Learning to escape
By Bella Travaglini/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Police literally geared up last week to take hard physical hits from a group of Brownies who completed a course in safety and personal empowerment.
As each girl lined up with protective gear in place to put their moves into motion, police elicited a chant.
"What is a radKID?" D.A.R.E. Officer Olivia Silva asked.
"A radKID is a cool kid who doesn’t let anyone hurt her," the group collectively declared.
RadKIDS is a program in self-confidence and self-esteem that teaches kids skills for facing threatening or dangerous situations.
Silva and her supervisor, Sgt. Robert Bettencourt, earlier this year were certified in radKIDS, Inc. training and rolled out a six-week pilot program for Brownie Troop 843 at the Smith School on Friday afternoons. This is the first time the program has been offered in Danvers and it may be expanded to the elementary schools depending on the response from kids who participated and their parents.
"We are sending home an evaluation on the program," Silva said. "We will look at the results and make a decision in two weeks about the future of the program."
The group of enthusiastic third-graders finished up the pilot program last Friday by participating in a hands-on exercise that involved fighting off Bettencourt in make-shift abduction situations.
By all accounts, the girls garnered valuable information during the program in thwarting abduction attempts.
"Police reviewed with the girls tricks potential abductors might use," Janis Tobin said. Tobin and Cindy Veatch have been Brownie troop leaders for four years. "Police made the program fun, but were able to express the seriousness of the topic at the same time."
Culminating nearly two months of classroom review and discussion, Bettencourt last week carefully suited up in bright red, heavily padded gear and a protective helmet with Silva’s assistance and walked through three abduction scenarios with each member of Troop 843.
While troop members and leaders cheered on each participant, the girls one by one resisted Bettencourt’s attempts to lure them by kicking and punching him before running away.
One girl who participated said she was sure that she would be able to recognize a potential abductor from tips she learned through the radKIDS program.
"I learned things I hadn’t thought of before," she said, "like what a bad person might say to trick me into going with him."
However, the radKIDS program encompasses other safety precautions as well, such as bicycle, vehicle and Internet safety.
The common thread throughout the program is a heightened awareness in "stranger danger." Through the program, kids were taught to always have a plan and password in an emergency and to take along a buddy when playing outdoors.
The RadKIDS doctrine is comprised of three fundamentals: No one has the right to hurt you; as a radKIDS you do not have the right to hurt anyone else, unless someone is trying to hurt you and then you have the right to stop them; and if anyone ever tries to hurt you or has hurt you before, it is not your fault.