A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I've just finished an article on RAD classes in Wilbraham. RAD (Rape Assault Defense) is a comprehensive self-defense course for women. The course teaches awareness, prevention, risk reduction and avoidance of dangerous situations, usually with hands-on training. A typical class lasts for five sessions and costs about $5 per session.

Classes are held in community centers, YMCAs, on college campuses, and so on. My state alone has dozens of locations. Classes are also offered for children and for men. In Wilbraham, like most places, the course is conducted by police officers.

The first class is usually just discussion. Then it gets interesting. The next three classes involve practicing various self-defense strategies. The last class is the kicker. Instructors dress up in special RAD-man suits, designed to withstand moderate impact. The ladies are told they can give it all they've got. And apparently many of them do.

There are always some women who have been in actual bad situations before--abuse, assault, rape. It's easy for an experienced instructor to spot these victims, even if they don't speak up. Usually they find the last class difficult, if not downright traumatizing. The Wilbraham group always has a female officer on hand that night for support. Women are encouraged to work through their fear: otherwise, the aggressor has won.

RAD classes attract everybody from young girls accompanied by their mothers to elderly women living alone. They've got one thing in common besides their gender. After five weeks together, you wouldn't want to meet any one of them in a dark alley.

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