Monday, May 21, 2018

Our words matter

A community was outraged when it was discovered that a janitor had drilled holes in the girls’ restroom at a local high school,  taken photos, and had the photos on his laptop. He was fired and charges were filed against him. But the community was left with a swirl of emotions.

In “Words a Powerful Response to Violence,” Empowerment Self-Defense Instructor Lynne Marie Wanamaker offers a path for addressing the ripple effect such an experience has on the whole community by using our words to connect with others and support survivors when people in our communities experience violence.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Internship with IMPACT Chicago: Connecting Women’s and Gender Studies and IMPACT

Much of my  internship with IMPACT Chicago has been  spent archiving the organization’s physical documents and photos. I appreciate being able to look back over a 30-year span and see the paper trail of the organization’s labor and dedication because it really gives me a fuller understanding of the organization. I have seen everything from grant proposals, instructional manuals, and conference presentations.One conference presentation  was on media portrayals of violence and implications for self-defense. Alena Schaim, Resolve (IMPACT in New Mexico) and Martha Thompson, IMPACT Chicago, analyzed popular media images and advertisements, examined assumptions underlying rape myths, and then reframed the images of violence, in order to challenge what the media makers (patriarchy) want us to believe and do. Violent images in the media do not only affect women, but they also influence men’s understanding of masculinity.
In the fall of 2017, I took a violence against women course, Just-321, and this conference presentation on Media  reminded me of an article we discussed by Quinn, 2002, “Sexual Harassment and Masculinity.” In the text they introduced the concept of “girl watching,” which is the phenomenon where a man or men come together to examine women for sexual gratification and humiliation. While they examined this concept in the workplace regarding the relationship between women and male supervisors, it can also be seen in various aspects of daily life through the media. Quinn stated, “Men see harmless flirtation or sexual interest rather than harassment because they misperceive women's intent and responses,” (p.389). We continue to find that, compared to women, men are less likely to define an act as being sexual harassment or violent in nature, and Quinn proposed that when women say, “men don’t get it,” there is actual truth behind these statements. Men do not understand women’s experiences due to the differences in their early socialization and their performative requirements of masculinity. Men tend to lack empathy for women because they lack the need to identity with women’s experiences, due to the male privilege granted upon them by the patriarchy. Men participate in girl watching because it affirms stereotypical-masculine behavior, and the dominant culture uses media subtext to normalizes images of gender-based violence.
          This  internship is aligned with my Women’s and Gender Studies program because it is offering me other tools that I can utilize when challenging hegemony. IMPACT is showing me how not just women in the rest of the world are resisting and creating change, but also how women in my own community are. I have also learned, for as long as IMPACT Chicago has been around, it is only one small branch of an even larger tree. I believe that IMPACT most identifies with third wave feminism because they practice intersectionality. IMPACT is inclusive of woman across all aspects of gender, race, class, and has also expanded their curriculum to create safe, healthy, and informed communities for women with disabilities. Their organization is a non-profit and has 10 chapters in the U.S. and two internationally, in the U.K. and in Israel, and are currently seeking to further expand globally. I believe they are also third wave because they rely on technology and social media outlets to form connectedness, in order to remain at the forefront of current research regarding violence against women, as well as advocating for women’s rights.

Stephanie Elyse Paredes, IMPACT Chicago Intern, Spring 2018
Quinn, B.A. (2002). Sexual harassment and masculinity: The power and meaning of “girl watching.” Gender & Society, 16 (3), 386-402.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Reducing violence against boys and men improves community safety

Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD) can play a role in reducing violence against boys and men and improve community safety.

ESD Instructors care about everyone’s experiences and believe everyone has the right to live free from violence. Self-defense has mistakenly come to be understood as solely a women’s issue and as primarily focused on physical responses. Interpersonal violence is a societal problem that affects all genders. Physical resistance is only one of many possible options for response. Men (from here forward men is inclusive of male-identified people of any age) have their own challenges to practicing and using behaviors that can increase their safety, make it more likely they will be believed and supported, and improve access to recovery. It is critical to address situations such as sexual assault and rape, bar fights and schoolyard conflicts, hazing and bullying, abusive parents and abusive partners - both for ones’ safety as an individual and to interrupt the cycle of interpersonal violence.

Our programs are guided by ESD principles. This includes examining the social and cultural norms that create vulnerabilities for specific populations, such as men, to be targeted for violence. Social norms can also be an influence when committing acts of abuse and violence.  Men’s safety may be at risk when they act out violence as well. They may experience physical injury even if they were the aggressor and they could be criminalized and/or face other consequences if they victimize others.

Men sometimes face choosing between being victimized, being an active bystander, or siding with the aggressor. For example, witnesses to bullying may be forced to decide whether to ignore the bully’s actions or speak up and risk becoming the next target. An individual may find themselves being both a target of violence as well as an aggressor.  In situations such as fraternity pledging, someone may be the target of tests of bravery, pain tolerance, and humiliation freshman year. Once a member, they may then test freshman in following years.

Space to be more authentic apart from adherence to gender scripts helps interrupt the cycle of violence

A classroom based on ESD principles facilitates an environment where men and boys can learn safety skills without the pressures of hierarchy and competition. ESD programs:
·        Examine the utility of gender scripts and “guy code” for responding to violence and reframe strength (not just brute force) and “winning” (anything to end or interrupt the encounter, including walking away and de-escalation).
·        Provide skills and tools where size, weight class, athleticism, and previous combative experience are not relevant.
·        Decouple fighting arts/self-defense from masculine culture and masculine spaces.
·        Minimize intra-student competition through practice and role-play only with instructors. Additionally, participants don’t receive rankings.
·        Make no assumptions about gender and previous knowledge - everyone gets to learn together.
·        Provide opportunities for participants to talk about their responses to this material, such as acknowledging that one doesn't like fighting, or that it is hard/scary/triggering to be on the receiving end of aggression, even simulated aggression.
·        Create space to connect with other men and explore emotions without reacting to them with anger, pride, need for control.
·        Provide a safer space to ask for and give support to others. This can be especially valuable for men who face constraints about reporting and asking for help, such as internalized shame and blame.
·        Value participants for who they are, regardless of their social status, money, success, or looks.
·        Honor choices about participation and limits.

Space to reflect on the lived experiences and abilities of oneself and others helps interrupt the cycle of violence

ESD programs explicitly provide opportunities for participants to share their own history of violent or abusive experiences and/or to hear about classmates’ lived experiences. For men it might be the first time that they share what it felt like to be targeted for violence. Many experience relief to learn they aren’t alone in their experiences and emotions.

In all gender or mixed gender classes, it might be the first time they become aware of the way people with different genders experience abuse and violence. They may learn how other people daily address safety concerns and how they organize and limit their lives to reduce their risk of being targeted.

In ESD programs staffed by mixed gender teaching teams, men get to experience being taught and coached by women as leaders in the class - an explicit choice to model less traditional gender roles. Observation of mixed gender instructors and mixed gender co-students invites men to expand their view of women’s capacity to resist violence, to lead, and to be strong in a variety of different ways. Many men leave class committed to be better allies to people of all genders.

Space to heal from experiences of violence such as abuse and neglect helps interrupt the cycle of violence

ESD programs teach valuable tools that may prevent interpersonal violence and help people heal. Research suggests a statistically significant connection between experiencing abuse and neglect as a child and being charged with criminal offenses as an adult. Participants may connect how their early experiences shape who they are now and provide insights into how they respond to triggers such as stress, verbal aggression, and intense emotions such as anger or rejection. Classes offer support, new skills, and alternatives to violence when aroused/adrenalized through grounding exercises, breath control and pacing. Role plays provide opportunities to explore strategic responses designed to match levels of response to levels of threat. Participants experience an embodied sense of power and safety that isn’t defined by control or domination of another person.

ESD programs examine gender role messages and how those messages may have influenced past behavior or beliefs. Young people socialized into hyper-masculinity and beliefs about distinct, binary, gender roles may perpetuate hierarchical systems that condone or encourage violent behaviors (sports team hazing) and may commit violence, sexual assault, and /or relationship abuse.  Research suggests that fear of emotions, gender role stress, and gender role enforcement are connected to violence against gay men and women.

Restrictive social and cultural norms are challenged as students learn and practice a spectrum of avoidance strategies and verbal skills.  Expanding response choices beyond all or nothing (punk out and cower or come back hard and go to blows) is critical for trauma survivors, for folks who might face unfair and severe consequences for self-defense, and for those who don’t want to use physical self-defense as a means to counter violence.

Ernest Wawiorko
ESD and Impact Instructor

Baugher, Amy R. and Julie A.Gazmararian. 2015. Masculine gender role stress and violence: A literature review and future directions. Aggression and Violent Behavior  24: 107-112

Jakupcak, Matthew. 2003. Masculine Gender Role Stress and Men's Fear of Emotions as Predictors of Self-Reported Aggression and Violence. Violence and Victims 18 (5)5 : 533-41.

Moore, Todd M., Stuart, Gregory L., McNulty, James K., Addis, Michael E., Cordova, James V., Temple, Jeff R. 2008. Domains of masculine gender role stress and intimate partner violence in a clinical sample of violent men., Psychology of Men & Masculinity 9(2): 82-89

Parrott, Dominic J. 2009. Aggression Toward Gay Men as Gender Role Enforcement: Effects of Male Role Norms, Sexual Prejudice, and Masculine Gender Role Stress Journal of Personality 77(4): 1137-1166.

Widom, Cathy Spatz. 1989. The Cycle of Violence.  Science 244 (April): 160-166.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Is Empowerment Self-Defense Only for Women?

No. Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD) is definitely for women, but it’s also for LGBTQ and gender non-conforming people. Sometimes it’s even for straight men. Here’s why:

ESD is about ending gender-based violence.
Violence based on gender is an expression of – and reinforcement of -- men’s unequal power over women in society in general. LGBTQ people and gender-nonconforming people are also targeted because we break society’s rules about gender.

Gender-based violence usually shows up in one of these ways:
·       harassment (on the street, at work, at school, etc.)
·       partner abuse
·       sexual assault
·       stalking
·       sex trafficking.

No matter if the target is female-identified, male-identified, or another gender, the person committing the violence is usually a man (see page 24). That’s because gender-based violence of any degree is part of a system of oppression – call it sexism, patriarchy, or male supremacy – that keeps women in a less powerful position than men.

Who can take ESD?
The decisions about who is included in ESD programs are based on the above facts, and those of us who teach ESD in the United States and around the world have different guidelines about who participates in our trainings. At DefendYourself in Washington, DC, all our public classes are open to all women, trans people, and gender nonconforming people. We also have some classes open to all LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming people. The only group we rarely offer public programs for is cisgender straight men (that is, men who were called male at birth and still identify that way, and who are straight). We do teach people of all genders when they take a program we’re offering to their group, for example, their workplace or faith group, or when they have another identity (for example as a person with a disability, or an immigrant) that makes them more likely to be targeted. We’ve made that choice because we want to focus on those who are targeted for gender-based violence.

We’re Changing Culture and Systems
We’re not looking at violence as individual acts; we’re changing culture and systems and structures that use violence to keep groups of people down.

Also, folks targeted for gender-based violence are targeted in different ways and with different kinds of violence than the ways, for example, that straight men are targeted.

Our culture and the way we’re raised also affects what strengths we have in standing up for, and protecting, ourselves. The reality of the kinds of violence Defend Yourself addresses in the classroom and the strategies we teach have to do with the skills and strengths of those who face gender-based violence. There are lots of programs that address what cisgender, straight men need. We’re trying to reach the people who need ESD skills: women, LGBTQ, and gender non-conforming people.

Note: There are ESD programs that teach these skills to men no matter their sexual orientation. That’s a reasonable decision to make as well.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Trust your own voice

I’ve always considered myself a fairly confident person; extroverted, happy in my skin and comfortable in my social interactions with people. 

However, when it came to work I found myself in awe of the professionals that I worked with. I didn't think I measured up to them. As I listened to them speak with such talent and wisdom, I was often too intimidated to offer my opinion, afraid of sounding stupid. I was often so frozen in thinking about how to articulate my point that I was often beaten to the punch by another colleague. 

Working my way up through a traditionally male-dominated profession and industry, I often found myself as not only the only woman at the table but the youngest person at the table. In an industry, like so many others, built on experience and influence, why should anyone listen to a young woman? 

All I knew about IMPACT before I registered for the Core Program was the fact that Gavin De Becker, author of the Gift of Fear, had cited IMPACT as the best self defense program for women. In. The. World. I assumed I would learn some physical moves, but I was not expecting my voice to play such a vital role in the process. 

Using your voice to say what you think sounds simple, and perhaps for many people it is, but putting it into practice takes, well, practice. 

Through IMPACT, I learned how to say what I wanted, with power, with authority, and without fear of any repercussions. We practiced using our voices, repeated our words, louder when necessary. Learning just how loud I can shout was a surprisingly satisfying while also chilling discovery. Most importantly, I learned to trust the words that came into my head and practiced verbalizing them. Not just thinking the words. Saying them. 

Gradually I found myself more confident speaking at work, sharing my opinion, contributing to conversations with what instinctively came to mind. Moreover, I found that I had a new well of power within me - I knew where my voice could go if I needed to speak with more authority or to a larger group; I had practiced at IMPACT. 

IMPACT taught me to believe in myself, to trust my instinct and trust my voice. When you trust your voice, others do too. 
Victoria, 2013 IMPACT grad

Monday, April 16, 2018

What’s In A Survey – IMPACT Social Media Survey Results

You might remember seeing some posts about a social media survey we hosted a few months ago. If you had the time to take it, THANK YOU! The information we got back helped us learn more about what matters to you! 

Here are 5 interesting things that we learned:

Facebook is where we connect most
The majority of respondents said they engage with the IMPACT Facebook regularly. So that’s really good to know. That means we’re going to start directing more of our energy to the Facebook page. Unfortunately for us, Facebook has changed the way that pages show up on a Facebook feed and going forward, it's less likely that we'll show up when you're scrolling your home page. So that’s a challenge we’ll be looking into. Fortunately for us, a lot of you also said you enjoy reading the newsletter – so we’ll also be able to use that tool to better connect with you.

Twitter was a no-go
IMPACT Twitter and Facebook have been around for the same amount of time, and while we’ve picked up a good number of followers, our respondents said – IMPACT is on Twitter? That’s right, most of you didn’t even know we had one! So we’ve decided to retire the Twitter account and put that extra time into Facebook.

Updates about IMPACT is your favorite content
Close behind that was educational information, new classes and self defense successes. You can expect to start seeing more of those topics from IMPACT in the near future!

It’s not just graduates we’re talking to
No surprise, almost 70% of the respondents were graduates of an IMPACT program. We love knowing that graduates are still so connected to IMPACT! Who were the other 30% you ask? That was equally as exciting and interesting. Parents of graduates, blog readers, friends of graduates, self-defense instructors not affiliated with IMPACT…the list goes on. So, while we are still mostly connecting with graduates, almost a quarter of the people that engage with us online are finding inspiration and information even though they never went through IMPACT. 

IMPACT still has work to do
Our demographics survey came back showing that most of the respondents identified as straight, white females. IMPACT is committed to making programs accessible to all economic, racial/ethnic, and social groups and we won’t stop until all people can live safely and with dignity. While we are reaching a diversity of economic, racial/ethnic, and social groups in our programming, the survey results show us that we have work to do to reach more communities on social media – and we plan to!

Thank you again to everyone who participated in the survey. After reading this, if you have questions or ideas, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

Arden Austin, IMPACT grad 
Cascade Reaction Consulting

Monday, April 9, 2018

Aaron: New IMPACT Chicago Suited Instructor

AC Christensen
Aaron Christensen (AC) is the newest member of the IMPACT Chicago Instructor Team.  He has completed the required attendance at a What is IMPACT program, rigorous interview process, observation of two Core Programs, and an intensive out-of-class training with instructors and experienced class assistants, wearing body armor customized just for him. He will be one of the suited instructors in the upcoming 2018 April Core Program.

Aaron brings a lot of experience to IMPACT. He is a certified Rape Prevention and Self Defense Instructor with the American Women’s Self Defense Association, and has worked internationally with Peak Potentials and Success Resources, assisting and leading motivational camps that incorporate martial arts and non-verbal tactics to de-escalate and/or end conflicts without compromising one’s safety or integrity of self (2013-present). He is an Elite-level personal trainer with Chicago Athletic Clubs, a professional actor, and one of the founding members of Not In Our House: Chicago, an organization created to combat sexual harassment and unbecoming conduct within the Chicago theatre community (2015-present). Welcome, Aaron!
Class Assistant and Board Member Janette
helping with AC's out-of-class training