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Fight like a girl

Albany County offering free self-defense course to women

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple and District Attorney David Soares announces the creation of the new county Rape Aggression Defense Team with coordinator Cindy Forte. The program will offer free defense classes for women.

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple and District Attorney David Soares announces the creation of the new county Rape Aggression Defense Team with coordinator Cindy Forte. The program will offer free defense classes for women. Photo by Marcy Velte.

— As Chantelle Schember approached the ATM to withdraw money, two male attackers snuck up behind her. The first grabbed her from behind, taking her to the ground. Schember began screaming “No!” while kicking and elbowing the attacker in key areas until she was freed. As the second attacker approached, she continued yelling and fighting back until she saw the opportune moment to run away.

For Schember, who works in the Albany County District Attorney’s Office, this scenario was only a demonstration. Her “attackers” were clad in black protective pads and there was no actual ATM. But the scene recreated a familiar situation most women find themselves in from time to time. Being alone at night in an ATM vestibule can be a stressful situation for women, especially if they aren’t sure how to protect themselves.

A new Albany County program is aimed at changing that and making women feel more empowered, through a self-defense program that can be taken for free by women.

“We wanted to give women within the county and those visiting the Capital Region another tool in their toolbox to protect themselves from a violent attack and also give them the confidence to prevent attacks altogether,” said Albany County Sherriff Craig Apple.

The program is called the Rape Aggression Defense System, or R.A.D. It is nationally known and has been taught for 25 years. The Albany County program is being funded using asset seizure money collected from criminals.

According to Apple, about $10,000 was tapped for startup costs and to purchase the equipment needed.

“We’re taking their money and literally making crime pay,” said Apple. “So this program is not at a taxpayer expense, we want to offer it to every woman in the county for free.”

Albany County District Attorney David Soares said although cases of rape and sexual assault are going down in Albany County, “one case is a case too many.”

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