My Stories: Marnie and IMPACT Personal Safety

“As a survivor of stranger rape, I never had an interest in taking a self-defense class.  I teach people that being aware of your surroundings is critical. We live in a world where women must be on high alert. We teach women to avoid certain places at specific times, buddy up, and be safe rather than sorry.  However we don’t have the physical tools to fight back.  While I wanted to have every tool available to protect myself, the possibility of learning something that could have changed the trajectory of my history made self defense feel like a place I did not belong -to learn what could have been seemed tragic.  It was for those who haven’t been attacked.

Having a strong sense that self-defense would be cathartic for me, my husband convinced me to attend his Arnis class. As I surveyed the room – six guys, an instructor and a red duffle bag filled with knives – I fled through the front door. I was terrified. This was not for me. I did not have one survivor friend who went to self defense as part of their healing. His instructor recommended IMPACT Personal Safety, a program for women that he had been involved with. I watched their videos online. I was impressed with the intensity and focus of the course. Good for them, I thought, but not good for me.

Then I read IMPACT’s mission: men and women dedicated to ending the cycle of violence, a goal of many anti-sexual assault organizations I work with.  More specifically the goals of IMPACT are ones that this activist should know. The mission of IMPACT Personal Safety is to end the cycle of violence in society by empowering women, children, and men with the self-esteem and the tools necessary to take control of their lives through self-defense, boundary setting and the understanding that your life is worth fighting for.

I reluctantly signed up for the eight weeks basics course.  At the first class, I met 13 other strong, smart women who had been attacked or feared it, along with four instructors – one instructor, two assists, and our male instructor – the mugger.  Three and a half hours later, I wished every woman knew what I had just learned.  I left feeling exhausted but forever changed. We were taught surprisingly simple but highly effective physical moves to protect ourselves in real life situations that we chose and fought out with our fully padded and protected male instructor. I watched my classmates elbow, strike, and kick their way out of every scenario. IMPACT is not just about learning how to fight but arming yourself with verbal skills to deescalate a situation – and if all else fails – we were prepared to fight.  These boundary setting skills crossover to the every day – from a difficult boss to a needy friend, IMPACT taught us to assess situations and apply the right tools.

Every week I felt a little wiser, a little stronger, a little safer.  This class was about protecting myself in the present, and adding these skills to my activist toolbox. I went from vehemently arguing why the class was not for me to encouraging every woman to take the basics class. If anything the class reinforced that I skillfully survived the attack.  For survivors, this is an empowering moment: taking the power back. You don’t need to practice it- it’s muscle memory. Instead of freezing, your body has been taught to fight back.

The class ends with graduation – a mighty send off with an opportunity to show friends and family what you’ve learned. My husband, friends, and even a client attended.  I watched thirteen strong women I met just eight weeks earlier confidently and instinctively handle every scenario they were confronted with.  We were also applauding each other’s transformations and successes, from walking fearlessly through a parking lot at night, to changing jobs, to feeling a whole lot safer.  How many things can you learn in eight classes will change you forever?  Self defense is not a mandatory class all children learn in school; we learn what we are taught by family or friends, and then when one becomes a victim of a crime, we blame. We blame ourselves, and criminals know this. So then, how could you not take this class?  You want to find the survivor in you? Want to kick that fear through a brick wall?  Invest in you and find peace, happiness and some serious strength with IMPACT Personal Safety.”

- Marnie Goodfriend

If you are interested in learning more about IMPACT Personal Safety’s programs and how you might use then as a part of your healing process, you can learn more on their website. I’m linking you straight to their chapter locator page so you can click the one in your area, as each location offers different services. Click here.

 

 

 

 

PAVE:My Stories: Anonymous

PAVE My Stories: Anonymous
The beginning of my sophomore year of high school, I met the most amazing boy. I had just broken up with a long-term boyfriend; he was sweet and funny. However, due to circumstance, I didn’t get the chance to date him until the very end of junior year. Once we did start dating, I was so happy because no one had ever treated me as kindly as he did.

A few months into the relationship was when I first knew something was wrong. He started being mean, he wouldn’t let me hang out with my girl friends, and basically forbade me from speaking to my guy friends. I didn’t want to break up with him for this, but these were my friends from elementary school. At the same time, I didn’t know if anyone would love me if we broke up.

It kept getting worse. He had no respect for me, constantly made me cry, never let me be with my friends, but was able to do whatever he wanted, while I sat alone at home on Friday and Saturday nights. I lost my virginity to him a few months into our relationship. After about a year was when it started getting bad. Growing up in a small town, rape had one meaning: when a stranger forced a girl into having sex with him. Rape didn’t happen between acquaintances, friends, significant others; if rape happened, it was usually the girl’s fault. Now, after a year of dating, when we had sex, it HURT. He’d be forceful and rough, and even when I cried and asked him to stop, he wouldn’t. He would yell at me to shut up and let him finish, and afterwards, would leave me to myself to finish crying while he went and played video games. Time and again, I went through this. It was stuck in my head that this was normal. He would be so sweet during the day when we were around other people, but by ourselves, it was different. I didn’t think I could leave; we had plans to get married, his whole family was so excited about it. I was so afraid he would hurt me if I tried to break up, and he made me feel like no one would ever love me. I wasn’t pretty, I was too needy, I was too demanding, I didn’t do enough for him. As much as I loved him, because I did, it was never good enough.

For another 3 or 4 months, sex was like this. Consensual at first, forceful at the end, with me feeling degraded and left alone to cry. I had no one to talk to, and no one noticed that I wanted to die. But because I was taught that rape was a stranger on a girl, I didn’t do anything. One night, everything changed and I knew it was wrong. We were alone for the night, and started fooling around. I didn’t want to have sex, but it started anyway. I changed my mind, and asked him to stop. He took my shoulders, slammed me down on the floor, and held me while I cried and screamed. The pain was horrible, and after he finished, left me to go watch TV. I couldn’t stop crying; I didn’t know what I had done to deserve this, I didn’t know what I could do right anymore to make him stop doing this to me. I kept crying and screaming, and eventually he yelled at me to shut the f*** up, to go downstairs and go to bed. And I did, because I was too afraid to leave him to go home. Home was a half hour away, and it was so late at night, I didn’t want to scare my parents. I broke up with him shortly after this. He tried so hard to get me back, but I have wonderful friends who held my hand while I tried to deal. I didn’t realize that rape could happen between significant others until almost a year after I broke up with him; I’m still dealing with the aftermath. I have severe anger problems, I have trust issues, and still, sometimes I’m afraid to have sex with my boyfriend of almost two years. All the memories still haunt me, but talking about it and dealing with the memories head-on has helped. I don’t know if mentally or emotionally I’ll be okay; but I’ve made progress. Enough that I can make it through the day without thinking about it and without worrying that he’ll find me.

Do you have a story to share? Please email your stories to info@ShatteringTheSilence.org with “My Stories” in the subject line.

Thankful for Survivors’ Stories that Shatter the Silence of Sexual Violence

Thanksgiving is this week and I wanted to take a moment to thank survivors of sexual or dating violence who have shared their stories shattering the silence of their suffering and encouraging others to do the same. PAVE introduced “My Stories” to motivate us to share our stories of how we have been affected by sexual and dating violence. “Survivor Stories,” by photographer Teresa Prince, is another project that focuses on the importance of survivors sharing their stories.

“What I really want to do is get their words out there so that victims who are still suffering can read this and realize they are not alone,” said Prince.

Prince’s “Survivor Stories” project is not her first project about sexual assault awareness. Her first project, “Speaking Through Silence: Survivor Stories” shined light on the issue and was a part of her healing as a survivor. With her current project Prince wants to focus on how others made this transition from victim to survivor and to bring hope to other victims still suffering in silence.

Prince’s project combines photography and story collecting to share more than just the words of survivors. Prince explained she wants to give a voice and a face to their experience because that makes the stories real, and these men and women deserve to be heard.

“If we never get a face or a name then this kind of becomes a victimless, faceless crime unless we get the real stories out there,” said Prince, “We cannot ignore it.”

I whole heartedly agree with Prince in the importance of sharing the reality of the many men and women who have been a victim of sexual and dating violence. I am so thankful for the work she is doing and I want to encourage others to share their stories.

We all have a voice and we all deserve to be heard because the world deserves to hear our story.

-Sarah