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Monday, May 20, 2013

I Said No to Unwanted Touch

It was about 7pm in the evening when I walked home from school; the sun was still out. I live on a pretty busy, main street and sometimes I take the back road by the university park because it's quicker. Ironically, that day I decided to walk on the main street, thinking, 'I'll just take it so it is safer.' That day, it didn't matter whether it was a busy street or not. Along the sidewalk, a woman was walking her dog a little ahead of me and a man was hanging out in front of the 7-11. He was a familiar man who I've seen frequent the main street, especially during the summertime, asking people for money. I walked past him, we made eye contact and he asked me for change. I said "Sorry" and kept walking. In the matter of a second, he reached out his right hand and went to grab my left arm, all the while saying something under his breath with a creepy smirk on his face and all I heard was "so pretty."

Instinctively, I moved my arm out of the way as his fingertips brushed my left arm and the firm words "No. No." escaped from my mouth. Just as unexpectedly and quickly as it happened, it also quickly ended. He didn't pursue me and I walked on - calm, but felt the fire burning inside. My hands were gloved, but I was 100% certain that if it really had to, the heel of my right hand would have popped him in the nose/face. I knew my body was going to protect me, even before I could think it. Perhaps that's why I felt so calm walking on, yet fierce inside…ready for a fight. My awareness was heightened, as I kept walking and turning back to check and see that he was not following me, until I made it back to my place.

I suppose I might've been in sort of a daze, because the reality of what just happened hadn't caught up to me yet. It was only after I placed a call into the non-emergency campus police to notify them of the event and after I shared what happened with my friends and family, that I then felt the tightness in my chest. It was my body remembering the event, almost like the traumatic energy was trapped inside. I kept thinking back on what I could have done differently - I should have screamed out loud "NO! DON'T TOUCH ME! BACK OFF! I DON'T KNOW YOU! HELP!" or I should have let the heel of my hand strike him in the face so hard he wouldn't know what hit him. I should have kept my distance before I passed him. All of these thoughts came to me after the event - all of the strategies I had learned at IMPACT. I almost doubted myself, feeling embarrassed and ashamed that I hadn't done more; more for myself, more for others who were, could have been or will be victims of such events.

But, I thought, the bottom line is: I am safe. And I would have done all those things in my after-thoughts, had the situation truly required me to do so for my safety. Although I wasn't physically harmed, the man's intent of physically putting his hands on me should not be minimized and is a serious matter. It is NOT OK and NEVER WILL IT BE OK to lay a hand on someone else without their permission.

I feel like this event was a wake-up reminder, to stay on my toes, sustain my awareness of my
surroundings and never take for granted the value of my safety. I was proud of myself; I felt empowered. I trusted my instincts and my body. This wouldn't have been possible had I not taken the Core Program at IMPACT Chicago. I am forever indebted to this program and to my instructors, the assistants and my fellow classmates. I ended up sharing what happened with a few of my classmates and one of them expressed, 'I'm so glad you are  ok, so glad the training kicked in! I hope you heard me screaming "no" as loud as I could in your head when that happened. We stand for each other.'

That's how I will always remember it: we are in it together, all of us who face these kinds of events. We stand with and for each other, to say NO to violence and YES to life.

Linda Tran, IMPACT Graduate

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