By Bill Shaner, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – On April 30, Police Secretary Sue Blaisdell and Officer Ken McKenzie brought Marlborough High School (MHS) its first demonstration of the national Rape Aggression Defense Program (RAD). The school is running a pilot program of the martial arts course oriented to young women, and hopes to make it a part of the curriculum.
Roughly 30 students huddled around Blaisdell and McKenzie as they went over the basic ideology of the course in MHS's wrestling room. The course aims to give young women the fundamental physical tools to defend themselves, but also aims to make them feel confident and proud.
“Look at people in the face. They’re not expecting you to fight Whatever they’re going to do — take your purse, your phone, rob you, rape you — whatever their choice is, they’re not going to pick you if you look ready to go,” Blaisdell told the students.
Blaisdell, a certified RAD instructor, demonstrated some of the basic moves on Officer McKenzie. The students practiced the moves in a circle, then lined up to try them on McKenzie and Blaisdell, who held bags. Blaisdell encouraged the girls to yell “no” emphatically as they hit the bags, and placed heavy emphasis on the difference between playful and serious objection.
“It's a mixed bag of martial arts,” Officer McKenzie said of the program. “It's refined and simplified distraction techniques.”
Tonya Hautala, a wellness instructor at MHS, took the RAD course with Blaisdell, and is spearheading the effort to include it in the MHS curriculum.
“We’d hope it gets added so the students can be safe as they go on to their future endeavors,” she said.
RAD is a national program, and has been since 1989. It is prevalent on college campuses and in high schools. Certified instructors like Blaisdell hold 12-hour courses in which students learn self-defense moves and practice the moves in live simulations of various types of assault.
The three-hour session in Marlboro High's wrestling room served as an introduction to the course. The real course, which is currently in its third week, is held at the Marlborough Police station. Blaisdell instructs the course there, which consists of six two-hour sessions on Wednesday nights.
“I hope the girls take awareness and the power to fight back if needed,” she said.