LINCOLN — Good news abounds for female town residents, those who often have worried about how they'd respond during an attack.
The Lincoln Police Department, in partnership with neighbor Amica Mutual Insurance Co., will offer a four-day Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) Systems training course at The Lincoln Center (for seniors) on Monday-Thursday, May 23-26.
The free seminar will take place each night between 6-9 o'clock at the new center, located on Jenckes Hill Road, and is open to the first 24 registrants who apply.
Actually, 16 Amica female employees already have taken part in the course, which was held inside its Building 50 fitness center between April 23-May 5, and it went swimmingly, according to Sgt. Wayne Bouthillette, an instructor.
“Most of the women don't know what they're capable of doing; they don't know if they'll be able to defend themselves if they were attacked,” noted Bouthillette, who provided the education along with Patrolman Edward Walusiak and R.A.D. Systems/Rhode Island Coordinator Joanne Waite.
“At the end of the class, during course evaluations, many women said they felt like they were a different person, and that they were excited to know they had the ability to fight off an attacker and get away to seek help.
“That's what the whole program is all about,” he added. “It's a toolbox which provides assorted tools, and these ladies can carry it with them at all times. They know if they need it, the knowledge is there for them to draw upon.”
Capt. Raymond Bousquet, LPD's Public Information Officer, explained Wednesday afternoon that the department never before has offered such a program to the public, but expects it to be very popular.
“There's already a waiting list at Amica for its next class, and we're anticipating a great response from Lincoln residents,” he said. “When evaluating programs we've been able to offer the public, this particular course seems to hit a personal chord with participants.
“We already know Cumberland has an outstanding R.A.D. program, and it's been successful for a number of years now,” he continued. “We're excited to offer it here and now to our residents.”
Back in the fall, LPD officials presented the idea of such a seminar to Amica representatives, and they – in a word – “flipped.” In fact, Amica donated $7,000 for the purchase of protective equipment, training aids, literature, etc.
“The Lincoln Police Department contacted Bill Sloyer, a retired East Providence police officer currently employed as manager of the Special Investigative Unit that's part of Amica's Claims Executive Department,” said Dianne Wilkie, Amica's Wellness and Safety Program Manager. “We made the donation realizing that women are often the victims (of attacks).
“Recent deaths of abused women by a person whom they knew well created an awareness of the importance of having self-defense skills to survive such an attack,” she continued. “We wanted to offer this program to employees to become educated on how to resist … attacks and escape from these potentially deadly situations.
“Our population is predominantly female, so we thought this was an important and appropriate program to bring on-site for them. Amica is a visible presence and large employer in the town … and the safety of all local citizens is important to us.”
Wilkie indicated LPD officials received the funding in early April, and were thrilled to be able to buy their own equipment rather than borrow from other communities.
“The (course) filled so quickly that we had to turn people away,” she said. “The decision was made to allow one of our fitness center instructors to participate so she could learn the skills and share some of the information with fitness center members and instructors who were unable to attend the classes.”
Wilkie even revealed she'd love to take part in a future class.
“As I said to the women who were in the Amica course, the first graduates, last Thursday, this will empower them to have the confidence to know they can defend themselves,” Chief Sullivan mentioned. “They now know what to do in an instant; I also told them it's similar to our police training. In a stressful, dangerous situation, we revert back to our training and take appropriate action. Now, they can do the same.”
According to its Web site, R.A.D. Systems, based in Denham Springs, La., was developed in 1989, and is a functioning network of dedicated self-defense instructors who believe that such defense should be easy for women and children to learn and retain, and relatively easy to employ during real confrontational situations.
It's not a martial arts course, but a program of realistic, self-defense tactics and techniques that begins with awareness, prevention, risk-reduction and risk-avoidance.
Bouthillette maintained that the first class at Amica revolved around educating females about how to pay attention to their surroundings, what may dictate a perilous setting, etc. The second and third sessions were dedicated to R.A.D. techniques, those they'd use on “Simulation Night.
“That's where the students put what they learned to good use,” Bouthillette stated. “They're given four to six scenarios, and they face several attackers. They're all dressed in protective gear, especially the aggressors, and the women can go through their steps without fear of being injured.
“They can give 100-percent effort because they're wearing heavy, thick pads. They don't have to hold back, and they get to know what it feels like to punch or kick somebody with full force.
“This isn't your typical police training thing,” he continued. “All the ladies want to be there. Once we finish the classes, we as police officers get that 'feel good' sensation, that you've helped somebody, made a positive difference in someone's life. It's really the feeling you get when you first join the force.”
Bousquet insisted that, if the seminars are successful, and if it continues to draw females who want to learn such tactics, department officials would schedule additional courses. A graduation ceremony will be held after the final class on May 26, and each student will receive a certificate of completion.
Application forms will be available at the LPD front desk beginning Friday at 8 a.m., and registration will continue through Friday, May 20 at 4 p.m. Applications also may be accessed by visiting www.police.lincolnri.org .