While in college, Pam Szal was attacked. Her roommate had left the door unlocked, and she was asleep in her dorm.
Luckily for Szal, her screaming, kicking and hitting warded off her attacker.
"Unfortunately, he left frustrated and angry and went two floors up and raped a classmate," said Szal. "He learned that if he kept her quiet, there would be no attention drawn.
Szal now has a 15-year-old daughter and wants her to "be prepared in a way that I never was.
"I'm here with my niece," said another woman. "Her house was broken into twice. She wasn't home, but she could have been."
These women joined some 20 others at the Father Smith Center at St. Anne's Church last week, and stood stronger than they were two weeks prior. Armed with a new knowledge of mental and physical defense, these women were in the final of four R.A.D. (Rape Aggression Defense) classes presented by the Shrewsbury Police Department.
Shrewsbury officer Mike Cappucci has been running the class for 12 years. A police officer at Boston College, Cappucci saw how effective the R.A.D. classes were at the college, and suggested starting it when he joined the Shrewsbury force. With support from a group called ADVISE as well as Shrewsbury High School and the police department, the class is offered three times a year.
"We teach how to survive an attack," said Cappucci. "At some point, women will face an aggressor and this gives them the smarts on how to survive, as well as physical self defense. I've heard from multiple students describe situations they have been in. This is very empowering, and it's important to be read. It's going to happen; you just don't know how or when."
Mark Hester, police officer and investigator, Fred Winslow, Lt. with Boston College police, and Diane Herzig, Rutland police officer, assist with the class.
Hester and Winslow suit up as the "attackers," with class members applying their knowledge of both physical and verbal resistance. The attackers move toward the would-be victim, taunting her with names, and eventually move in to assault.
"No!" they yell, as women used kicks, punches and other moves that were taught in the four-day class.
It is open to any age group, and Cappucci said he sees attendees that range from 14 to those in their 60s.
"You get into vulnerable situations," he said, "and you just never know when you need to defend yourself."
Shrewsbury Patch will post information on the next R.A.D. session as it becomes available.