Women’s Safety Concerns Addressed With Self Defense Course

Photo by Lizzie Nimetz.

A female SUNY New Paltz student was assaulted by a male who attempted to kidnap her near Hasbrouck Park at the edge of campus as she walked home around 2:30 a.m. on Oct. 26. She was able to fend off her attacker and locate Town Police, who took him into custody soon after and charged him with attempted kidnapping in the second-degree.

According to University Police Chief David Dugatkin, campus police were notified at the time of the incident and would have gotten involved in the case sooner if New Paltz Town Police had not been able to locate the suspect so quickly. There is always an open line of communication between UPD and town police when there is a danger or ongoing threat, Dugatkin said.

“It’s always a very delicate balance — we don’t have a gate around campus, and it is state property, which in some aspects makes it public property,” Dugatkin said. “So we have to balance that between safeguarding our students, faculty and staff versus the public’s right to be on public property.”

Despite the many safeguards on campus, third-year pre-communication disorders major Danielle Cronan said she does not feel safe walking around at night, especially after this incident.

“This is the first and only time I’ve heard about this incident and it makes me more uncomfortable walking at night,” she said. “We may have blue lights on campus, but that isn’t enough. I constantly look over my shoulder and have my hand on my phone. Between the edge of campus on Plattekill and Main Street, there is no place for anyone to go for safety.”

Weeks following this incident, the college announced the return of an annual series of classes offered in December to teach realistic self-defense techniques to women in case they ever find themselves in a potentially harmful situation such as this.

The four-part course that the college is offering, Rape Aggression Defense System (RAD) is a women-only, physical-intensive seminar that covers awareness prevention, risk reduction and risk avoidance to teach participants how to respond to various threatening situations. According to its website, this avenue of RAD has trained more than 900,000 women nationwide in their program since it began in 1989.

Dugatkin said that though there are many instinctive methods that a victim can use to fight back, having knowledge of which methods will be most successful in fending off an assault is an advantage.

“We teach RAD so that they are taught some self defense techniques and moves —  to fight back, scream and resist,” he said. “But, they’re taught to do it first. If one were to choose that path [of resisting an attacker,] I would say they need some type of training or knowledge to do it.”

Officer Janelle Kelsey of UPD teaches these on-campus courses for women and she said she considers it to be a resource for not only confidence, but for safety.

“The RAD course empowers women through self defense,” Kelsey said. “It is very important to educate and give the power of decision making responsibility to women taking this course. The program creates opportunities for women to grow holistically, emotionally and physically.”

Dugatkin said although instances of random, physical attacks are rare both on-campus and in town, they do occur — which should spark some awareness as to what precautions members of the community need to take to avoid them. Not everyone can avoid instances where they walk alone at night, he said, but being mindful of one’s surroundings is always a start.

“If they have the choice of walking on one side of the street versus the other that has lights, of course we want them to be on the lit side,” Dugatkin said. “If they have the opportunity to be in the ability to walk with other people, of course we’d like them to walk with other people, granted I know not everybody can do that and I don’t want to victimize a victim. Anyone has the right to walk down the street at 2 a.m. —  but we also want to try to instill some of these safety concerns and aspects into people.”

Registration for RAD is open until Friday, Nov. 21 and can be done by contacting Officer Kelsey at Kelseyj@newpaltz.edu. Once registration is closed, a lottery will be conducted to determine entry for participants. Those unable to attend can visit Rad-systems.com for more information on upcoming events in the area.

About Kristen Warfield 72 Articles
Kristen is a fourth-year journalism major and editor-in-chief of The Oracle.