Free self-defense courses offered by sheriff’s office

Published 9:00 am Friday, March 17, 2023

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VALLEY — Sheriff Jeff Nelson and Major T.J. Wood were the guest speakers at Wednesday’s noon hour meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Valley. They were there to talk about the women’s gun safety and self-defense courses that are offered by the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office at no charge to the local women who sign up for them.

The next two gun safety courses are set for April 27 and 29 and May 11 and 13. They are completely filled. A total of 26 women have signed up for the classes.

The CCSO partners with the Valley campus of Southern Union State Community College in providing the women’s self defense courses. The next sessions of the highly-acclaimed R.A.D. self-defense classes will be taking place in the Valley campus community room from 6 to 8 p.m. EDT on April 10 and 11 and April 13 and 17. For more information contact Major Wood at (334) 864-4333.

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RAD stands for Rape Aggression Defense. It’s a national program that has proven to be beneficial to many women. The CCSO is teaming up with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, and the police departments in Opelika and Auburn in teaching the courses locally. Women teach the classes, and certified instructors play the role of an attacker.

Wood said that women’s self defense is very hard to teach in most circumstances, but RAD has simplified it. RAD’s mission is to establish an accurate, constantly improving and widely respected alliance of dedicated instructors. These instructors in turn provide educational opportunities for women, children, men and seniors to create a safer future for themselves. The goal is to evolve into an existence where violence is not an acceptable part of daily life.

The classes are taught by certified instructors. Women learn how to get out of potentially threatening situations. If it comes to it, they learn to fight their way out.

“We want you to get out of a situation,” Wood said. “It’s better to fight and survive than to give up and not survive.”

Women can do amazing things in crisis situations. “We have all heard stories of how a woman ripped open a door when there was no way to do it, Wood said.

Wood knows about that first hand after having played the role of an attacker in RAD instruction. Even though he’s wearing a protective suit, he has gotten bruised and battered by women learning to protect themselves. “I will never forget an older woman wearing me out with a cane,” he said jokingly.

Some women taking these courses had been previously injured by an attacker. “They tell us they wished they had taken this course before they were attacked,” Wood said. “They would have known what to do.”

Having been attacked is something a woman wants to out out of her mind, but it keeps coming back. “You get asked about it over and over,” Wood said. “A police officer at the scene will ask you about what happened. The ambulance crew will need to know what happened to you. Those in the emergency room will need to know. An investigator will come to talk to you when you are in the hospital. They will all ask you questions about something that’s very painful for you to talk about, but it’s something they need to know. This course prepares you for that. You need to understand you are being asked this not because they are trying to get into your personal business. They need to understand what happened to you.”

The RAD course is offered at no charge, but women wanting to take it need to register for an upcoming two-day session.

There’s lots of role playing in the course. “The instructors are in protective suits and get hit a lot,” Wood said. “Lots of men and most women have never been in a fight before. Most people have never made a fist with the intention to hit someone.”

The course teaches women how to be firm in confronting someone who is following them, how to stay at a safe distance when doing that and what to do if they won’t leave you alone. Being aware of your surroundings is important, too.

“We want women to be confident they can defend themselves if they need to,” Wood said. “I don’t mind going home a little bruised up if women who have come through the program have been certified to defend themselves in any situation.”

Wood also offered advice on gun safety. He said it’s not a good idea for a man to buy his wife a gun for self protection without her handling it first. A pistol is not much good to her if she can’t pull the trigger or deal with the way it kicks back when fired. “They need to handle it themselves before you get them a gun,” he said.

Two people in the department who are very knowledgeable about guns are Jail Administrator Maj. Tommy Sims and Patrol Commander Capt. Derick Wright.

“Tommy is fantastic in handling guns,” Wood said. “He works with us in the gun safety program out on the pistol range.’

Wright is the sniper on the county’s SWAT team. “He can hit targets I can’t even see,” Wood said.

“A lot of times, a woman taking this course shows up on the pistol range with a gun her husband bought for her and she can’t pull the trigger,” Wood said. “Make sure she has a gun she can handle before you get it for her.”

Up to five people can be on the firing line at any point in time. Because of that, the class size is limited.

Each class can have up to 26 women. The next classes in April and May are all filled up. More will be taught this year. If interested, contact Major Wood at (334) 864-4333,

“If you want to take part in these courses, all you have to do is to let us know,” Sheriff Nelson said. “Our goal is for the community to be safer and better. It’s a team effort to offer these classes. I encourage Chambers County citizens to look into doing this. These programs are offered at no charge. We don’t want anyone saying they’d like to come but can’t afford it.”

Nelson added that the sheriff’s department is there for the citizens. “It’s the responsibility of our department to keep everyone safe,” he said. “We want to protect our officers and for them to go home safely.”