,” said Reynolds. “Being more aware of your surroundings, building that confidence and hopefully you never get to the point where you have to use the physical techniques because you have taken those steps.”
Reynolds, the RAD instructor, said they talk about confidence in the course and how to prevent being chosen as a target by an offender. The class emphasizes being confident to prevent an offender or “bad guy” thinking that an individual is an “easy” target. The class also talks about always being aware and cautious about the surrounding environment to prevent dangerous situations.
Taking precautions limits the need of having to defend oneself physically. Madison Eifert, community relations specialist at UNRPD, previously taught Girls on Guard and emphasizes the importance of drawing attention to oneself.
“The two things that offenders typically want is for you to comply and be quiet,” said Eifert. “If you reduce those by screaming, or having a whistle on you to use or pull an alarm, I know those are really popular with students right now and those can significantly reduce the risk.”
Eiffert made sure to talk about the strategies used in teaching students today.
“Even in the women’s self-defense class we have been told not to use the word “victim,” use the word ‘survivor’ or do not use ‘perpetrator,’ use ‘bad-guy’ just to make it a little bit more in the vernacular with students and they are able to better relate to it,” Eifert said.
Media attention surrounding trafficking issues has made the issue more public.
“I think awareness to sex trafficking is being increased and human trafficking,” said Faith Syfrett, detective at UNRPD.
A lot of Syfrett’s work focuses on trafficking issues pertaining to campus and the Reno area. Syfrett argues human trafficking has remained as pertinent of an issue it always has, but more awareness has been brought due to high profile cases.
Reynolds mentioned that most of the sex trafficking issues he had known about on campus, have been via grooming on the internet. Syfrett added that this issue was amplified since the pandemic.
“We never want to scare anybody. We just want to make people aware. I met my husband on Bumble. I still vetted him before I met him,” Syfrett said about the importance of internet safety for all people.
Syfrett also mentioned that although being followed by strangers is a worthy reason for anyone to call the non-emergency police department phone number, however it is not the typical route that offenders take when trying to abduct their target.
“It is going to be a family member, it is going to be a close friend, it is going to be somebody that sees an opportunity based off of somebody’s struggles. If somebody is struggling and they are needing, let’s just say: love or care or shelter in their life,” said Syfrett. “Somebody who is opportunistic is going to see that, they are going to groom them on social media, a dating website … so you are likely not going to be kidnapped from those people following you at Walmart,”
The class counts as a physical education credit at the university. Although many of the things taught in the class require physical strength, some of the class is devoted to being mentally aware of the tactics of possible assailants.
“I would say the main focus is learning how to defend yourself against a possible attacker and learning how to constantly be aware of your surroundings so that if possible you can prevent being in that situation in the first place,” Brie Albright, a student at UNR who has taken an RAD class said.
Madison Wanco can be reached via email at email@example.com or via Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.