The media is overflowing with new accusations and evidence of sexual assault about everyone from Matt Lauer to Harvey Weinstein to Larry Nassar. Nassar abused 265 people, with the youngest victim being around six years old; similarly, Weinstein was convicted for sexually assaulting over 50 women. Even the nation’s father figure, Matt Lauer, was fired from his $25 million annual salary host job on the Today Show after allegations of indecent exposure and conversations finally surfaced.
Sexual assault can occur anywhere, including in one’s own town. In the last year, there have been seven reported cases of rape in Walpole, which is a 350% increase from the previous year. Twenty cases of sexual harassment have been reported in the past year, and there is a good chance that more assaults occurred but were not reported.
“It is a very underreported crime,” Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael said. “Believe it or not, sexual assault on women is probably only reported about a quarter of the time that it actually happens.”
To defend oneself against sexual assault, the Walpole Police Department is offering a program named Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) through the Walpole Recreation Department.
Walpole High School senior Tara Gordon attended the most recent course with a few of her friends, which consisted of one class per week for three weeks throughout March.
“You have two weeks of learning, and then the last week [the officers] actually come at you and you have to defend yourself, which is how you graduate,” Gordon said.
She thought that everyone gained a lot from the program and recommended it to others. (Here is her opinion piece endorsing the program)
“As weird as it is, I’ve actually enjoyed it because now I know how to punch, and I feel like I could beat someone up if I had to,” Gordon said.
The girls were taught to fight off possible assaults and were shown different techniques to do so. The policemen were skilled teachers and understood the seriousness of sexual assault.
“[The police] are very well-trained, and they clearly know what they’re doing,” Gordon said.
Although some victims do not report the crime, this decision has the potential to cause long-term effects, such as depression, PTSD and anxiety.
“Victims are often very distraught,” Carmichael said. “[Sexual assault] has a huge impact on them and unfortunately in society, people tend to judge the victims too often and blame them.”
For every convicted person, there are hundreds who were never reported or were never convicted. Three fourths of women do not report a sexual assault.
“When things aren’t reported, that person gets to do that thing multiple times to multiple victims,” Carmichael said.
Not reporting the incident ultimately leads to more negative outcomes than disclosing the crime does, but RAD is focused on trying to eliminate the number of complete attacks.
“Everything you do there has a purpose,” Gordon said. “You scream to attract attention because if you were being attacked, you want to gain attention from the public so they can help you.”
The officers want the students to be as educated as possible to fend off an attack because even though it does not occur often in Walpole, it most definitely can.
“There are 58 registered sex offenders in Walpole,” Carmichael said. “Some are in the jail, but there’s still 58.”
Although there is no monster at such a caliber of Larry Nassar in Walpole, future college students and other citizens may still want greater protection to detect and fend off possible attackers. For those interested, check here for future information about program offerings from the Walpole Recreation Department.