Monday, December 26, 2011

Thoughts on Third Party Reporting

Katy Mattingly, University of Michigan
Author of Self-Defense: Steps to Survival

In April 2011 the Department of Education (DOE) issued new guidance to institutions of higher education noting that sexual violence of any kind is a form of sexual harassment, and therefore is illegal under Title IX. (That’s the same Title IX that prohibits discrimination in funding of women's athletics!) The DOE told schools that they are required to investigate any sexual violence that they know about "or should know about" to protect the survivor and the community. It's pretty radical guidance, actually. So many schools, for so many years have actively refused to investigate any complaint of sexual assault, harassment, stalking or intimate partner violence against students. Which means many perpetrators have faced ZERO consequences. Some of us are really happy the federal government is requiring more action!

At the same time, many advocates for survivors are afraid that mandatory investigations (whether or not the survivor wants an investigation) could have a number of negative consequences, including
*Loss of survivor agency, sense of control
*Lack of criminal or civil sanctions against perpetrators, thus dragging survivors through cases with no good outcomes
*Driving reporting underground if survivors fear they'll lose control of an investigation

At the University of Michigan, advocates have been organizing for months now to insure compliance with the new regulations. Some offices and staff on campus remain confidential for survivors (therefore, not required to launch an investigation against a survivor’s wishes). One of the many issues institutions are struggling with is how to adequately inform students about where they may report confidentially and where they can't. For example, disclosures to University Housing staff automatically launch a Title IX investigation under the University of Michigan’s interim plan.

I can see a number of comparisons to mandatory arrest laws passed regarding intimate partner violence - there I think most advocates and survivors would agree there are both pros and cons to those laws. I personally really like the idea that violence against women is a Crime Against The Community which the community takes seriously, whether the survivor feels ready to launch a personal lawsuit or not.

But I also take very seriously the idea that survivors are the experts in their lives, and that the ramifications of being required to investigate could be negative (no survivor at the University of Michigan will be required to participate in an investigation against his or her will... but they also can’t stop the institution from investigating.)

Finally, the Title IX guidance doesn't apply in cases of intimate partner violence. Which raises yet another issue - when does IPV begin? If the assailant was on a first date with the survivor? Second? If it was a hook-up but they weren't strangers?

It's complicated! Advocates and survivors across the country will be watching for the full ramifications of this new federal guidance.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Why Have a “Mugger?”

Mark Nessel, IMPACT Chicago Suited Instructor

In order to give women complete opportunities to develop the skills that they come to the Core program to develop, we have to provide them with a number of different things. We have to provide them with training to learn the skills, a safe environment in which to practice the skills, an opportunity to practice the skills, and motivation to use them to their fullest in practice. The Mugger serves that last bit, and it’s what separates our program from most other self-defense programs out there. Without the Mugger, why fight? Why keep fighting when it gets difficult? For that matter, without the Mugger, how difficult could it get?

The Mugger creates the impetus for the interaction, and then challenges her physically and tests her resolve to defend herself no matter what. IMPACT graduates have repeatedly had their resolve tested and know at a deep level that they have the determination and skills needed to protect themselves, no matter how hard the fight gets.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Real Knockouts

Katie Skibbe, IMPACT Chicago Instructor-in-Training
If you are interested in reading a book about self-defense for women, an excellent choice would be Real Knockouts: The Physical Feminism of Women’s Self-Defense by Martha McCaughey. Real Knockouts offers a comprehensive analysis of self-defense options for women including: padded attacker courses (e.g. IMPACT), martial arts, firearms and self-defense oriented fitness classes, and ties it into a broad view of what these courses mean to women collectively. The author attended and participated in each type of self-defense course, interviewed students and instructors, and provided facts about women and violence.
The author, Martha McCaughey, was once a self-described “frightened feminist.” Her background in Women’s Studies and Sociology had taught her a lot about violence against women, but not about stopping it. In fact, while researching convicted rapists she found herself coming home and checking her closets and other hiding places before she could relax. This led her to seek out a self-defense class.
In the beginning of “Real Knockouts,” McCaughey provides an analysis of why self-defense can be so difficult for women as it involves much more than learning how to hit, kick, or shoot a gun. Women must also learn how traditional female attributes (kind, docile, polite) make it easier for men to take advantage of and attack women. Martha found that it isn’t uncommon for class participants to apologize for hurting their attacker or smile while they are telling a man to “get away from me.”
The belief that women can’t defend themselves against men is deeply ingrained in our culture, but the truth is men don’t need to be particularly aggressive, strong or violent to rape they just need to convince women not to fight back. Self-defense training involves learning that women are valuable and worth fighting for.
Overall, I found “Real Knockouts” to be an excellent resource and a great book. I found myself identifying with many of the things McCaughey said and appreciated IMPACT training so much more.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Why Yell "NO"?

Antjuan Kee, IMPACT Chicago Suited Instructor

1. No allows for tightening of the muscles that protect the body from offensive strikes.

2. No activates breathing that enables a defender to maintain consciousness and supplies the body and organs the oxygen necessary for effective self-defense.

3. No allows a defender to strike with full force and speed without restriction.

4. No startles an attacker.

Most importantly

5. No represents deep compassionate feelings for oneself. The "NO" of IMPACT graduates represents facing whatever force threatens their well-being