Marshall officer receives national award from Rape Aggressive Defense Systems

ScottBallouScott Ballou’s passion for the work he does has just won him a prestigious national award. And ironically, for the mild-mannered Ballou, it’s known as the Aggressor Award.

That’s fine with him, because the award came from Rape Aggressive Defense Systems (RAD) a national program that educates women about how to be safe by learning about risks and how to deal with them. It’s a program he’s been teaching at Marshall since 2000, an elective course he would like to see expanded to include more women.

Nationally, RAD only gives two aggressor awards annually at their annual conference and while Ballou may have been shocked to be a recipient, no one who’s been involved with Marshall RAD is, because the award matches him perfectly. It’s given to the most tenacious and aggressive promoter of the RAD program–to a person who, in addition, displays perseverance and fortitude.

Taught by certified instructors, the RAD system is described as teaching realistic self-defense techniques. The comprehensive course for women begins with awareness, prevention, risk reduction and avoidance instruction, then progresses on to the basics of hands-on defense training. It is not a martial arts program. The goal is to provide women with information that allows them to make educated decisions about defense.

And Ballou, who’s a Marshall police officer, has long been on a mission to spread the word about RAD and how it can change lives. He stresses that the course teaches women how to be safe in all situations—when they’re out, or alone, at home, in a vehicle–anywhere, actually. Women learn how to focus on risk reduction, recognition and avoidance. “Self-defense for women isn’t about hitting, kicking, striking–it’s about education,” he says.   “As police officers we’re educating women about what to look for.”

And most importantly, he says, “I know we’re making a difference in changing lives for the better. Some women who come into the program are young and not sure how to take care of themselves in case of an attack. College students can make wrong choices. We’re trying to change that. We’re educating women and giving them tools that they need to defend themselves.   Education is important but we also focus on physical techniques that we show them if they are faced with violence.”

RAD was created in 1989 and Marshall brought it to the Huntington campus in 1998. Marshall has always been ahead of the curve because early on, the training was offered for credit, while many institutions today still aren’t granting credit. The conference is making a big push to change that according to Ballou. At MU it’s an elective taken as part of a physical education requirement and it has grown in popularity over the years.

Now as the West Virginia Director of RAD Systems, he’s the “go-to guy” for information.

Taught by Ballou and fellow officer Kyle McCallister, and assisted by students who have been through both the basic and advanced RAD courses, the 8-week program begins with two weeks of classroom instruction, where they cover the basics and get safety instructions. They then move to the Rec Center where the class picks up steam, he says. Speakers from the Contact Rape Crisis Center talk to them and they watch a powerful video. Then physical instruction begins and, as a final exercise, students are put through a real-life simulation where they come into a room, are confronted by three or four aggressors and must make their way across the room to escape.

“It’s really empowering,” Ballou says. “They are so much better after class, how they feel about themselves and how they carry themselves through everyday life. They are thrilled by the information they get. I wish all incoming freshman women could take the class, but logistics make that impractical.”

And there’s a telling exercise performed on the first day of class. Students are asked to write down the five most important people in their lives. Ninety-eight percent don’t include their own name. “I want them to know this program is for them,” he emphasizes.

Right now, class size is limited to 25, with 100 students per semester taking part, and Ballou wishes it could be more.   He has high praise for all those who work in the program. “We’re surrounded with good people, all those who support and take part in this program from the other police officers to the student assistants. That’s why RAD has been so successful here. We all have a passion for it, we believe in it and the students can see that. You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with.”

RAD is not just found on college campuses and it’s not just for women, it’s a comprehensive program, Ballou points out. There is RAD for men, seniors, children, and teens. And it’s found in towns such as Winfield and Hurricane, which have their own programs.

Over the years, Ballou has certainly put the criminal justice degree he earned from Marshall in 1997 to good use. He came to MU in 1993 as member of the baseball team, where he met and eventually married his wife, Stephanie, who was a cheerleader. Today she’s the assistant coordinator in the Office of Disabilities Services at Marshall. They have a son Brady, 5, and daughter Lucy, 3. “Lucy will be in my class in two years,” he jokes.

“I love police work. I love helping people in that role, but doing this (RAD) and knowing that I’m making a difference in changing lives, well that’s a pretty awesome feeling.”


Photo: Scott Ballou (left), poses with his Aggressor Award and co-instructor Kyle McCallister.