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Monday, October 22, 2012

The techniques keep working

AC Racette, IMPACT grad 1996

Summer brought a lot of construction to Evanston and Northwestern University. New signs cropped up, traffic was redirected, and we were urged to drive slowly and arm ourselves with patience. Pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists can share the road, no?

Not so for a car driver who, oblivious to the new pedestrian-crossing sign on Sheridan Road on the south end of campus, screeched to a halt, just inches from my leg. I was heading home from work, walking over a zebra crossing. For a second, I stood still—not out of fear, but out of surprise. What was this? A torrent of obscenities was pouring out of the car. The driver’s screaming attracted the attention of a half-dozen construction workers. In a second, I thought through all my options: Would he calm down if I stood my ground? Would he dart around me? Would he try to intimidate me by revving his engine? Would an impatient car behind him swerve around and put me in danger if I kept crossing the street? And what could I expect from the construction workers witnessing the situation?

Then after the surprise, the self-preserving anger: How dare this frustrated person put my life in danger? How dare a stranger pour his virulent hatred on me just because I happened to cross the street during his moment of inattention? How dare he be so irresponsible with the safety of so many students and pedestrians? How dare he treat me like dirt with his hateful, sexist speech, when the error was his?

Before IMPACT training, I might have scurried away, mortified by the insults, wondering what I had done wrong. But instead. I found my big voice. I told him the traffic sign applied to him, that he was out of line, and that he should be ashamed of his language. I finished crossing the street, head held high, walking at a stately, steady pace. The motorist peeled off. The construction workers expressed
sympathetic support. Pedestrians shook their heads in disbelief.

I learned that, seventeen years after my IMPACT training, the techniques keep working. I paused without panicking. I assessed the situation. I used the adrenaline as it came up. I acted. I used my voice. I moved calmly to the safety of other people, ready to get help if I needed it.

We live in a world where so many people are at risk for reasons out of their control. We are fortunate: we have access to IMPACT training. One person at a time, IMPACT graduates react to potential violence and abuse, and counter it. If you know someone who might be in my situation one day, do her a favor: tell her about IMPACT. She will thank you.

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