AYER — On Aug. 16, a 40-year-old homeless Fitchburg man was arrested and remains held without bail in the alleged attempted rape of a 37-year old Ayer woman jogging on the Rail Trail bike path off Park Street early that Sunday morning. Ayer Police Department Sgt. Todd Crumpton says that the woman was a textbook example of how to properly defend oneself when attacked.
“She yelled and screamed and kicked,” said Crumpton. “That’s what saved this woman. She fought back. She didn’t lose her cool.” The woman was able to escape toward the sound of neighbors on Pearl Street, who directed the victim to follow the sound of their voices to flee to safety. The alleged assailant, Scott Risko, was captured a short time later riding away from the alleged crime scene following the attack.
Crumpton and Patrolman Richard Karazinski will soon launch the Ayer Police Department’s Rape Aggression Defense classes, an annual offering that coincidentally happens to follow in the aftermath of the rail-trail attack.
In order to provide the maximum protection for women participating in the RAD training, the location and exact time and date of the class is being withheld to prevent retaliation against women participants by their batterers. Women interested in attending the classes can now obtain an application at the dispatch window of the Ayer Police Department on Park Street.
Crumpton is certified in basic RAD training, while Karazinski comes with advanced training and has taught RAD classes at both Framingham State College and UMass Lowell, where classes were filled with young women living and attending classes in urban and suburban settings.
“One of the things that we stress is that the attackers don’t expect the resistance. They’re predators, looking for easy targets,” said Crumpton. “They don’t expect women to fight back. And they can do that. Very well.”
Crumpton says people come for different reasons. Confidentiality is therefore key. “The location I’m using, I cover the windows; nobody’s allowed in. It’s meant to be a place where the women, the students can go be and feels secure.”
Crumpton says the classes, loaded full of information but also hands-on physical simulations and training, also can stir up dark feelings and flashbacks. “It can bring up a lot of emotions of what happened to the person in the past or the current time, which provokes them to take the course.”
In addition to the two Ayer Police officers, there’s also either a female Ayer police officer or other woman on hand to provide assistance with the classes and the emotions provoked.
Classes are free. The maximum class size is 18, and while the classes will proceed with as few as four or five students, Crumpton says he’s hopeful that many show up for the important offering.
But Crumpton says the age floor of 18 is generally adhered to because, “we do cover some explicit topics. We talk about sexual assaults and we talk about rape.”
The first night starts with some classroom time and eases into a light workout of simulations and ‘what-if’ scenarios. “In times of panic and times when everything’s going wrong, someone is not going to be trained like a martial artist. They’ll need to rely on gross motor skills and muscle memory,” said Crumpton. “We give basic techniques that can come naturally and don’t require too much thinking. We don’t want to have to overthink how to stand. They need to be free to basically react.”
He’s amazed to see how quickly the students assimilate it, “We only have a short window, but you see it come about. That again speaks to the techniques. They keep it basic.”
“Some may be timid and not willing to vocalize but by the night of the actual simulation, they’re kicking in the groin, and are very vocal,” said Crumpton, admitting to being roughed up pretty well by past participants despite his police training and protective gear for the drills. “In the heat of the moment, they are put in a situation they were in years earlier,” in some circumstances, says Crumpton. “I’ve been pretty beat up a couple of times.”
The four weekly classes last for three hours each. By the fourth class, Crumpton directs the women to “defend yourself as if you had to,” leading to an optional hands-on, rough and tumble graduation night.
Because it’s a physical class, sneakers and comfortable clothing are encouraged. And participants are urged to partake in the simulations but are asked to be aware of their own physical limitations. “You’re gonna be grabbed, lightly choked, and brought to the ground,” said Crumpton of the simulations, “You need to know up front that it’s going to get physical.”