September 18, 2014

Police Department hopes to revive self-defense program

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 Funds needed for training, equipment

By Matt Sutkoski

Observer correspondent

The Williston Police Department is considering reviving a popular self-defense course to help people avoid, or at least weather, criminal attacks.

The course is called RAD, for Rape Aggression Defense, which teaches people how to be safe and avoid situations in which they can be assaulted.

Williston Police Chief Todd Shepard said the program existed in Williston a few years ago, but the officers trained to teach the course have left the department. He now wants to revive the program.

The word “rape” in the program is a bit of a misnomer. The course is geared toward women, but versions of it are aimed at young people and even men who want to avoid becoming crime victims, Shepard said.

He said he’ll gauge community interest to determine when and how often to hold the RAD classes, and whether to open the course up to young people and men, along with women.

“It would be my hope to start classes this year,” Shepard said.

But first, Shepard said he has to raise money to pay for the program. He estimates it will cost about $4,000 to buy equipment to run the program and train instructors on how to teach it. Once the program is up and running, costs are minimal. He said he plans to approach the Williston Area Business Association, of which the town of Williston is a member, to see if there is any interest in helping support a RAD program in Williston.

RAD is taught across the nation through hundreds of police departments and private organizations. According to its website, RAD has trained 11,000 instructors to teach the course and about 900,000 women have participated in RAD courses since the program’s inception in 1989.

There are a number of RAD offshoots, including RAD for children, seniors and men.

The course is not strictly a martial arts program, in which participants are taught to karate chop their way to safety. In most cases, that’s not how people escape an attack. Instead, certified RAD instructors teach participants about awareness, prevention, reducing risks and avoiding potential trouble. Self-defense is just one element of the course.

According to RAD’s website, eight Vermont police agencies offer the self-defense program. Additionally, nine other independent instructors or municipalities offer the program in Vermont.

South Burlington is among the communities that offer RAD, Shepard said, and their classes usually fill up quickly.

Kathy DeLuca, outreach librarian at the Dorothy Alling Library, said ten to 12 people participated in a RAD class back in October, and there was a waiting list of other people who wanted to join. The library didn’t have the capacity for more participants.

The class was taught by an officer with the South Burlington Police Department, DeLuca said.

She said there is quite a bit of interest in town for more RAD classes and hopes the Williston Police Department can offer the program.

Shepard acknowledged Williston is not a particularly high crime town. Women are safe walking the streets, he said. But Shepard said it is always good to be prepared and people who take a RAD course can take the knowledge gained from the classes anywhere.

“People will feel better about their quality of life if they have these skills,” Shepard said.

Anyone interested in donating toward setting up a RAD program in Williston can call the chief’s office at 764-1152 or email, marilla.whitcomb.state.vt.us.

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