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This self-defense class empowers people with disabilities to fight abuse

In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, the IMPACT:Ability training program is a self-defense class with a twist: It's specially designed to empower people with disabilities and teach them abuse prevention and safety skills. Special correspondent Tina Martin of WGBH reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now to our “NewsHour” shares.

    We have talked a lot lately about sexual harassment and assault. Last month, we reported on a group getting little attention, people with disabilities and how they are victims of sexual abuse.

    From PBS station WGBH, Tina Martin shows us how a Boston area program is looking to change that.

  • Woman:

    We’re ready.

  • Tina Martin:

    Christine Leary is learning how to gouge someone in the eye and run.

  • Christine Leary:

    Because I don’t want anybody to hurt me.

  • Tina Martin:

    Because you don’t want anybody to hurt you.

  • Christine Leary:

    No.

  • Tina Martin:

    This is a self-defense class with a little bit of a twist. It’s specially designed for people like Leary, who has Down syndrome.

  • Christine Leary:

    Its kind of fun.

  • Tina Martin:

    It’s a fun class?

  • Christine Leary:

    Yes.

  • The IMPACT:

    Ability training program is part of the nonprofit Impact Boston. The goal is to empower people with disabilities and teach them abuse prevention and safety skills.

  • Men and Women:

    No.

  • Woman:

    I’m not for sale.

  • Men and Women:

    I’m not for sale.

    Meg Stone is the program’s director.

  • Meg Stone:

    Every national, state or local study that has looked at sexual abuse of people with disabilities has found that people with disabilities, but particularly intellectual disabilities, are at significantly higher risk of experiencing sexual abuse.

  • Tina Martin:

    At least seven times more likely, according to unpublished data from the Justice Department, which was recently obtained by NPR. Stone says that’s because they are more vulnerable.

  • Meg Stone:

    They are too often taught to comply with the wishes of people without disabilities. You can run your disability service program much more efficiently if everyone eats the same breakfast and gets dressed in the way that you want them to and gets on the same van.

    But what that does is that it sends people with intellectual disabilities the message that their wants and their needs and their choices don’t matter.

  • Man:

    Please don’t touch me.

  • Man:

    Oh, geez, I’m sorry. I didn’t — are you like mad or something?

  • Man:

    No, it’s not you. It’s just that I don’t like to be touched. It’s my body, my rules.

  • Tina Martin:

    Mandy Doyle is one of the instructors at IMPACT:Ability and says these classes take every individual into consideration.

  • Mandy Doyle:

    Ways that people communicate differently, ways that people, their physical body might be different. So how can they access self-defense skills in a way that will work for them?

  • Man:

    Let me go! Let me go!

  • Tina Martin:

    And the scenarios they play out are very real.

  • Mandy Doyle:

    When we do the role play scenarios, another instructor plays the character who is the perpetrator. And I stand right next to them and help them figure out what they’re going to say, what they’re going to do with their body.

  • Tina Martin:

    Christine Leary felt pretty good at the end of class and says the most important part of preventing abuse is this:

  • Christine Leary:

    Tell someone you trust.

  • Tina Martin:

    It’s just one of many lessons the IMPACT:Ability team hopes Leary and the rest of the class never have to use.

  • In addition to the Boston area, IMPACT:

    Ability runs programs in Chicago, Santa Fe, and New York, and has plans to expand to Columbus, Ohio, in 2019.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Tina Martin in Randolph, Massachusetts.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What a terrific program. Let’s hope it keeps spreading.

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