Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What is the IMPACT?

This post may be a little overdue, but in the year and a half since I completed an "IMPACT" self-defense course for women, there have been some interesting developments. IMPACT is a phenomenon in itself; developed in the US in the 1970s, this short and intensive rape-prevention course is designed to teach women the basic skills they need to fend off sexual assault. There are many things that make the method unique, the most obvious of which is the presence of real live attackers in the classroom. Of course, they aren't real rapists, they are burly young men dressed up in protective gear, men who believe in teaching women to help prevent rape. Women learn to yell "NO!" kick the groin, gouge the eyes, disable the attacker and call for help. The attackers let the women know if they have hit hard enough. If not, try again. The attacker won't fall until the impact is forceful enough.
And there we have it, folks, the metaphor I've been reaching for.
This week, El Halev martial arts' center, IMPACT's only provider in Israel opened a new course in Wadi Joz, one of Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods. This is not the first course El Halev has provided to Wadi Joz, but it is the first IMPACT course in Wadi Joz in which my daughter, writer and blogger Liora Sophie is assisting.
After I completed IMPACT, both of my daughters signed up for courses. One has gone on to become an assistant and is on her way to becoming an instructor. The other daughter has sent many of her friends to take the course. I can see how it has affected them; they have a clearer sense of boundaries, more body awareness, are more sensitive to language or situations in which they feel uncomfortable or threatened. And of course, they feel they have more tools to deal with these situations.
At the mall buying rain boots, we saw a man, woman and child having a public scene. It was not immediately obvious what the relationship was among them, but all the onlookers, store employees and customers alike were uncomfortable. My daughter was all over it, ready to intervene. She had the words "Is this man bothering you?" on her lips when the situation was diffused.
This is an example of the extended reach of IMPACT; not only is she, a young, single woman empowered with tools to defend herself, she is also a vigilant, aware and powerful tool for the defense of others. The more women we empower, the safer the larger society becomes until rape and sexual harrassment become impossible.
According to Jill Baker Shames, director of IMPACT in Israel, this is what we are doing in Wadi Joz and other Arab communities:
"Granted, the statistics are vague due to lack of reporting, but, what we have heard from service providers inside these communities, sexual harrassment and rape are serious issues affecting a large percentage of women in the Arab world."
So I am proud of my daughter and the rest of the IMPACT staff who go to Wadi Joz and other Arab neighborhoods for the sole purpose of strengthening a society. I have no doubt that when the impact is forceful enough, the attacker will fall.
Oh, and one more thing. When a van full of Israeli men and women arrived in Wadi Joz to teach Arab women self-defense, WHERE WAS CNN?