When I see others reaching outwards and creating change for women and girls around the world, I become inspired by their passion and dedication. I too want to make an impact on the world!
The first question I must face with this lofty goal would be: How?
As Mahatma Gandi taught us:
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
The first change I need to focus on is changing the world inside of me.
On March 8th at MyPwr we celebrated International Women’s Day and spent the week training for IMPACT! IMPACT is a unique self defense training program developed to combat and prevent sexual violence.
The 16-hour course contains adrenaline-based, simulated, full-contact fights with instructors in protective gear called “Suits.” The men inside the Suits are trained to deliver realistic scenarios to trigger instinctual responses in the participants, enabling them to set boundaries, if necessary to fight, to neutralize the attacker and then to go find help.
It is a life-changing experience presently available to all women and girls all over the world. In the course, we were taught how to use our voices to set verbal boundaries. If the scenario escalates, we were taught how to deter a potential sexual assault. The process is both extremely emotional and yet empowering. In our course, made up mostly of MyPwr staff, I believe that participants walked away feeling taller and more confident than when they walked in, just a few days before.
My experience with IMPACT was a powerful one. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY., and from an early age, I was prepared to be street smart and to keep my eyes open wide to detect dangerous situations. I was ready for this... born for this... or so I thought. In the end, I found strengths I didn’t know that I had.
We were told that each IMPACT course has a different effect on everyone and that we should expect tears. Surprisingly, on the very first day of training, I felt my emotions come up and I cried and cried. My muscles and memories were awakened inside of me. I needed to be able to let go of built-up emotions and step forward on the mat. After that good cry, I was ready to do the work.
One of our instructors was there to help me through those moments with care and understanding. She shared with the class that when she took IMPACT, she cried through most of the course.
For many, IMPACT is a cathartic experience. We are given opportunities to have a second chance at standing up for ourselves against one-time aggressors (strangers) as well as family members that cross lines repeatedly. Some of these people and scenarios are long gone, yet other scenarios unfortunately continue day in and day out.
So, we learned, and we practiced, and we used our instincts and fought back when needed.
Even when we didn’t think we knew what to do, we were told before each fight: “You know what to do!”
So, when the "attacker" came towards me, I knew what to do, how to create a distance with my voice and hold my hands up to protect my face. Yet, when an attacker approached me from behind, unexpectedly, my anxiety was heightened, and I felt so vulnerable.
How will I stop him? Could it be that I can say “No!” so powerfully so that I wouldn’t have to fight?
When my turn came to engage with a Suit on the mat, the instructor stood by my side as a guardian angel and reminded me: “You know what to do!” This sentence forced me to face my fears and to trust my response instincts.
The IMPACT ESD course made an impact on my inner world and pushed me to break through my limiting beliefs. The lessons I learned last week have helped me already!
The IMPACT course taught me the importance of setting stronger boundaries when I need to.
As I interact with loved ones or strangers, I have now learnt how to use my voice in a way that is direct, making it clear what is acceptable or not acceptable to me.
I am inspired by my new teachers and grateful to finally be part of the ESD community.
I am grateful to be learning a new language of empowerment, to protect me from becoming a victim of sexual abuse. I believe as a result this course can have an impact on my teenage daughters as well. I now share with them my boundary setting success stories, and I encourage them to share with me their own. I hope that they too will also be able to have the gift of experiencing an IMPACT course firsthand, in the not-too-distant future.
Our IMPACT Self Defense course took place at El HaLev in Jerusalem, Israel, however it is available all over the world. For more information: www.impactpersonalsafety.com
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Annie Orenstein is a wife and mother and the founder/producer of "Spotlight on Women". Originally hailing from New York, Annie moved to Ma’aleh Adumim in Israel, 18 years ago.
For the past 15 years, Annie has been creating platforms for women in the performing arts to express themselves, providing them with opportunities to discover, develop and define who they are both onstage and off. She hosted and produced Spotlight on Women Radio for two years and penned articles for local and overseas newspapers.
Annie recently joined the MyPwr team, and works in the marketing department with Sara, Nadia and Batyah. She looks forward to creating engaging and meaningful content for the MyPwr community.
It is one of her life’s missions to help women and girls gain access to the tools they need to become empowered and healthy individuals.