Monday, December 11, 2017

IMPACT Online Survey: Help Shape IMPACT Chicago's Future

2018 marks the nine year anniversary of IMPACT’s social media presence. Think about that – in 2007 Facebook was just four years and Twitter was just one year old! Since then thousands of IMPACT graduates and supporters have engaged with IMPACT and it has been amazing to see how these sites have enabled us to share, connect, inspire, educate and grow.

But it’s been nearly a decade and a decade is a long time to keep doing the same thing. That’s why we want to start finding ways to improve our content and better connect with you. But in order to do that, we need to hear from you.

An IMPACT graduate has donated services from her consulting company, Cascade Reaction Consulting. They have put together a short 5 questions survey to help us learn more about your thoughts on IMPACT online.

It will only take a minute (maybe less!) but your answers will help shape the future of IMPACT.
Click here to take the short survey!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Being a Still Presence

Today I had to use the 5 Fingers of Self Defense, but in defense of another person.

I got on the train home and just after a few minutes a man became angry and started shouting obscenities at a woman sitting alone and encumbered with boxes directly across from him. His threats were violent and his body language suggested to me he was about to snap. She was stunned and terrified. One man spoke up, was shouted down by the angry man and he fled at the next stop.

I got up and walked to the woman and asked if I could join her in the empty seat next to her. She said "yes" and I sat down. Another man near me thanked me under his breath and also fled at the next stop. I said nothing to the angry man and made no threatening move towards him. I kept my bag loose and ready to use as a shield and prepared myself to intervene if the angry man continued his tirade and jerky movements. I made sure to say nothing to the man and keep myself neutral but alert and confident.

Once I sat he became still and quiet, glaring at me and then left after a few more stops before the train left the Loop. It took all my self-control to stay calm and loose but ready.

I made small talk with the woman after the angry man left and we discussed what happened. She wanted to scream and run from the man, and I don't blame her, his aggression was genuinely terrifying. But she said she thought that if she ran he would follow her and continued his abuse and possibly attack. I agreed, I felt that if I could inject my presence, a large man, as a buffer or a complication to whatever was on the man's mind I could stop whatever horrible story was about to unfold before me.

Sometimes that's enough to stop violence. Just being a still presence. Not threatening, no displays of power, just be there and support.

As to the other fingers, I "thought" by being aware of my surroundings and observing events unfolding before me. The other man tried to "yell" but that didn't work. She couldn't "run" but I could "run" to her aid, so I did. The fight never happened, and everybody is probably relieved about that. And this story is my "tell."

Christopher Lamitie
Advanced Green Belt
Thousand Waves Martial Art and Self-Defense Center

Monday, November 27, 2017

"Rape Culture" and Empowerment Self-Defense

In August, I had the honor of participating in a week-long strategy discussion concerning the development of the field of Empowerment Self-Defense. One of my contributions was to talk about rape culture – what it is, and how Empowerment Self-Defense works to change it. This is an adaptation of those remarks.
Rape culture refers to the ways that sexual violence is normalized and trivialized in our culture – from scantily-clad backup dancers to rape jokes. A recent, infamous example is the recording of then-candidate Trump’s comments to Billy Bush that was released in 2016.
I don’t personally love the term ‘rape culture’, because I think when people first hear it, they think about a culture of rapists, and it’s more subtle than that. Rape culture is insidious because it is largely invisible – it’s like the old saying, “A fish doesn’t know what water is.”
Empowerment self-defense recognizes a rape joke as a form of violence. It’s not overt physical violence, and it doesn’t warrant an overt physical response, but nonetheless it is something that causes harm, and can be defended against. And ESD teaches that small forms of violence can build into overt physical violence, so those small forms can function as an early warning system. Physical and sexual violence doesn’t erupt out of nowhere; even strangers will go through a testing process before aggressing on a victim. And of course we know that the vast majority of sexual violence is perpetrated by someone known to the victim – which would be terrifying if it meant that one day someone can be perfectly normal and the next day they’re a rapist.
Fortunately that’s not how it works. Empowerment self-defense teaches people to notice and respond to small forms of violence – rape jokes, for example, or seemingly minor boundary violations. Someone who texts me 300 times a day may just be overly enthusiastic and clueless, but if I tell them to stop and they don’t, I now know that they’re not very good at respecting limits that someone sets for them. Someone who tells a rape joke may just be going for shock value and the cheap laugh, but if I tell them it makes me uncomfortable and they react with defensiveness or dismissal, I know that they care more about their own agenda than respecting my wishes – and that therefore they’re not a safe person for me to spend time with.
And the really powerful aspect of empowerment self-defense is that it teaches people to attend to the meta-conversations – to notice when someone is trying to manipulate them rather than just responding to the manipulation; to notice who is in charge of the energy in an interaction, and to take charge of that energy as a way of increasing their safety.
And yes, sometimes it doesn’t work. Nothing works 100% of the time. So ESD also teaches easy ways to hurt people who are bigger and stronger than you enough for you to get away from them.
One of the realities that ESD contends with is that, because so many assaults come from known attackers, defenders can be unwilling to use physical defense because they aren’t willing to hurt their attacker. So ESD reminds them that strategic compliance is a valid option, and nothing that they do or don’t do makes it their fault that someone else chose to attack them. Increasing options and increasing choices also increases resilience. Maybe the most important thing empowerment self-defense does is to teach that no matter what happens, we have choices in how we respond.
Amy Jones, Violence Prevention and Self-Defense Program Manager at Thousand Waves Martial Arts and Self-Defense Center. Self-Defense is Not About Eliminating Risk was originally published 9/15/2017 in tyrft: Thousand Waves' Blog/Newsletter. Reprinted with permission.

From Amy's presentation for an ESD Global webinar organized by IMPACT Chicago Instructor Martha Thompson and produced by Yudit Sidikman: "Three Reasons for Feminists to Advocate for Empowerment Self-Defense." Amy addressed Reason #3: ESD Challenges Rape Culture. Look for an ESD-related blog the last Monday of each month.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Supporting a Friend Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted

In "How to be a Good Friend to a Sexual Assault Survivor" in Teen Vogue, Alisa Zipursky says:

Validate a survivor's feelings

Respect a survivor's choices about healing from the trauma

Stand with a survivor during dark and scary moments

Make it easier to give and receive support

Celebrate good moments in healing
                                                      Check in about what works best for your friendship

Read here for Zipursky's article in Teen Vogue

Monday, November 13, 2017

10 Ways to Change the Culture after #MeToo

Photo: Change from Within
In "USM Educator Offers 10 ways to change the culture after #MeToo," Kathryn Skelton writes about the work of University of Maine educator Kimberly Simmons. Here are highlights from Simmons. Read the full article here.

1) Believe yourself; believe others. 
2) Acknowledge the ways that sexual violence intertwines with racism.
3) Learn more about campus sexual assault and Title IX. 
4) Interrupt rape culture and address “toxic masculinity.” 
5) Protest the sexualization of childhood and be a savvy consumer. 
6) Learn about powerful resistance and activism. 
7) Know your civil, workplace and educational rights.
8) Include LGBTQ people in conversations about sexual assault and gender-based violence. 
9) Support comprehensive sexuality education and reshape rape culture into a culture of consent.
10) Consider training in Empowerment Self Defense.
Katherine Skelton. 2017. "USM Educator Offers 10 ways to change the culture after #MeToo." Sun Journal.

Monday, November 6, 2017

How Could I Not Intervene?

Margarita Saona
I am a bit shaken. No physical harm was done, but a lot of verbal abuse and I am not sure if I made matters worse by intervening...but I don't see how could I not...

I was walking to the grocery store and thinking how cool it was to see all these kids coming home from school on such a beautiful afternoon. I thought, "This is a nice neighborhood. These kids can walk home feeling safe." But as soon as I thought that, only half a block further, I saw an older woman standing by a car yelling at a teenage girl. The girl was standing against the fence of a building listening to her phone. The lady was getting into her car, but kept yelling at the girl. 

I was going to just keep walking when I did a double take and asked the girl if she was okay. She nodded imperceptibly but looked clearly afraid. I asked her if she was waiting for somebody and she said yes, her sister. I asked her if she wanted me to wait with her and she nodded emphatically. In the meantime the angry woman kept yelling at her all this vile stuff that started with saying "It says no trespassing! Can't you read!" The tirade included things like "You animals!" She basically accused the girl of being a prostitute. 

The girl looked to me like a young teen, maybe fourteen. She was African American or African (there are many African immigrants in my neighborhood). The angry woman was white. I am Latina, light skinned, with a clearly foreign accent. A couple of times I said calmly "We are not trespassing. We are on the sidewalk." She yelled at me to mind my own business and asked if I was the girl's mother, to which I replied that I was her friend. Finally, a school bus arrived, a girl stepped out of it and scurried away with the girl I had been keeping company. They did not look back. I stuck my head in the bus and told the driver what had happened and asked him to watch out for the girls the next day. As I walked away the lady yelled to me again to mind my own business. By now it was clear to me that this lady was mentally disturbed. I also talked to the crossing guard. This happened just a little bit further away from the area she would be watching as kids crossed the streets. She promised to be on the lookout. 

The angry woman had gotten in and out of her car several times during the incident and I have to say that there was a moment when I thought "What if she has a gun in the car????" Luckily nothing else happened, but I keep thinking of those girls and wonder if this interaction had happened before or if it would happen again. I wonder if I might have made the woman angrier by making her feel disrespected. (But of course, she was violently disrespectful to the girl). 

When I came back from the store I noticed that the woman was still in the car. Then I saw that the car had a "No trespassing sign." She was not referring to the building! She was referring to the car! It also had several plastic bags all over. I realized that I had read part of the story wrong. I thought the woman lived in the building on which fence the girl was leaning. My impression now is that the woman is probably homeless and lives in her car. I remembered that when my husband's grandmother had dementia one of her delusions was that there were kids doing drugs by her window. I feel all heartbroken: on the one hand I realize that this old woman must have a hard life and that she was not acting rationally. On the other hand, the kid was being terribly harassed and, I still believe, terrorized. In self-defense I have often heard that the mentally ill are more often victims than aggressors. But fear can also lead to violence. And things like dementia can also bring up deep anger and prejudices. I'm sad and still a bit afraid thinking the girl might need to wait there again tomorrow.

Days later: The event haunts me. I drive often down the street where it happened and I am always on the lookout for both the woman’s car and the girl and I wonder if they are okay….

Margarita Saona
Second Degree Black Belt
Thousand Waves Martial Arts and Self-Defense Center
Author of Corazon de hojalata: Tin Heart
Professor and Head of the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies
University of Illinois Chicago

Monday, October 30, 2017

What do Empowerment Self-Defense Students Learn?

Mona MacDonald, Lioness Martial Arts
For some people, “self-defense” brings to mind images of Bruce Lee kicking and punching (and spinning and flying!) to get out of a dangerous situation. No wonder people can feel intimidated!

By contrast, Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD) is designed for everyone. The skills are accessible to people of all abilities, and they’re designed to keep us safe in everyday situations, not just in violent ones. Consider some of the many ways our safety and wellbeing may be threatened – harassment, bullying, boundary violations, unwanted attention, sexual coercion, emotional abuse, physical assault.

ESD students learn a range of skills and strategies — giving them a range of options — to successfully deal with different kinds of unwanted situations. Students are empowered to choose for themselves what actions will be best for them in whatever situation they face. Students take home many tools from ESD classes including:

Accurate information increases our understanding of violence and our ability to assess safety risks and possible actions. In ESD classes, we address threats to personal safety, the many forms of violence in our culture, and how gender socialization, racism and classism impact safety. Common myths and misperceptions about violence and perpetrators are also dispelled using current research and statistics.

Awareness Skills
In addition to being mindful of the external environment and assessing the situation they are in, ESD students learn to understand and trust their intuitive feelings. Reading body language, recognizing when boundaries are being ignored or challenged, and projecting confidence are some of the skills students learn to use in their daily lives to help stay safe and in control.

One of the most powerful and versatile safety tools we have is our voice. In ESD classes, students learn to use their voices to stop or interrupt unwanted and potentially dangerous behavior. Skills include de-escalation, setting and defending boundaries, speaking assertively and YELLING. Students also use their voices to add power to their physical techniques.

Physical Skills
ESD teaches fighting as a last resort. The goal is to respond with sufficient force to get away to safety (rather than prolonging the fight to win or to punish). Students learn simple but effective physical skills, targeting the most vulnerable points on an assailant’s body. Unlike martial arts techniques, these skills do not require years of study and practice; instead, they are fairly easy to learn in a limited amount of time.

Resources for Healing and Support

ESD instructors can be a valuable source of information and referral to those seeking help with personal safety and trauma recovery. Students are provided current information about organizations and services available in their local communities such as hotlines, crisis centers and shelters.

Mona McDonald
Lioness Martial Arts
NWMAF certified self-defense instructor
Member of ESD Global Incubator

From Mona's presentation for an ESD Global webinar organized by IMPACT Chicago Instructor Martha Thompson: "Three Reasons for Feminists to Advocate for Empowerment Self-Defense." Mona addressed Reason #1: ESD Works to Stop Sexual Violence. Thank you to producer Yudit Sidikman. Look for an ESD-related blog the last Monday of each month.