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Springville drill team gets defensive
20 club members take course in self-defense

SPRINGVILLE -- Liz Cook's stomach turns at the idea of scooping a man's eyes out with her thumbs, "but I'll do it if I have to."

Cook, 18, was among about 20 members of the Springville High School drill team who have taken a self-defense class called "Rape, Aggression, Defense."On the final day of the class recently, Cook faced her nightmares as she was "attacked" by four men covered in black foam-rubber armor.

"Those people are like the monsters I dream about at night," Cook said. "It's really hard."

But with one difference: The "attackers" encourage the women to punch and kick. They praise them for hard hits.

The attackers were portrayed by Springville police detective Warren Foster and three BYU police officers, Lt. Aaron Rhoades, Sgt. Bryan Judd and Sgt. Dave Adams. They are certified RAD instructors. For three years, Foster has taught the class about four times a year to women living in Springville. BYU also has offered the class for several years.

People might wonder why a woman would worry when she lives in a city of 21,000 where young women are rarely attacked.

But a 16-year-old girl was grabbed while jogging Jan. 16, 1998. She struggled and got away, said police Lt. Dave Caron. The assailant was never identified.

At BYU, two women who took the RAD class contacted officers about two years ago with stories of successful escapes from attackers.

One woman fought free when she was attacked in an elevator in Chicago, Judd said. Another woman fought free after a man grabbed her arm while she was walking home in Utah Valley.

It's common for an attacker to grab a woman's arm, Judd said. That is one of several scenarios addressed in class. At other times, the women were attacked from behind, picked up and surrounded.

During one of the "attacks," Cook ran smack into an officer and knocked her breath from her body.

At first, she said, she felt scared and inadequate. But in the third test, Cook fought more aggressively and confidently.

Cook kicked, slammed her head into her attackers and shouted: "No! No!"

Her hands shook afterward. "I had so much adrenaline pumping and so much anger," Cook said.

Foster said he teaches the women to yell -- not scream. "If you scream that can be mistaken for playful banter," he said.

The class isn't only about beating up an attacker. That's the last option. Haylee Winget, 17, said she has learned about preventing attacks and avoiding walking alone at night.

The women are taught about confidence, attitude and communication. Women who are firm and aggressive about communicating their limitations are less likely to be assaulted by an acquaintance than a woman who is tentative, officers said.