Monday, July 16, 2018

Mark Nessel: Training the Next Generation of IMPACT Suited Instructors

Mark with his kids Sam and Sofie
The IMPACT core class is such a complicated and multi layered thing that the training and certification period for new instructors, which frequently seems unnecessarily long to people that are unfamiliar with the details of the class, is a one of the foundational elements of the success of the program.  The necessary skills can't really be put into practice in a laboratory environment, it's simply impossible to simulate all the possible permutations of what might happen in a class.  The only real way to effectively train staff is to utilize an apprenticeship model where staff in training are working in a class with real students under close supervision of senior certified instructors.
     There are no throw-away moments in the IMPACT core program.  Every interplay with the class or individual students is an opportunity to either enhance or diminish their learning.  IMPACT instructors are always "on", from the moment the first student arrives before the class until the moment the last one leaves.  Every interaction needs to be intentional.  The only way to learn this is from practice and the experience of the senior staff.
     While I'm no longer able to be in the suit, I'm grateful for the opportunity to share my experience with the next generation of suited IMPACT instructors.  We need this course and this organization now more than ever before.  Highly trained professional instructors are critical to the IMPACT program's survival and advancement of our mission of reducing and eliminating predatory violence against women.  I'm thrilled to be able to contribute to the mission through training new instructors.
Mark Nessel, IMPACT Chicago Instructor Trainer 
For more about Mark as a Suited Instructor, check out  "It's Time to Hang Up My Helmet."


Monday, July 9, 2018

Catcalling Citation Card

A group of creative people in Brooklyn came up with the idea of "Catcalling Citation Cards." Tired of dealing with street harassment, they designed a card to distribute when you want without having to give too much of your time to the people doing the catcalling.

To read more about the group and the ideas behind it and to download catcalling citation cards go here.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Bringing IMPACT to Native Women in North Dakota

Shanda with her daughter Madyson on the Turtle Mountain Reservation.

Ten years ago Shanda Poitra thought that spending the rest of her life with an abusive husband was the way things had to be. 

At the time she was raising three children and attending the University of North Dakota. She only signed up for an IMPACT class because she needed a gym credit.

Shanda could not have anticipated how much IMPACT changed her.

She found strength. She found her voice. She left her husband, returned to the reservation where she grew up, and began to build a new and better life for herself and her children.

Having IMPACT skills for herself was not enough for Shanda. As a member of the Turtle Mountain band of the Chippewa tribe, she wanted all the women in her community to have the opportunity to learn the skills to defend themselves. She convinced several tribe members to drive four hours to the University to experience IMPACT for themselves.

But even that wasn't enough. The need was much greater. According to the National Institute of Justice, 56% of Native women and girls experience sexual assault. Native women are murdered at rates ten times the national average.

Today, thanks to Shanda's fierce determination and excellent planning, instructors from IMPACT Boston are heading to North Dakota to teach safety and self-defense skills to more than women and girls on the reservation.

Meg Stone, IMPACT Boston, Executive director

Monday, June 25, 2018

Is Any Self-Defense Training Better than None?

As Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD) instructors talk more about their work, other self-defense practitioners and students raise questions. ESD Instructor Clara Porter answers some of those questions below.  
Is any self-defense training better than no self-defense training?
No. If you are taught physical self-defense in an environment where success means being able to fight through something every time and being able to power over another person every time, it is unrealistic, doesn’t address the realities of violence that women face, and it can damage women’s self-confidence.
Teaching solely physical skills does a disservice. From street harassment to sexual assault by strangers or familiars, physical tools are not always the best or safest option. There are many reasons women may choose not to fight back physically, particularly in situations with people they know and love. Women who have had a self-defense course with a narrow approach to every situation are not realistically prepared.  Failure in the real world after taking such a self-defense course can result in self blame causing psychological, emotional, and physical damage that is more harmful than if they had not taken a self-defense course.

By promoting Empowerment Self-Defense, are you disrespecting other systems of self-defense?
Promoting one thing is not necessarily tearing down something else.
Most self defense systems do not have the data to support their approach. We have the data to show empowerment self-defense works and is rooted in knowledge and experience built over the last 40 years. There is a basis for the claims we make.
The ESD model can be achieved by anyone who wants to teach self-defense and whose goal is to make people’s lives truly safer.

What are the benefits of Empowerment Self-Defense?
What I find most compelling is that after taking an ESD program, people experience increased confidence and feelings of self-efficacy and are more likely to intervene early in situations. They are also more likely to use their voices, to de-escalate, and to interrupt inappropriate behavior. Further, people with ESD training are more likely to report and are less likely to blame themselves.
One of the things I find very fascinating and we need more data to understand is the dramatic reduction in attempted sexual assault when comparing college women who have had ESD training with those who have not. What are the particular ways that women are embodying their ESD training that reduce attempted assault?

Clara Porter is the Director of Prevention. Action. Change in Portland Maine. She is certified by the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation and the Center for Anti-Violence Education. She is also a member of the Empowerment Self-Defense Alliance.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Chipping Away at Rape Culture with Girls' Emotional Self-Defense Training

In "We Can Chip Away at Rape Culture by Teaching Girls Emotional Self-Defense," Thu-Huong Ha writes about empowerment self-defense (ESD) programs that teach girls--preteen and teens--how to say an effective "No" while also claiming their emotional and physical space. 

She addresses:

  • The distinctive features of ESD
  • The importance of practice
  • Assertiveness is not aggressive
  • Recognizing boundary violations
  • ESD works
  • The Future is forthright
Check out the full article where she draws upon the insights of many ESD instructors, including:
No Means No Worldwide Lee Paiva, Sun Dragon Susan Shorn, IMPACT Boston Meg Stone, Defend Yourself Lauren Taylor, Breaking Free Nadia Telsey, IMPACT Chicago Martha Thompson, Safe Passage Lynn Marie Wanamaker.

Monday, June 11, 2018

IMPACT Chicago Instructor Retreat

2018 IMPACT Instructor Team

[front to back]
Martha                                              Rachel
Katie                        Margaret
Rob                     AC
Nat      Bruce

IMPACT Chicago instructors met for an all-day instructor retreat in May. We use our annual retreats as an opportunity to reflect on the past year and to look ahead to the future. Each of us co-organized  and co-led a portion of the agenda.

This year we addressed:
  • The language we use about consent in IMPACT for Girls
  • Language to increase LGBTQ inclusion in the Core Program
  • Optimizing teamwork
  • The hip toss to see how we could improve our teaching of it
  • Three major documents: the re-certification process, applying to be an instructor trainer, and the instructor coordinator position
  • Organizational expectations
  • 2019 Schedule
A dedicated group of people!

Monday, June 4, 2018

IMPACT for Girls: Reflection from M and her Mom

In May 2018, IMPACT Chicago offered IMPACT for Girls at North Park Elementary School (NPES). One of the participants and her mother who attended a final portion of the program shared their experiences.

Participant M, Age 11, NPES
"I felt more empowered and stronger than I thought I was, both physically and mentally. I was so proud of myself and my friends."

Liz Burgess, Parent, NPES
"I was overwhelmed by such a rush of different emotions all at once while watching my daughter work through the scenarios. I was scared for her. I was shocked by how real this felt. I was impressed by how she was able to handle herself with her voice and body. I was proud of the confidence and focus she exhibited while doing so. I was holding back the tears watching my beautiful, smart and strong girl rise up and take control of a potentially unsafe situation. Thank you IMPACT Chicago!"