Success Stories


Take Your Power: A Graduate’s Story

About a month ago I was on a 4th date with a charming grad student I met at a lecture. We were sipping wine in his apartment when a dumb joke led to a sweet first kiss. The first kiss quickly and aggressively turned into an attempt at rape.

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Out of nowhere I was pinned to the bed and he was dropping lines straight from a bad made-for-TV movie: “Oh, come on—You know you want it”. “You think I don’t know why you came up to my apartment?” I am confident that if this had happened a year ago I would have been raped. I am confident that if it had happened last night and I had not taken the IMPACT class I would have been raped. But I did take the IMPACT class. I did speak up. I did defend myself. And I was not raped. Instead, when he grabbed my wrists and forced me onto the bed I forcefully and calmly said “No, I don’t want to have sex with you!” When his aggression escalated I yelled, “If you do this, it’s rape,” a line I practiced word-for-word in my IMPACT class. His reaction was identical to that of the IMPACT suited instructors—he was outraged, he got off me, and I got out. The work I did with IMPACT allowed me to believe that my beautifully flawed self is worth defending.

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Community Programs: Lilian

When Lilian Calderon participated in an IMPACT workshop last Fall she never believed that only two hours of training would give her what she needed to stop an assault. Lilian participated in the workshop as part of a retreat for the staff of Renewal House, a Boston-area domestic violence program. “When I think about the day we took the training I remember saying to myself, ‘I don’t understand why we’re doing this.’ It was fun to learn but I didn’t think I’d ever need it,” she said. Then, just before nine one Thursday morning, Lilian was walking to work from the subway when a man with a knife came up behind her and cut the straps of her handbag.

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She instinctively yelled, “NO,” turned toward him, struck him with an elbow and then a knee to the groin. “My adrenaline was pumping but I trusted my instincts and I fought back using all my strength,” she said. After Lilian used physical self-defense the attacker walked away. She then worked with local police to identify him. “The skills came to me automatically,” she said. Lilian, a physically small woman, encourages everyone in her life to take IMPACT. She saw that the skills she learned were exactly what she needed when she was faced with imminent violence. “My life changed since I took the training because I learned how to protect myself. Since the incident I have been a voice encouraging other people to learn these skills.”

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KidSafe: Jack

My 6-year old son Jack participated in a two-day KidSafe program. The class addressed a variety of issues from bullying to how to react to unsafe strangers. Instructors gave very clear and specific instructions, demonstrated recommended behaviors, and ran students through a series of enactments, each scenario building on the previous one so that all the kids could follow along.

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Although at times it was difficult to watch my son go through simulations of unpleasant social situations and even dangerous abduction attempts, Jack was completely comfortable throughout the experience. It did not take long for the benefits of this program to become apparent. Since the class I have noticed several instances in which Jack has applied specific lessons he learned in KidSafe. Recently he de-escalated an argument that broke out among friends on a playground. He used the language he learned in the IMPACT class to resolve the conflict before it became dangerous.

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Women’s Basics: Vicky and Jamie

Before my 16-year-old daughter Jamie traveled to Ghana to take part in a veterinary assisting program this summer I insisted she take an IMPACT class. As her Mom I knew she was empathic and giving, and that she did not know how to say no or set boundaries.

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This is partly her and partly our cultural stupidity that we teach girls to “be nice” despite their uncomfortable feelings. As a society we seem to share a delusion that bad things don’t happen to good people. Additionally, we ignore data that shows us that, in many situations of attempted violence, being nice doesn’t work. When I signed my daughter up for Women’s Basics I realized I could not ask her to learn how to defend herself physically and psychologically if I were not willing to do so myself. How could I really say it was important for all women, if I didn’t go? As a middle aged woman I no longer receive the unwanted commentary on my body or presumed sexuality, but I am no less of a possible target than my daughter. Another reason I wanted to take the course with my daughter was that I love her so much that I did not want her to have to face her internal demons alone. On the first night of class, as we were introduced to concepts and physical routines, I could see that neither Jamie nor I had a clue about what to do in a potentially difficult situation. She mastered the physical skills quickly, but her response to the verbal scenarios concerned me: she said in a small wavering voice “please? go away?…please?” I knew then that my worry for her had been correct. She would not have been able to defend herself, much less take and keep her own space. By the middle of our second day of training she was loud and getting strong. At first I was scared for her, but as I watched her I saw how strong she had become. I was proud of her, proud to be her Mom. I saw her confidence and ability to take care of herself surge. Doing the scenarios challenged me. I remembered things that I would rather not have: times that I had been powerless and a man had taken advantage of me. I am sure that was part of why I initially did not want to do the course. But when I came off the mat after a scenario, I could see how proud Jamie was of me. This was a giant plus that I never anticipated. As it turned out, it was critical that Jaime took the course and I with her. One day, a few weeks after she arrived in Ghana, she was walking to the bus with her friend Alice, arms linked. Two men grabbed Jamie’s arm; two others grabbed onto Alice and tried to pull them apart. Alice froze. Jaime didn’t. She dropped into a squat, pulling rapidly so the men lost their balance and fell. Jamie jumped up and ran to the two men who had Alice. She whacked their hands. Jamie then pulled Alice away and both girls ran to safety. It was Jamie knowing what to do instantly that saved them both. If I had not taken the course, I would have yanked her out of Ghana immediately, despite knowing that she goes to New York and Boston and she could just as easily have been attacked in the U.S. Instead I knew my daugther was capable of protecting herself. Additionally, I felt empowered to speak about this incident to the organizers of the program and achieve a resolution that made me feel confident that they were taking the young women’s safety seriously. As I write this I have come to realize that knowing how to protect myself is part of my responsibility as a good parent. Our children deserve for us to be alive and uninjured for as long as that is possible. Anything we do to protect ourselves is part of fulfilling our responsibility to them. We brought them in the world, we have a duty to stay.

IMPACT:Ability: Sonia

I am the mother of two eighteen-year-old daughters with Autism Spectrum Disorder who attend the Boston Public Schools. Through their amazing experience of participating in just one IMPACT session, I was able to see first hand that the skills, training and scenarios really work. Seeing my daughters pick up the skills quickly, and re-enact each scenario to show what they learned was one of the most gratifying feelings I could have as a parent of young adults with intellectual disabilities. [show_more more="read more " less="less" ] It has been six months since that IMPACT session and my daughters have continued to use these real world strategies in many situations. Just last week while one of my daughters was standing in the checkout line at a store, someone spoke to her in what she felt was a threatening tone. She was able to speak up assertively, and came outside to the car and told me what happened. She later told her father. This was a direct result of the IMPACT training. She used an assertive voice in the uncomfortable situation, she told two people what happened, she described how it happened, and gave me a physical description of the person who had spoken to her in a threatening tone. Another situation with my other daughter happened while we were working to train her to commute on public transportation. We were waiting to board a bus, and one of the people directly behind her was standing obviously too close. Before I could speak up for her, she spoke up for herself. She firmly said, “Please stop, you are too close to me”. The person was apologetic, and backed up. I knew that the IMPACT training was at work and she applied what she learned. As a parent, I feel reassured that my daughters can learn how to handle challenging potentially unsafe situations. With just a small amount of training, they have been able to put IMPACT skills into practice in the real world. This program is IMPACTFUL, both to individuals with disabilities and to those who love them and want to keep them safe.

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IMPACT:Ability: Sonia

I am the mother of two eighteen-year-old daughters with Autism Spectrum Disorder who attend the Boston Public Schools. Through their amazing experience of participating in just one IMPACT session, I was able to see first hand that the skills, training and scenarios really work. Seeing my daughters pick up the skills quickly, and re-enact each scenario to show what they learned was one of the most gratifying feelings I could have as a parent of young adults with intellectual disabilities.

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It has been six months since that IMPACT session and my daughters have continued to use these real world strategies in many situations. Just last week while one of my daughters was standing in the checkout line at a store, someone spoke to her in what she felt was a threatening tone. She was able to speak up assertively, and came outside to the car and told me what happened. She later told her father. This was a direct result of the IMPACT training. She used an assertive voice in the uncomfortable situation, she told two people what happened, she described how it happened, and gave me a physical description of the person who had spoken to her in a threatening tone. Another situation with my other daughter happened while we were working to train her to commute on public transportation. We were waiting to board a bus, and one of the people directly behind her was standing obviously too close. Before I could speak up for her, she spoke up for herself. She firmly said, “Please stop, you are too close to me”. The person was apologetic, and backed up. I knew that the IMPACT training was at work and she applied what she learned. As a parent, I feel reassured that my daughters can learn how to handle challenging potentially unsafe situations. With just a small amount of training, they have been able to put IMPACT skills into practice in the real world. This program is IMPACTFUL, both to individuals with disabilities and to those who love them and want to keep them safe.

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Women’s Basics: Zayda

Zayda Gonzalez had just parked her car when a man rushed toward her and tried to open the door. She hit the lock button but the man persisted, grabbing the door handle and trying to force it open.

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Zayda was calm. She opened the window a crack and yelled “What are you doing?” In response, the man ran away. “I know I wouldn’t have used my voice like that before IMPACT,” she said. Zayda, who works as a Domestic Violence Advocate in Lynn, took the Women’s Basics class on the recommendation of a co-worker. “She had such a great experience and that convinced me to try it out for myself.” Zayda was surprised by how connected she felt with the women in her class. “The weekend was intense and in brought us all closer together. We became a team.” When faced with an unsafe situation Zayda was surprised by how quickly the IMPACT skills came back to her. “Even under stress I was able to think clearly. I had the presence of mind to roll the window down just a crack. Enough so he could hear me but not too much. I thought to myself ‘If he doesn’t go away I’ll lean on the horn.’ There I was in a stressful situation, and I could sit there in my car and calmly make plan.” Zayda says she wishes all her clients could experience IMPACT. “Being able to stay calm in difficult situations takes practice and IMPACT gave me the chance to get that practice.”

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Men’s Basics: Greg

Recently a friend and I were leaving a bar late in the evening. My friend stopped outside the bar to have a cigarette before getting into my car. There was an obviously intoxicated patron standing outside within earshot arguing with Security. After a few exchanges, the bouncer told him not to come back or he would call the police. Though we were minding our own business, the guy came over and started badgering my friend. Now, my friend has a mouth on him, but at first he was rather subdued and respectful in his demeanor. That was, until the guy grabbed his arm.

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What was I doing this whole time? I allowed my gaze to shift to the right, which is where my car was parked, right in front of the bar. I saw there was no one blocking our path to my car. I realized that this guy was just extremely drunk and obnoxious, but more than likely posed no serious threat. However, he was our one potential obstacle to leaving. When he grabbed my friend’s arm, my friend yelled at him to let go. I calmly but firmly told him, "My friend and I will be leaving now." He gave us a look, but didn’t get in our way as we walked off and got into my car. Once there, my friend turned to me and said, "What was that all about? I thought you took all these self-defense classes. What's the point if you’re not going to use it?" I laughed and said, "I did use it. I was able to stay calm and assess the situation. I saw that we had a possible escape from what could be a bad situation without escalating it. One thing I learned from these classes is that once you go physical, anything can happen. Accidents happen, and people can get seriously hurt or die. So if there's any other way out of a situation, take it. Only go physical if it is your only option. It wasn't our only option." I’m not sure he understood what I was trying to say. But I suggested he take the class so he could find out for himself.

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LGBTQ Basics: A Graduate’s Story

The night I graduated from my LGBTQ Basics class I took the T home. My girlfriend had come to my graduation and we were smiling and joking about all of my new moves. We sat down on the train and something not so uncommon happened: a man approached and began insulting us. He called us “homos.” He looked disgusted and he actually spit before he eventually got off the train. This wasn’t the first time that I was harassed and I expect that it won’t be the last. What was unique about this experience is that it happened AFTER my IMPACT class, and for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel afraid.

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I felt alert, I felt cautious, I absolutely felt angry, but I also felt confident. I felt empowered to stand up for myself and I knew that I had the skills to verbally and physically protect myself should it come to that. I kept this man in my sights the entire time, I looked him in the eye, and I didn’t allow my anger to escalate the situation or my fear to cause me to shrink and become vulnerable. Afterwards, I didn’t feel shame or self-blame, but I felt calm and proud of myself. Since my LGBTQ Basics class I have felt lighter moving around the world. I cannot recommend it strongly enough to others in my community.

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Parental Confidence: Katy

What I learned from IMPACT is the importance of following my gut and not being afraid to say "NO!!!" or in this case, to say something, maybe quieter, but to LISTEN to my inner voice and to feel comfortable setting boundaries. As a mother, I needed to feel comfortable being bolder to protect my kids and not worry so much if I offended anyone. IMPACT did that for me. The class did not make me more suspicious, just more aware.

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I took my 3 kids to a party at a family member’s house. There were about 60 people there, many I had never met before. When I saw a lot of strange faces, I pulled my older daughters, ages 4 and 6, aside and reminded them to be careful around people we didn't know well. I do this because 1 in 3 females is sexually assaulted at some time in her life, and usually by an acquaintance — and these family situations are many times the stage for something to occur. It does not take 20 minutes alone to abuse a child; it takes no more than 10 seconds. I never believed this statistic until I starting talking to my family and friends — and I found out it is true. Of the people I asked, 1 in 3 has been assaulted as a child. I reminded my husband to keep an eye on the girls when I saw a group of older kids start to befriend them. They were playing ball in the yard. I was helping with the party so I could not watch them too closely myself. A few minutes later I stepped back outside and noticed that they were no longer playing ball. I went to look for them and could not find them anywhere. I asked my husband, my relatives, no one knew. I started yelling for them and after I started getting very upset, one of them came out of the bushes on the side of the house. She told me that she was playing hide-and-seek with the older boys. The girls, of course, loved the attention. I explained that hide-and-seek was not allowed at parties like this. One of the older boys — 13 or 14 years old — kept hanging around. I got a bad feeling. I told my husband and my mother what had happened and that the girls were not to be left alone for a second. I took them over to the swing set. Although all of the other teenagers went to the basement to play, this one boy came with us to the swing set. He started by calling my 6-year-old a nickname. She giggled, of course. Then he did tricks for her and made her laugh, then he started being physical with her — tickling her, wrestling. It was weird. He then told me I could leave and that he would keep an eye on her. I said no. Then I heard him tell my daughter not to listen to me. He told her several times not to listen to me, and tried to get her to play hide-and-seek again. I felt more and more uneasy. My husband and mother then stopped by the swing set and both grabbed me to say I was right. I was not exaggerating. Each of us took turns sticking to the girls like glue. I also warned the other moms with small children to be careful. Looking back, I will never know if that teenager had harmful intentions, but I'm glad I didn't take a risk with my children's safety. I am so glad that I was aware and picked up on this early.

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For more information call Meagan Anderson at (781) 388-4338 or email us at info@impactboston.org