2007-12-06 / News

Self-defense class teaches women about risk factors

By Michaela Kennedy

Karen Catlow and JoAnne Waite help women by teaching self-defense. Photo by Michaela Kennedy Karen Catlow and JoAnne Waite help women by teaching self-defense. Photo by Michaela Kennedy Island living can lull residents into a false sense of safety. Jamestown Police Officer Karen Catlow wants to remind locals that vigilance is important. The Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) system that Catlow offers at the recreation center educates women on personal defense and heightens their awareness of potential trouble.

Catlow, together with JoAnne Waite, a member of the Rhode Island Sex Offender Board of Review, are co-trainers of the R.A.D. system. The training course is program of realistic self-defense tactics and techniques for women. Waite is a veteran instructor of ten years, and Catlow has been part of the program for four years. The women-only class opens with awareness, prevention, risk reduction and risk avoidance, and progresses to the basics of hands-on defense training.

A packed class, 26 women in total, attended Catlow and Waite's training session earlier this week. The instructors are convinced of the value and strength the specialized personal safety course gives to women, and they volunteer their time to teach. "I think Jamestown needs something like this. It's a small island, but things still happen here; I know for a fact they do," Catlow says. The women seem to think so, too, since the class this week was completely filled and a waiting list was created for a future training session.

Larry Nadeau first developed the R.A.D Systems of self-defense in 1989, according to the R.A.D. systems headquarters in Louisiana. Nadeau, a former Marine and full-time police officer, wanted to produce an affordable and accessible program that would specifically address the self-defense needs of women. His success is shown by the fact that R.A.D. has now trained more than 300,000 women since the program began in 1989.

When asked about changes seen in students, Waite answers with enthusiasm, "Oh a lot. Some people don't want to hurt anyone, but then realize they can do what they need to do when they're attacked." Women who do the training often are looking to find a way to make themselves safe. Sometimes they live alone or have a job where they travel. "Often survivors of domestic or sexual assault who come in don't want to put themselves in the position of being a victim anymore."

Both instructors find personal rewards in their teaching. When they see the tears and smiles at the end of the 12-hour training, they agree, "We're helping other women become empowered."

Catlow first offered the training course in Jamestown two years ago, but hopes to make the program available locally on an annual basis. Because the instructors are volunteers, the biggest difficulty has been in finding the time to do the training. But two more local police officers plan to attend the instructors' course, so the program may be made available on a more regular basis. Catlow encourages any woman interested to sign up at the police station, or call 423-1212 and ask for Officer Karen.

North Kingstown brought the R.A.D. program into the high school as part of the health program. The resource officers at the high school instruct, and the have had a lot of positive feedback from the students. Descriptions of programs geared toward adults as well as children can be found online at www.rad-systems.com.

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