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Nov 17, 2015 1:00 PM

NH1 News Investigates Safe on the Streets: NH women learn self defense in free classes

PELHAM - In 2014, 773 women in New Hampshire reported being victims of sexual violence, the primary age of a sexual assault victims range from 18 to 40.

That's the fourth highest rate in the nation.

Violence against women is a growing problem in New Hampshire and nationwide illustrated as we all tuned into the Owen Labrie case this past summer.

An emerging change in sexual predators, as one new Hampshire private school was accused of turning a blind eye as students gained points for their exploits.

Today law enforcement like the Pelham Police department are stepping up and stepping in.

For three nights at the Pelham Police Department, a group women of all ages came together to learn to defend themselves. They shared intimate stories with NH1 News and their close encounters with predators.

“When I say right here, I mean right here to the point where I jumped. I did, I jumped,” said Colleen Mitchell as she describes an encounter she experienced at Walmart.

Mitchell is a freshman at a local college and a returning student to the R.A.D course offered in Pelham.

Other women attended for the first time.

“He would look in the windows, he left threatening letters, and he would slash tires. Our life was in danger. We were living in constant fear,” said Cynthia Freeman as she described a stalking incident she and a roommate had to live with for several months.

In the room of 20 or so women, several spoke out.

Many of them have been victims of all kinds of abuse, some of them stalked, and some of them don’t even have the confidence to walk out on Elm Street in Manchester past a certain hour.

Master Patrolman David DeRoche with the Pelham police department says he sees it every day. Things like a standard traffic stop go from zero to 100 in an instant.

“Especially with the heroin epidemic going on, you need to be more aware of your surroundings and classes like these now a days are essential. When people need the money to get that high they will try and find something to get to turn into cash. That’s why R.A.D is so important. We’re teaching women out there that they can defend themselves,” said DeRoche.

The class is called R.A.D, a self-defense class for women offered for free in Pelham. Instructors work one on one with students to illustrate scenarios and work on physical and verbal self-defense. The class is only three days but that final night, you fight for your life.

It’s all staged scenarios but the officers make it as real as possible, prepping you for what could happen.

What do students think of the course?

"It's either you or him that's going home that night,” said Freeman after the final night.

"You have the power to dictate what’s going to happen to you,” said Mitchell.

The course that is not just offered in Pelham but across New Hampshire at other police departments as well.

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