Monday, January 31, 2011

Calmness in Crisis

For the last three years, I commuted to work by bicycle (year round) on the bike/pedestrian path along the lake without incident. I worked at a restaurant so I often was returning home as late as 11 or 12:30 at night. For my job, I had to wear very formal clothes but was not provided with a locker like most other employees so I often carried my work clothes on a hanger draped on my handlebars. When I first started riding, I used to plan on using my heavy bike lock as a weapon if attacked. I never carried pepper spray. On the night in question, my work clothes were blocking access to my bike lock. I was also carrying a large over-the-shoulder purse instead of my usual backpack. I was not listening to music or anything, but I was lost in my thoughts, not paying attention to my surroundings.

I ride a very old bike and other cyclists pass me all the time, though this night it was 12:30 and there were very few passerby. Suddenly, there was another bicyclist riding alongside me shouting “Give me the bag, bitch!” and holding a foot-long kitchen knife high above his head. I didn’t give it to him, screamed and he kept riding closer to me until I swerved off the path onto the sand. He didn’t shove me or anything; in fact, there was no physical contact the whole time. But I hopped off my bike and then we were standing face-to-face. He held the knife above his head again and said “Give me the bag, bitch! I’ll cut you, bitch!”

At first, I screamed loudly again. Then I realized no one else seemed to be along the path and I stopped screaming. Astoundingly, although hyper-alert, I became incredibly calm. I said, “Well, I don’t wanna give you my whole bag; I’ll give you some cash” and I started taking out the contents of my bag piece by piece. Then he said “Hurry up, bitch! I’ll cut you bitch!”
“See, these are my work clothes; this is a dress so you don’t want that right?”
“Uh, naw, keep that,” he said. “Hurry up!”

With a slightly annoyed but patient tone I said, “I will, just give me a minute.”

The only cash I had ($10) was a wad of singles in my purse and I took a few out and gave them to the mugger as I began to empty its contents. He saw my iPod inside and demanded that and my wallet so I gave it to him, but not my whole bag or my whole purse inside. I took out my cell phone and put it in my back pocket. “What was that?! You put something in your pocket!” he shouted. I replied, “Don’t worry about that. I’ve got some more cash in here.” (And he did, indeed, forget about the phone.)

I tossed out the rest of my money onto the ground, a few other sundry things from my bag. “This is a tampon, so you probably don’t want that,” I said. “You don’t have to throw sh** at me!” he said. Then, “Give me that black bag!” so I tossed it to him. “That’s just my make-up in there,” I said. “You can keep that,” he said and tossed the black bag back to me. He appeared a bit nervous and got on his bike. “Be on your way,” he said as he began to ride away, but it sounded mumbled. I said, “What?” and he said, “Be on your way.”

I picked up my belongings, pulled out my cell phone and called 911. About 2 minutes later, another bicyclist was riding by and I asked him if he’d wait with me for the police and he agreed readily. The squad car had a hard time finding us (despite the fact that I knew my location within two blocks). When they arrived, I told them what happened and they were polite enough but said, “So, you don’t want to file a report, ‘cos he only got ten bucks?” I was incredulous a moment and took a breath. “I’m calm because I want to explain to you what happened—it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a big deal. He can’t just go around waving a knife at people. Yes I do want to file a report.”

One of the most disturbing aspects of the incident to me was that I had no idea how to defend myself physically; it seemed like I froze up. I considered seeking psychotherapy, which I do think has a place, but I decided what I really was looking for was to feel more capable of defending myself. It was a significant financial investment at the time to enroll in the IMPACT program, but it provided what I needed. Reflecting on the incident, I know that I have the ability to find a type of calmness in a crisis situation and now I have other tools to respond with.

I don’t know how I could have moved forward with my life or discovered this type of confidence without IMPACT. Thank you so much and I look forward to finding a way to volunteer with the organization.

SH, IMPACT Chicago Core Program grad

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thank you 2010 IMPACT volunteers

Tuition covers only about 75% of the cost of IMPACT Chicago programs with the other 25%
supported by donations and volunteer labor. Thank you 2010 IMPACT Chicago volunteers.

Lisa Amoroso
Mike Armato
Julie Aubry
Rob Babcock
John Baumgardner
Cathie Bazzon
Amanda Crawford
Paisly DiBianca
Maureen Dunn
Carla Eisenberg
Leslie Eto
Joselyn Galvez
Eileen Gelblat
Sarah Grove
Debborah Harp
Antjuan Kee
Naomi Love
Jim Lucas
Abi Lynn
Erica Meiners
Mark Nessel
Molly Norris
Colleen Norton
Jennifer Norton
Clara Orban
Lauren Perez
Liz Pfau
Diane Piszczor-Rink
Mary Reynolds
Sandy Romero
Ben Ruiz
Caroline Schreiber
Jessica Schreiber
Arden Schuman
Lena Singer
Katie Skibbe
Eryn Smith-Moeller
Robyn Stellman
Brett Stockdill
Martha Thompson
Samantha Turner

Carrie Villa
Margaret Vimont
Vanessa Vincent
Amy Voege
Paul Whitlock
Robyn Whitlock
Nat Wilson
Amy Winston
Shira Zisook

To find out more about becoming an IMPACT volunteer, contact Jennifer, Graduate Volunteer Coordinator at

Monday, January 17, 2011

IMPACT just may have saved my life.

I took IMPACT about 2 years ago. I was recently attacked on my way home from school. I was
taking a short cut through an alley when a man grabbed me from behind.

It was seriously like slow motion yet all happening at once. I remembered everything I was taught and just acted. I don't even remember everything that happened since it was so fast. He
grabbed me from behind and I know I did the butt hit. That nearly knocked him down because
he totally was not expecting it. He then went for my legs and knocked me over (this was before
the snow hit, so the ground was really really hard). He was saying stuff to me but I honestly don'tremember what it was.

I remember twisting in his grip and getting a lot of kicks in, mainly his torso. He really was not
expecting what I was doing. I know I got a kick into his groin and then my knee collided with
his nose (all of this was done on the ground). The crunch was really loud. He was lying on the
ground, fetal position with blood just pouring out of his nose.

A woman on the second floor of an apartment saw him grab me and immediately called the
police. I don't live far from the 17th district police station so I was really really surprised and
freaked out when the police showed up not two minutes after the woman called. A patrol car was
only 3 blocks away, so that's why it all happened so fast.

The woman also said I was screaming NO really really loud but I honestly for the life of me do
not remember screaming. I just know most of it took place on the ground because I knocked
him down. The cops pulled up in the alley and everyone was shouting and screaming and then
one cop had his gun on the guy and the other officer was pulling me away, trying to get me to
stand up. Before I knew it the guy was cuffed and in the back of the squad car and I was in an
ambulance. I was in shock for a good 24 hours afterward.

So those are the details that I remember. That butt hit is what did it. I know that my legs are
much stronger than my arms, I've always known that. So my body just took over. The whole
experience looking back on it is just really really surreal. You can share the details. People
should know that the butt strike does work. Especially since women are typically stronger in
their lower bodies and legs.

I have a court date in January, he's looking at 10 years for aggravated assault with a weapon (the cop found a knife and a rope in his coat). He's going away, from what I know me showing up is just a formality. They really do not know what he was planning since he just took the first deal
that was offered to him.

The D.A. asked me how I managed to defend myself. I told her that I took self defense classes.
She asked me where and I told her about IMPACT Chicago. She said she would look into your
organization and recommend your classes to women who've been abused. So score on that one as

Anyway, I'm alive and I'm ok and he's in jail with a broken nose and his balls in his throat. I just
want to thank you. What you taught me just may have saved my life. Thank you.

Megan, 2008 Northeastern Illinois University Core Skills graduate.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

IMPACT Chicago: Committed to Ending Violence

What is the IMPACT Chicago mission?
IMPACT Chicago is committed to ending violence and building a non-violent world in which all
people can live safely and with dignity. For more about the IMPACT mission, visit http://

What is IMPACT?
IMPACT is a personal safety, assertiveness and self-defense training program. It is part of
a comprehensive effort to prevent sexual assault and other acts of interpersonal violence and
boundary violations. IMPACT is an international affiliation of independent chapters. Each
IMPACT chapter has its own organizational structure and programmatic focus. For more about
IMPACT International, go to

What does self-defense have to do with violence prevention?
Our key values are that both individuals and communities are responsible for safety and violence
prevention. We believe that women and girls are powerful and have the right to control their own bodies and set boundaries. To prevent violence—whether against oneself or others—individuals must have confidence in their awareness, assessment, and verbal skills in order to set and maintain boundaries and to deescalate potentially explosive situations. IMPACT is based on the idea that confidence in one’s own body and physical tools is the foundation for all other self-defense tools.

Why are men involved in a women’s self-defense organization?
We believe that men are and can be allies. We implement our mission by creating female-male
teams led by female instructors. Our female and male instructors demonstrate the possibilities for women and men to work together to end violence.

Is IMPACT just for women and girls who are physically fit and have money?
We work with diverse groups of people--gender, race, class, sexuality, age, and physical ability
and create classroom environments in which people learn individually and collectively. We serve
women and girls (including transgendered people identifying as female) ages 14-70. We do
outreach in various communities, offer financial assistance to individuals, and offer workshops
for organizations serving low-income groups.

Why does IMPACT make it a priority to work with other organizations?
Although we are effective, no one organization can singlehandedly combat sexual assault and
domestic violence, therefore, we work collaboratively with other organizations that directly
address violence, its roots, or consequences. Our vision is that self-defense training is an integral
part of violence prevention and to be most effective must be offered in conjunction with other
support services.

What did IMPACT accomplish in 2010?
IMPACT Chicago served over 1500 people during 2010 through our program offerings
(Core Program, Core Skills, Advanced courses, and workshops) and through social media (e-
newsletter, Facebook, and Twitter). Through our programs, almost 700 participants learned a
range of self-defense skills and through social media another 900 participants had access to self-
defense information that increased their awareness of violence and self-defense strategies. With
over 23,000 visits to our website, IMPACT Chicago also provided people not affiliated with our
programs access to up-to-date self-defense information.

What are IMPACT Chicago goals for 2011?
For 2011, IMPACT Chicago will be mission-driven:
•Increase the number of women and girls in Chicago who have the tools to prevent, minimize, and stop violence.
• Increase the accessibility of our programs with a focus on increasing the numbers of African American women who participate in IMPACT self-defense training.
• Increase professional development and personal growth opportunities for staff, instructors, and volunteers.
• Make explicit a collective philosophy, standards, and system of support and accountability for internal interpersonal communication.

Martha Thompson, Director and Instructor
IMPACT Chicago