Marya's Story: IMPACT Saved My Life

I first took my Basics class in my early 20’s. I feel that it literally saved my life. It has not only helped me in potentially dangerous situations, but began a life-changing journey of healing for me.

When I was 5 years old, I suffered sexual abuse from an older man in my family's church. When women are abused as children, we often direct that harm inward as we become teens and young adults. That is my story. Self-hatred, self-sabotage, drug and alcohol abuse... and I often had unclear sexual boundaries with others.

I was majoring in biochemistry at an awesome university and was on a pre-med track. I am queer and masculine and began to be targeted constantly on the street. I was verbally harassed and physically attacked. Drinking and drug use began to spiral out of control. I dropped out of school. At my lowest point I became homeless. The world looked and felt dark and dangerous. I suffered from depression. I do not blame all of this on my sexual abuse or the actions of others, but it all absolutely played a role in how I felt in the world and how I viewed myself. It impacted how I walked thru the world and my sense of self worth. It tainted the decisions I made.

It is difficult to convey how deeply Impact classes touched me. I began to be able to stand up to not only dangerous and unkind people, but to the life-threatening inner demons that I still carried from my childhood abuse and assaults as a young adult. I started to look at and love myself in a way that changed both my life experience and life trajectory. I wanted to fight for me!

I began therapy, and I got into a 12 Step recovery program for my substance abuse issues (gratefully sober for 23 years now). I started to explore who I am and what I like. I started to care for myself in a way that is loving and reflects self-respect. I noticed that I was able to notice kind people and let them in more. I started to be able to contribute to the stream of life and help others.

Today I own my own business and employ 10 people. I have many sponsees in my recovery program that I am blessed to be a part of their journey to sobriety. I surf and write songs. I walk thru my world with love and self-confidence.

After Basics, I took advanced classes (multiple assailants, armed assailants). I found that each day I was walking thru the world differently and was not being targeted as much, even though I am easily identifiable as queer. When I was targeted, I was able to stop attacks with the verbal boundary setting we learn in IMPACT classes. Attackers are cowards looking for the most vulnerable population, hoping to have an easy target.

I was able to stop two very intense situations that could have been deadly. A Jewish friend and I were threatened by a group of neo-nazi young men. Verbal abuse began to escalate to a physical attack as they started running towards us screaming that they were going to kill us. As I got into position to fight and yelled “NO!!!!” they stopped just as they got very close. They could see that I was going to fight and I knew that I was going to win. I kept yelling that this was over and telling them to leave. They kept threatening to kill us, but eventually left (even going in the direction I was pointing when I was telling them to leave).

Another time, I had pulled my car over to run into a corner store. I came upon a carload of young men harassing two young transgender women. They had been sitting in a bus stop and were being targeted for being transgendered. As I came upon the situation, the men had been screaming at them and were in the process of getting out of their car to physically attack the young women. I got in-between the group of men and the young women. I kept moving in-between and again kept repeating that this was over and that they had to leave. I wouldn’t let them touch the young women, constantly moving to block access to them. Again, the attackers left without a physical fight.

Thank you IMPACT!! The gratitude I feel for having the opportunity to have this life changing experience is palatable on a daily basis. In the 27 years since I took my first class, I have told every woman I know about how impactful the classes are. Every woman whom I’ve referred to Impact has also reported a life changing experience. Both I and so many of my young queer or low-income friends couldn’t afford the class back then. But many of us received scholarships to take the class. It is so important that anyone and everyone who wants to can take this class! I imagine how my life may have been so different had I taken Impact as a child or teen! I will never know nor be able to thank those who donated money so that I could begin this journey, but imagine if they could see the impact they had on my life.

IMPACT can and does teach us how to defend ourselves, but so importantly, helped me with a missing piece. It nurtured the flame inside of me to want to stand up for myself. To want to heal, be a positive person in the world, and to thrive! It really kick (literally ;) started my journey!

Thank you to all who help by contributing financially, volunteering, and teaching. You saved my life!!!

Marya

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