New Paltz women can take a crash course in self defence, thanks to the University Police Department’s (UPD) biannual Rape Agression Defense Systems (RAD).
Each self-defense session is broken up into four days, lasting a total of three hours each. Training provided combines lectures, defense demonstrations and hands-on drills, but according to UPD Inspector Juanta Carson, who has been with the campus since 2008 and ran the New Paltz RAD Systems before Bunce, the women who go through the program receive more than learning how to throw a punch.
In 2017 there were nine incidents involving violence against women reported by the UPD, according to the site College Factual, which makes five percent of New Paltz’s crime rate directed at women.
This semester 41 people have signed up for the program which has been led by Officer Lilah Bunce of the UPD since the beginning of 2016. Normally this is an opportunity designated for SUNY New Paltz students, however, some slots will be occupied by non-students. “It is not generally the case, but I’m not going to turn someone away who is looking to better prepare themselves,” Bunce said.
While the course isn’t only for students, the program is strict on a female-born only environment, a policy that comes down from the RAD Systems headquarters. The UPD is conscious of the population who would be barred from taking this course and is looking into creating a campus program that would better address self defense to all identities, because sexual aggression is not strictly an issue only born women deal with.
“I think that women, in my experience, feel a sense of empowerment,” Carson said. “That sense of self worth isn’t instilled in everyone.”
Fourth-year digital media production major Celeste Chandler who is a participant in the RAD program would agree on Carson’s views.
“It was very empowering,” Chandler said after walking out of the first lesson. “I felt like I can be really powerful as a woman and know my strengths.”
Chandler admitted to having some skeptical views to the program initially, but she would recommend for women to take up the course.
“It’ll give you a better perspective on perpetrators and people who make you feel uncomfortable, and how to handle situations properly,” Chandler said.
It is for students like Chandler that the UPD hosts the training each semester.
“It’s the only reason why we do it,,” Bunce said in regards to promoting empowerment to women on and off campus. “It’s tiresome and exhausting, it’s why we go home black and blue.”
While this particular class is closed off for the semester one safety tip recommended by Bunce is to “be 100 percent aware of your surroundings.” Those interested in taking a self defense course through RAD can find out future locations through their website at http://www.rad-systems.com/ or wait for next semester’s UPD class.
The UPD offers other awareness programs throughout the semester such as Safety and Crime Prevention Awareness and Domestic Partner Violence: Understanding and Prevention. Students who are aware of suspicious or concerning activity and don’t want to be physically or actively involved are welcomed to contact the UPD’s anonymous tip line at 845-257-2230 or online at https://www.newpaltz.edu/police/forms/silentwitnessform.html.