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Christine Johnston and Cheri Burton offer self-defense workshop at Springfield College

Tirzah McMillan
Lifestyle Editor

It’s 1 a.m. after an eventful Saturday night and three women are heading back to their dorms. Hair and make-up has naturally undone itself as they murmur to one another about their evening activities. Two of the three women walk to their residential hall and wave goodbye to their friend remaining on the sidewalk. She is left alone and is used to the silence. It comforts her.

She is five minutes away from her residence and cannot wait to fall into bed. The streetlights above her head are dull and flicker every now and then. The crescent moon is thin and pale as she looks through the leaves in the cluster of trees to her left. The street is slick like black oil and she cannot sense a soul for miles.  

Her legs are tired and the bottom of her sneakers are sticky with the residue of beer. She can finally see her dorm in the near distance and the small circular burst of blue light coming from the “in case of emergency, call public safety at…” station that no one ever uses. Thank Goodness, she thinks.

Instinctively, she brushes the loose strand of hair in her face behind her right ear and catches sight of a tall silhouette behind her. She turns around in confusion but is instantly filled with relief.

“Oh hi Ben, I thought you were someone el…”

The young man covers her mouth with his right hand and urges her to stay silent with his eyes. He pulls a cloth from his left pocket and tightly grabs the hair by the nape of her neck and forces her towards him.

Is she prepared to defend herself? Could she have prevented this attack?

With some exposure and experience in self-defense, she may very well have been able to escape.

This is the kind of useful information certified R.A.D. (Rape Aggression Defense) instructor Christine Johnston will provide alongside public safety officer Cheri Burton at the Self-Defense workshop on Thursday, September 20th. It will take place at 7:00 p.m. in cycle room 202 at the Recreational Center. By day, Johnston is the assistant director for AODE and health promotions for campus recreation. By night, she is Batman, basically.

“What we are doing on Thursday is an introductory class,” said Johnston. “It’s the short, down, and dirty version.” The on-campus workshop will be an hour and a half, but a full class runs about 12 hours long and can be very physically intensive.

“There is R.A.D. for men, the elderly, and kids,” she explained. “But knowing the demographic around sexual violence it’s designed as a self-defense class for people who identify as female.”

R.A.D. stands for Rape Aggression Defense and is a nationwide program that through the help of certified instructors, provides educational opportunities for women, children, men, and seniors to have a safer future and minimize harm in potentially violent situations.

“We talk about the triangle where there is a potential victim, a potential assailant, and an opportunity,” Johnston said. “You cannot remove either of those people from the situation, so if you can remove the opportunity, in many cases that prevents someone from being victimized in many different ways.”

Johnston has been an instructor for six years and is more enthusiastic each year about teaching students in the self-defense workshop.

“I think people come because they’re interested in learning a little bit about self-defense,” exclaimed Johnston with a smile. “It’s one of those programs people are really interested in because we’re on a college campus [but] incidents of violence can happen anywhere.”

Along with two other instructors, Johnston wants to provide educational conversation in addition to the active workshop.

“The biggest pieces we talk about are being aware of your surroundings,” Johnston said. “We’re on a beautiful campus and we tend to not pay attention to our surroundings,” she continued. “We think we’re in this very safe environment, [but] what we know about sexual assault on college campuses is that it happens between people who know each other.”

Danger is not always as far away as many believe it is, and Johnston wants to provide the tools necessary for those who identify as female to protect themselves if such circumstances do arise.

“People are not going to get their workout when they come,” Johnston explained. “But they are going to learn some really [useful] skills [for] common situations.”

No prior experience is necessary and all that is required is comfortable clothing and an open mind. “It’s [all about] knowing how to use your body, and knowing how to use your voice,” said Johnston.Springfield College has participated in the self-defense workshop for many years and holds it once a semester due to such positive feedback.


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