Monday, July 25, 2011

Preventing Sexual Assault

As the mother of a very wonderful and sensitive young man, and being a self-defense teacher and women's empowerment advocate, I have had to deal with some very unpleasant conversations. Predominately, after getting off the phone helping some distressed woman or girl of which my son only overheard my side. As sensitive as I have tried to be about not damning all of male-kind, it definitely can seem that I dislike men.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Ask my male wonderful IMPACT instructors and the fantastic male Judo and Martial Arts instructors that I have had the privilege to work with. I can add to that my father, son and numerous other male friends and family with whom I have nothing but the greatest respect and love for.

But hearing only my side of the conversation, my young son would say to me, "Mommy, do you really think all men are bad?" My answer was, "I know it might sound that way but what is bad is violence. Unfortunately, many, many times violence is at the hands of men. If I was a man, I would be so upset with all of the bad men who make a bad name for me, a man. But I am not, so I fight against violence in the way I can. One day, you will find your own way to fight violence. The first step is going to be by being a good man and a good father."

One of the biggest controversies in the violence prevention world is whether we need to focus our work on victims/survivors or on the perpetrators. More correctly, if we teach women to defend themselves we are saying that it is their responsibility and what we should be doing is stopping violence by stopping the perpetrators. The answer, in my mind is, yes. We need to do both. We need to educate against violence. We also need to educate that protecting one's body is a universal right. I purposely wrote both of those statements gender neutral.

This past year I have seen more and more groups and ads being created by men against violence; men against rape. I hear my colleagues talk about their male advocates and how they are creating programs that build on healthy communication between the sexes. I have posted links to some strong videos done by young men who speak out against rape. I am proud of the growth in awareness that I see in this area. I am even prouder of the cooperation of both genders to raise awareness and be vocal in our fight to end violence. And yes, it is a fight. 

So today, I am throwing down a gauntlet. Men, go to Print it. Hang it in your office, on your fridge, your dorm door, in the bathroom at a local bar or restaurant, or any place you are willing to make the statement "I believe in this!" 

And women, you know what my advice is for you :-)




Monday, July 18, 2011

Why do I have to wear a beard to go running at night?

Can you imagine? I was just told a story of a woman who literally put on a fake beard and disguised herself as a man, so that she would feel safer running alone in Chicago. She had odd working hours and she liked to run. Rather than just give up an exercise she enjoyed, she created a “work around” in her life. It worked – for her. But doesn’t it make you mad to hear about it? How many times in your life have you created a “work around” to feel safe, or at least safer.

For example, when I choose my social activities, I always consider how I’m going to get home.

Do I spend more money on cabs than my male counterparts spend? Yes.

Do I carry a big bag with my tennis shoes just in case I have to walk farther than expected? Yes.

Do I call my friend when I get home so she knows I got home safe? Yes.

Do I think my male friends go through this same kind of pre-event planning and post-event safety check?

It’s just something that has become part of my everyday life.

We create our own version of safety rules for our loved ones and ourselves. And for good reason. They work. They make us feel more secure. I’m an IMPACT grad and I do these things. I know how to deliver a knockout blow, yet I still remain vigilant.

I can’t imagine what it must be like for women and girls who receive no self-defense training at all. Maybe that’s why I am so passionate about making our programs available to as many women and girls as possible.

You can help us spread the word about upcoming IMPACT Core Programs by emailing, texting, and calling your friends, family, and coworkers. You can bring someone to the “What is IMPACT” speech and demonstration on the last day of class. You can even volunteer to share your story of what IMPACT has meant to you.

I believe all of us who have been empowered by IMPACT have an opportunity to truly make a difference – one woman at a time.

Here’s to a safe and happy summer, with no need for disguises.


Monday, July 11, 2011

What is our big picture view of violence and self-defense?

IMPACT is based on an understanding of violence, particularly gender-based violence, as a widespread social problem perpetuated by imbalances of power and disrespect for others. We share an understanding that intersections of gender, race, class, sexuality, age, national origin, disability affect how an individual may be targeted and respond to violence.

We believe that regardless of age, size, and physical abilities, people are powerful and capable of self-protection. We believe that IMPACT self-defense training is an essential part of a broad vision and comprehensive strategy to prevent abuse, respond effectively to violence, support healing, and create social change.

What kind of an organization are we?

We are a nimble organization. We are mission-driven with clear manageable goals. We are efficient, effective, and selective – meaning we minimize work that does not clearly push our mission forward or is not required for fiscal solvency. Our mission and programming are at the center of our work. Our organizational structure spreads out responsibility for the work required to keep our mission and programming going across three key groups: Board, Instructors, and Administration.

What human resources do we need to maintain our success and to grow?

The three major leadership structures (board, administration, and instructors) and the functions IMPACT Chicago needs to keep going are depicted in our organization chart (more on this in August!). An intrinsic part of our smooth functioning is that one or more people in leadership positions have a big picture view of the organization, understanding the important contributions each part makes and the interconnections among the leadership structures and functions and how they all combine to maintain our programs and mission.

Our Mission Statement

We are committed to ending violence and building a non-violent world in which all people can live safely and with dignity. By teaching self-defense, we provide women and girls with the tools they need to prevent, minimize, and stop violence. With that, IMPACT Chicago is committed to making its programs accessible to people of all economic, racial/ethnic, and social groups. IMPACT Chicago encourages the personal growth of people within the organization and supports their creative efforts to end violence and build a non-violent world.

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. We also believe that men are and can be allies. We implement our mission by creating female-male teams led by female instructors. We work with diverse groups of people – across gender, race, class, sexuality, age, and physical abilities – and create classroom environments in which people learn individually and collectively. We serve women and girls (cis and trans). We do outreach in various communities, offer financial assistance to individuals, and offer workshops for organizations serving low-income groups.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Leave room in your suitcase for IMPACT

My absolute favorite thing about travel is the people.

I know this may sounds crazy but I prefer staying in youth hostels rather than hotels. In fact, the last time I stayed at a hotel while traveling, I ended up spending all my down time at the local hostel and using my hotel room only as a place to sleep.  Because, well, if travel is all about the people then a hostel is one of the best places to meet them. I love hearing everyone’s stories – where did they come from, what have they experienced, what did they recommend, where were they going?

But something I’ve noticed during my travels is the abundance of adventurous but ill prepared women (myself being one of them!). No matter their destination or attention to detail, most of their travel stories included some harrowing encounter and narrow escape.

The problem was, as much as I detested hearing these stories, I didn’t know how to advise or even avoid these situations. I tried to do some research but found that resources for women travelers were few and far between.  Sure there were lots of travel agencies, tour groups and travel magazines, but real and practical advice just wasn’t a Google search away. So…I decided to do something about it. Together with my best friend and traveling buddy, I launched Girls Who Travel, a website dedicated to providing resources for women travelers. We had one goal – and that was to provide resources that kept women travelers safe and healthy.

Right away, I got in touch with someone I knew who had written a book on self defense for women to solicit her help in putting together a safety article for the site. It’s a great article – it provides really concrete tips on everything from locking up your home to taking taxis. But I always felt like something was missing. Yes – so your home is safe, yes – you’re protecting your drink at the bar. But what happens when you make that wrong turn down a street in Rome and find yourself on a dark road, cornered by a man intent on showing you his…er…manhood (true story)? What then?

It would be years before that question was answered. The answer, of course, coming in the form of a weekend long IMPACT Core class. IMPACT taught me what I had been looking for – not only the ability to truly defend myself but the ability to “LOOK” and “ASSESS” and of course, to say “NO!” It’s the gift I’d been wanting to give to the women I’d met over the years. When traveling, the skill of looking at where you’re going both during your trip and even while choosing your destination, at assessing the danger of your surroundings and your chosen country and of holding your boundaries even when you have no idea what the other person is saying – it can be a life saver. And the confidence of knowing that, when all else fails, you can kick some serious ass? Yeah, that’s pretty awesome too.

Of course, that’s not something you can teach in an article on a website. That’s why I’m so excited that Girls Who Travel is partnering with IMPACT International to provide discounts for all our GWT women across the world to experience the freedom of IMPACT. And it really is freedom that IMPACT provides – freedom from oppression, freedom from fear and freedom to explore the world.

Arden Joy
co-founder, IMPACT Chicago social media