Community Outreach Spotlight

Rape Aggression Defense Class

Submitted by Chief Mary Gavin of the Falls Church, Virginia, Police Department.

Photo from the author of a group of women who participated in the Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) Class.

Since 2001, the Falls Church, Virginia, Police Department (FCPD) has hosted its successful Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) class. Offered twice per year, it has stayed at full capacity. Each class consists of four mandatory 3-hour sessions.

At no cost to them, participants—exclusively women—learn how to confidently defend themselves from attacks by strangers on the street or at home. The class features law enforcement instructors from agencies throughout the region, including the George Mason University Department of Police and Public Safety, Vienna Police Department, Prince William County Sheriff’s Office (PWCSO), and Manassas City Police Department.

The enthusiasm and camaraderie built from this class is contagious, but the value lies in the reviews and testimonials that speak of how the techniques and confidence learned have saved participants’ lives. A true testimony to the camaraderie of the class is the commitment and dedication of one of the community outreach volunteers. A certified R.A.D. instructor, she has partnered with FCPD for over 14 years and faithfully organizes, attends, and videotapes every class. She brings a sense of purpose and immediate credibility to the officers and the mission of R.A.D.

For the past 3 years, the nonprofit organization We SUPPORT the GIRLS has advocated for survivors of victimization to share their stories and has supported the staff and R.A.D. participants.1 Additionally, FCPD R.A.D. instructors have assisted PWCSO in its continued effort to empower women by teaching them self-defense techniques.

Chief Gavin can be contacted at

Photo provided by author of RAD class participants from March 2011.

Photo provided by author of a group of male instructors who train and participate in the RAD class as aggressors.


1 For more information, see We SUPPORT the GIRLS, accessed February 7, 2018,