I was visiting my mother in Michigan and we were meeting my sister for dinner at a local restaurant. As I dropped my mother off at the restaurant door I noticed three boys walking through the parking lot. As I went to park the car, I saw they had turned around and come back rather than just passing through. I had a hunch that they were trouble and thought they were looking for cars to break into. I parked under a light and walked toward the restaurant door, planning to tell the management about the boys. As I was walking, I heard a voice, “Give me all your money.” When I turned to face him, I saw the older one (no more than 13 or 14) pointing a gun at me. The other two were younger.
I knocked his gun arm so that it wasn’t pointing at me. He backed up and again pointed the gun at me. He had created enough distance that I did not move toward him. I dropped to the ground and yelled, “help”. My voice sounded weak and high and I thought “no one is going to respond to that”. I found my IMPACT voice and yelled “POLICE!” over and over again, very loud, very forceful, and they ran away. The entire incident lasted seconds. The police arrived quickly. They said they had seen the boys running away from the restaurant, but didn’t consider them suspects because they were so little. The entire attack felt like it lasted about 5 seconds. In reality it might have been a few more. It held that weird pliability of time that felt as though it was lasting forever and fleeting at the same time.
I took the IMPACT Core Program in 1990, and shortly after I took Defense Against an Armed Rapist. I was a class assistant for many years. I haven’t assisted or taken an IMPACT course in over 6 years. Even with that time gap, trusting myself and using my voice were immediate instinctive reactions. And while I responded instinctively, I also had fully formed thoughts flowing through my head constantly within the very short amount of time the attack lasted.
Thoughts about those moments:
1. When I saw the gun, their demand for all my money had no meaning for me because in the moment I had no memory of having a purse or any possessions. I wasn’t trying to keep my purse, I just didn’t realize I had it.
2. Nothing went as I would have planned or imagined. I’ve had moments when find myself with the “could have/should haves” but am trying not to get stuck there, but rather celebrate my instincts that ultimately lead to my safety.
3. My voice saved my life.
4. I had no bruise or physical consequence from dropping to the ground.
Thoughts about taking care of myself
1. I considered returning home but stuck with my original plan to stay 3 more days, which allowed me to stay in the area, return to the restaurant (where I had a reservation the next day with a friend), and see that I could carry on with my planned activities while I processed the attack.
2. I talked extensively with my husband by phone. He was available whenever I wanted to talk, listened to all I had to say and was tremendously supportive.
3. I also received lots of support from another IMPACT graduate who had been robbed by someone with a gun, as well as various family members from both my family and my husbands, and a handful of friends.
4. I realized quickly, however, that many people didn’t know how to give me support. Some people were cavalier; others focused on their own or someone else’s experience without connecting it to what had just happened to me. I took care of myself by acknowledging their love, but accepting that they didn’t know how to give it to me in this situation and not discussing it further with them if they asked about it again. Most did not ever ask about it again, so that made it easier, even while demonstrating their complete unwillingness to deal with such an uncomfortable topic. This information is valuable because should I have another traumatic experience I will know the short list of people to surround myself with.
5. The night of the attack I wrote about what happened; not so much what I was feeling because I wasn’t even sure what that was. I wrote the details, getting all of it out of my head and onto paper.
6. As the days went by I honored every single thing that came up for me and took respite when I needed it.
7. I have found that I am doing all the things I did before the attack, but in certain places or times I find myself wary in a way I was not before. Not negative, just different. But I have not avoided one thing
that I’ve wanted to do, changed the way I live or how I walk in the world because of the attack. I continue to process it as necessary.
Just seconds — I faced an armed robber, I trusted my instincts, and I used my voice.
I am so grateful to IMPACT for all it has given me. It has equipped me with the tools I need to live in this world. My self-confidence and sense of self-worth have grown beyond measure. It has proven itself time and time again in my ability to create and maintain boundaries, hold my head high, protect myself and in this latest instance protect my life. Perhaps I didn’t do textbook IMPACT work, but I did honest and instinctive IMPACT work. And that worked.
Tammy DeBoer, IMPACT Chicago graduate