MTSU offers free rape self-defense course

In this September 2021 file photo, Jason Hurley, Middle Tennessee State University Police training sergeant, models deflecting an attack with MTSU police officer Katelynn Erskine as part of the self-defense course Rape Aggression Defense Systems, or RAD, offered free of charge. Registration is open for the next RAD course that begins July 5, 2022. (Photo Credit: Stephanie Barrette for MTSU)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — In the three minutes it will take you to read this article, three people in the Unites States will be sexually assaulted. According to state statistics, 22 out of every 25 sexual assault victims in Tennessee are women – and usually women between the ages of 10-24. That’s why more and more colleges and universities across the nation now offer on campus self defense courses.

Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) in Murfreesboro will be the latest with a new twice a week course starting on July 15. Classes will be held every Tuesday and Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. through July 21.

Sergeant Jason Hurley will teach the classes. Sgt. Hurley is one of two campus officers certified to instruct the Rape Aggression Defense Systems (RADS). A native of Murfreesboro, Hurley chose to become a certified RAD instructor after serving those who have been victims of sexual assault and abuse during his almost decade-long tenure on the campus police force.  

“I feel a personal responsibility to provide the knowledge and experience that I have to help survivors overcome their fear, depression and anxiety,” Hurley said. “When I see those faces turn to happiness, joy, confidence and empowerment and see their self-respect regained, nothing is more rewarding to me.”  

The RAD course teaches realistic self-defense tactics and techniques to women, providing both risk awareness, reduction, recognition and avoidance education along with hands-on, physical defense instruction and practice. The university began offering the RAD course to the campus and surrounding community in 2003 and has trained hundreds of women with its practical safety techniques. No previous background or experience in physical training is required to attend. 

Hurley explained the campus continues to provide the course without cost to further the police department’s priority of keeping the community safe.   

“(It) provides our community with the tools and knowledge that will help them create a safer future for themselves,” he said.  

According to state statistics, 22 out of every 25 sexual assault victims in Tennessee are women – and usually women between the ages of 10-24. (Graphic Provided)

Master Patrol Officer Katelynn Erskine was inspired to become RAD certified after completing the course herself when she first joined the force in 2018.  

“I saw how much the women in the class grew in both skill and confidence, and I wanted to be a part of that,” Erskine said.  

Erskine is also a survivor of sexual assault.  

“Our campus community is filled with young women getting out into the world by themselves for the first time…. It is a great chance for them to branch out and explore, but, unfortunately, a college campus can also provide an opportunity for crime,” she said. “If something we teach these women can help prevent that for them in the future or helps them heal from a previous situation, that means everything to me.” 

For those unable to attend, Hurley and Erskine offered advice for improving personal safety right now. Both encouraged everyone to be aware of their surroundings.  

“If something doesn’t look or feel right, avoid the situation and call someone for help,” Hurley said. “Never leave a drink unattended or accept a free drink from a stranger. Always order your own drink and take it with you. Never be afraid to call the police if you need help.… Our priority is to serve the community, and we are here to help.”  

“Park in well-lit areas,” Erskine added. “Avoid distractions while out walking — like looking at your phone. I also want to encourage students who observe suspicious activity, notice streetlights out or any other safety hazard to call 911 or the police non-emergency number — 615-898-2424 — and report it.” 

The course is free and available to female MTSU students, faculty, staff and community members age 13 and older. Those interested can register via email at [email protected] or through the MTSU Police RAD website •