Theresa Wentzell of Pelham, left, fights off Pelham police officer Glen Chase with self-defense moves learned at the Rape Aggression Defense course offered by the Pelham Police Department., VALLEY DISPATCH/TORY GERMANN

Valley Dispatch reporter Jennifer Amy Myers explores how many women now combat the threat of physical abuse by joining a self-defense course for women run by the Pelham Police Department.,

(Second of two parts)


Valley Dispatch Staff

PELHAM — I was standing at an ATM, getting $50 out for a night on the town, when I was suddenly grabbed from behind and hoisted up into the air. I immediately yelled “no!” pulled my knees up to my chest and kicked back into my assailant with all of the force that I had. We both fell to the ground, and I ran away.

My “assailant” was actually Pelham police officer Glen Chase, suited up in an extremely protective padded suit during the final of the four-class R.A.D. (Rape Aggression Defense) course sponsored by the Pelham Police Department.

Six women went through the simulation night on Nov. 13. We were led into the department’s fitness room and shown how to wear the knee and elbow pads, helmets and gloves, but told nothing about what we would encounter on the other side of the door across the hall.

And then there were five.

Nicole Graham, 22, of Pelham, was the first to be sent into the unknown. We clapped and cheered her on, as she turned back and gave us a nervous smile. About one minute later she returned, sweating, helmet in hand and beaming from ear to ear.

“That was awesome, but I’m sweating,” she said.

One at a time we headed into the room, going through the rotation three times, facing three situations: walking down the street, getting money out of an ATM, and waiting for a bus. Detective Anne Perriello yelled out commands to keep us focused on using the R.A.D. techniques.

All of the women agreed that as much as you know that it is just a simulation and the “bad guy” is really one of the good guys, your adrenaline is still pumping and the instinct of self-preservation kicks in just as strongly as it would in a real confrontation.

After the simulation, we sat on the floor, our hands shaking as we tried to come down from the adrenaline rush and catch our breath.

Then we watched the video.

Martha Flood, 47, of Pelham, taking the course for the second time, didn’t hold anything back. As Chase approached her, she yelled at him to “get back!” When he didn’t, and approached and grabbed her, she immediately began kicking him in the groin, and continuously bringing her fist down onto the top of his head. She showed no mercy.

Graham’s mother, Theresa Wentzel, 40, of Pelham, who had feared forgetting everything she had learned and freezing up on the big night, came through the night with flying colors. None of the students froze or forgot what to do.

“It was a great experience, but I feel like if I don’t have you guys in my head yelling at me, telling me what to do, I’d be unsure of myself,” Wentzel told the officers after the class.

“It is going to stick in your head,” Officer Jim Johnson said. “It will come back to you, believe it or not. The mental aspect of self-defense is just as important as the physical.”

“After tonight, I think if anything ever happens, I’ll have you guys in my head,” Graham said.

Perriello addressed the criticisms some have of self-defense classes, saying that they are not practical in real-life situations and that the only defense a woman has is to own a gun.

“Just because you carry a gun, doesn’t mean you are invincible,” she said. “You need options in life and if you rely on one thing, you’ll find yourself in a bad situation. A gun can easily be taken away from you and used against you.”

Johnson pointed out that a woman carrying a gun would most likely k eep it in her purse and not have the time to get to it during an actual attack.

“The tools that you give us, the knowledge, the safety awareness and user-friendly techniques are incredible,” Flood said. “They teach CPR to save someone else’s life; this is something that could save your life.”

“Every woman should take this class,” she added.

Have a comment about this story? E-mail Jennifer Amy Myers at