The Colchester Police Department received a North Country Federal Credit Union community grant in June for $2,900 to purchase new equipment for its rape aggression defense program that teaches self defense tactics to women of all ages.
The R.A.D. system, created in 1989, trains instructors all over the nation to teach these classes to women, according to its website. Its mission is to “create a safer future” for those taking the class, and to “challenge society to evolve into an existence where violence is not an acceptable part of daily life.”
Cpl. Jamie Bressler teaches the R.A.D. class with CPD officers about once a year. She said the students do some bookwork, learn how to reduce their risk and practice self-defense moves.
“We talk about how to reduce your risk while you’re out and about … and that’s the 90 percent,” she explained. “The other 10 percent is that physical part.”
Bressler explained while awareness is the key to self defense, the 12-hour class, which is spread out over four weeks of four, three-hour classes, focuses more on the physical moves because they take longer to master.
“If we get them to think about the awareness piece of it, we hope they don’t ever have to result to the physical part of it,” she said.
At the end of the class, students can go through a “realistic training scenario” where the instructor wears a full body suit to protect himself as students practice the skills they learned in previous sessions, Bressler explained. She said CPD has been teaching the R.A.D. class for at least 15 years, and some of the equipment they use is that old.
“We don’t charge, and there’s no line in the budget for R.A.D. gear,” Bressler said, adding that some of the foam in the student and instructor gear was ripping and falling apart. “So it finally got to the point where we were like, ‘We need new gear.’”
With the grant, Bressler was able to purchase the full body instructor suit for the R.A.D. program, which also came with enough protective gear to outfit six students.
Bressler said she reached out to North Country Federal Credit Union, where some of her past R.A.D. students work. They told her to apply for one of credit union’s community grants.
“The staff here participated in that R.A.D. program, and they all loved it,” credit union spokesman Brian Jaffarian said. “We knew what it was when [the application] came in, and we really supported it. We thought it was great.”
Jaffarian said his company returns 10 percent of its net income to the community in the form of grants to support hunger, health, education, art and other local issues.
Bressler said she was grateful for the grant so she can continue teaching the class for free: otherwise, charging a fee might make it cost-prohibitive for some. She added that she’s glad she gets to teach the class every year, because of the effect she gets to have on women in the area.
“We’re hoping that this prevents things from happening, because I don’t like having someone come in and say, ‘I was just sexually assaulted,’” Bressler said. “So if any of this little bit, this 12 hours that I have someone, and that prevents it, that’s great.”