New WPI Program Empowers Women

Contact: WPI Media & Community Relations

Worcester, Mass. -- Since its founding, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has prided itself on preparing students for the real world. Traditionally that preparation has come from a curriculum that uses interdisciplinary problem solving to foster sensitivity to technology's impact on society. A recently introduced program provides female WPI students with the tools to deal with another aspect of the real world - violence against women.

The statistics are frightening. "One in four women can be expected to be involved in some type of assault in her lifetime," says WPI Campus Police officer Eric Pearson, who joined with fellow officer Sherry Boulay to bring the Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) program to campus this winter. During C-Term, 10 female students spent 2 1/2 hours each week learning how to protect themselves against violent crime. Developed in 1989 by Lawrence Nadeau, a former municipal and university law enforcement officer, R.A.D. uses simple, effective and proven self-defense and martial arts tactics to develop and enhance the options of self-defense so they may become viable considerations to a woman who is attacked.

Boulay and Pearson have extensive backgrounds in public safety in both academia and the private sector. Boulay is certified in R.A.D. (adults and children), is an EMT and a rape investigator, and has spent eight years as a firefighter. Pearson, who is also a certified R.A.D. trainer, has more than a decade of experience in self-defense. Boulay says the students in the inaugural group came from all walks of life with different experiences with victimization. Some had never lived in a city before coming to WPI; others were from cultures where women were regarded differently than in the United States. The program is suitable for all of them. "What we teach in R.A.D. is adaptable," she says. "The key is for a woman to survive an assault by using physical resistance to create an opportunity to escape."

Undergraduates who complete the free program receive a 3/4 college credit. Each participant earns a certificate and the right to attend similar sessions during their lifetime. Boulay and Pearson offered the program again in D-Term and intend to teach the classes to female employees during the summer.

Now taught at more than 350 colleges and universities nationwide, R.A.D. is the only self-defense program ever endorsed by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

"We are very excited about being able to offer a project such as this and to have highly motivated and enthusiastic instructors on board," says WPI Public Safety Director John J. Hanlon. "This initiative enhances our ability to serve our community in areas beyond our typical responsibilities."

WPI, a technological university, is renowned for its project-based curriculum and its overseas global perspective program. In the 1999 U.S. News & World Report's edition of America's Best Colleges and Best College Values, WPI ranked among the top national universities.