SPECIAL REPORT: Lessons in Danger - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

SPECIAL REPORT: Lessons in Danger

AUBURN, AL (WXTX) -

Parents, if you have a daughter in college or about to head to college, crime stats show she has a one in four chance of being raped or sexually assaulted while in school.

Survival in today's world requires a course of action, literally a course that goes beyond the books. 

It's lessons in danger female college students should know. An attack can become all too real for many college women.

Auburn University freshman Megan Reynolds says coming from a small town, she really didn't have to worry about that type of danger but "coming to college, living on my own I wanted to be able to walk to and from class at night without feeling scared."

Megan is one of about 4,000 students at Auburn who has taken the RAD class since it started at the university in 1994. RAD stands for Rape, Aggression Defense Systems which is part of a national self-defense curriculum.

The course starts off in the classroom to learn basic terminology and the 10 vulnerable parts of a man's body. Then it moves into hands-on instruction where they simulate different scenarios and how to defend themselves. For instance, if you're at an ATM and a man grabs you from behind, you're taught to jab your elbow fast and hard into his torso to get away. Or if you're walking down the street and a man tries to jump on you, a strike to the head, a kick in the groin are all things you learn… including being aware of what's going on around you.

Auburn sophomore Mackenzie Horsefield has also taken the class. She says "so now instead of walking and texting you look up and you're aware of your surroundings. So you learn a lot more like if the situation does present itself you know how to defend yourself and you have peace of mind about that."

A peace of mind that Lt. Keith Walton with Auburn University's Department of Public Safety and Security says for some women that peace of mind causes them to have a false sense of security. "College women are more vulnerable because of their surroundings that they're in. They don't really look at it as something that could happen to them."

Lt. Walton says the key to the training is real-life situations they may encounter on and off campus like the case of Lauren Burk. The Auburn freshman was kidnapped on campus in 2008 and shot to death as she tried to escape. Courtney Lockhart was convicted and sentenced to death in March 2011.

According to the Clery Act, campuses are required to collect crime statistics. At Auburn, from 2008 to 1010, there were two forcible sex offenses, three aggravated assaults and two robberies, one of which ended in the murder of Lauren Burk. It's a tragedy that sits in the back of Mackenzie's mind. "The year that happened my sister was at Auburn and it happened right outside her dorm about an hour after she walked through that parking lot and she told us that when she walked through that parking lot something wasn't right and the hairs on her neck stood up and she started running."

It's that type of instinct that Columbus State University's self-defense course tries to heighten in its female students.

Lt. Jeremy Reddish is with the university's police department and says the course "creates a level of awareness so when the situation arises they've already thought about how they're going to react."

Looking at the police department's Facebook page, there are pictures of the most recent class. It's hands-on with self-defense moves in real life scenarios taken partly from the RAD course and partly from their own in-house instruction. In the five years the university has offered the class, about 500 students have taken it.

If you take a look at the crime states for Columbus State...between 2008 and 2010 there were three aggravated assaults and five robberies.

And just last Thursday, 25-year-old Dominic James Vidal was arrested on two counts of sexual battery of two female students on Columbus State's main campus. Neither student was hurt but one of them was able to give a good description of Vidal.

Lt. Reddish says "we could immediately go out take that information and we were able to make the arrest just by her level of awareness."

So with a key few moves, that level of awareness could make all the difference in surviving an attack. It's a lesson in danger you may one day need to know.  

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