Giving Back: Rape defense class aims to make local women safer

Published 12:11 am Wednesday, September 30, 2015

LAPLACE — As part of the national Rape Aggression Defense course, the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office is holding a female only defense class.

“I believe, if I’m not mistaken, on national average that every two minutes a women is being attacked or sexually assaulted,” Sgt. Denise Bertrand said.

Bertrand is one of the officers trained to be a RAD instructor. For the Sheriff’s Office, she is the sex offender registration coordinator.

The course, which is nine hours, is spread over two days. Nine hours is the mandated time by RAD. The classroom portion is from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 15. The practical training portion is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 17.

The last day to register for the classes is Oct. 9, and there is a $10 non-refundable fee. The classes will be held on the West Bank, but the exact location is not being disclosed for the safety of the women in the class.

The Sheriff’s Office has been operating the program since August 2014.

“We have had people in our class all the way from 8 years old to about 70 years old,” Bertrand said. “There is no specific age. We are just trying to reach out to as many females as we can.”

Women are taught different safety scenarios during the classroom portion.

“We try to make women more aware of their surroundings,” Bertrand said. “Our main goal is to get them to run, get them to get away.”

The training portion, only if the women feel comfortable, is where the things taught in the classroom are put into action. While women are not forced to participate in this part, they are encouraged to try.

“Society sees females as the weaker sex,” Bertrand said. “Women are told to always have a male with you, always bring a dog when you are walking and don’t got out after dark. We want women to feel confident in themselves and have the knowledge that if they were to be put in a situation, they will survive and get away.”

The sex offender registry officer doesn’t want women to feel like victims.

“If I could prevent any of the women from being a potential victim of a sexual assault crime, then I want to do that,” Bertrand said. “I want to make as many females aware of the dangers and what things to look for to prevent them from being in that type of situation.”

Sheriff Mike Tregre said women should learn how to protect themselves.

“I’ve seen where young girls think that being assaulted by their boyfriends isn’t a problem,” he said.

Tregre said the instruction gives women the tools they need to protect themselves.

Tregre can’t sit in on the classes, but he is there for the beginning and the end.

“The women go in very quiet and low-key but come out fired up,” he said. “Those classes work, and I hope a lot of ladies sign up.”

As one of the instructors, Bertrand encourages women of all ages to attend.

“A majority of women come in not knowing what to expect and come in with that mentality of ‘I do need a man to protect me,’” Bertrand said. “By the end of the class, even the classroom portion, just having more knowledge of knowing what to look for and be aware of, they come out with a boost of confidence.”

Females 16 and under are required to have a signed release form and must attend with a family member.

For more information, call 985-359-8686 or email Detective Ann Taylor at

— By Raquel Derganz Baker