Monday, October 29, 2012

Running All the Laps of the Relay Race

Since her arrival in June, Julie Curtis (left), incoming Executive Director, has been meeting with Martha Thompson (right), IMPACT Chicago’s long-time Director, to transfer knowledge and carry on the IMPACT Chicago legacy. Together, they further IMPACT’s mission to end violence and build a non-violent world in which all people can live safely and with dignity.

There is much to learn. Julie says: “Martha has 25 years of experience and I am just 4 months into the transition, I estimate that right now I know about 16% of what Martha knows about IMPACT.” Martha says: “No doubt experience matters, but I believe IMPACT will benefit greatly from Julie’s  fresh perspective on how to administratively support the IMPACT Chicago mission.”

In addition to teaching classes on verbal boundary setting and physical self-defense classes, IMPACT also offers workshops in schools, shelters, and workplaces. Julie is getting to know the full range of IMPACT Chicago’s offerings, as well as the general operation of the organization. As part of  becoming the Director, Julie is participating in as many IMPACT programs as she can to understand the IMPACT Chicago approach and to finish the instructor training she started in the DC IMPACT program. Since its start 25 years ago, IMPACT Chicago’s mission has been to bring self-defense training to people of all economic, racial/ethnic, and social groups. Through graduate donations and grants, IMPACT Chicago has a long tradition of bringing programs to people 12-70+ of different economic backgrounds, ethnicities, races, and sexual orientations. Julie is committed to continuing and expanding this work and plans to reach more youth, women of color, men, the LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities.

By AC Racette. IMPACT Chicago Assistant Director

Monday, October 22, 2012

The techniques keep working

AC Racette, IMPACT grad 1996

Summer brought a lot of construction to Evanston and Northwestern University. New signs cropped up, traffic was redirected, and we were urged to drive slowly and arm ourselves with patience. Pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists can share the road, no?

Not so for a car driver who, oblivious to the new pedestrian-crossing sign on Sheridan Road on the south end of campus, screeched to a halt, just inches from my leg. I was heading home from work, walking over a zebra crossing. For a second, I stood still—not out of fear, but out of surprise. What was this? A torrent of obscenities was pouring out of the car. The driver’s screaming attracted the attention of a half-dozen construction workers. In a second, I thought through all my options: Would he calm down if I stood my ground? Would he dart around me? Would he try to intimidate me by revving his engine? Would an impatient car behind him swerve around and put me in danger if I kept crossing the street? And what could I expect from the construction workers witnessing the situation?

Then after the surprise, the self-preserving anger: How dare this frustrated person put my life in danger? How dare a stranger pour his virulent hatred on me just because I happened to cross the street during his moment of inattention? How dare he be so irresponsible with the safety of so many students and pedestrians? How dare he treat me like dirt with his hateful, sexist speech, when the error was his?

Before IMPACT training, I might have scurried away, mortified by the insults, wondering what I had done wrong. But instead. I found my big voice. I told him the traffic sign applied to him, that he was out of line, and that he should be ashamed of his language. I finished crossing the street, head held high, walking at a stately, steady pace. The motorist peeled off. The construction workers expressed
sympathetic support. Pedestrians shook their heads in disbelief.

I learned that, seventeen years after my IMPACT training, the techniques keep working. I paused without panicking. I assessed the situation. I used the adrenaline as it came up. I acted. I used my voice. I moved calmly to the safety of other people, ready to get help if I needed it.

We live in a world where so many people are at risk for reasons out of their control. We are fortunate: we have access to IMPACT training. One person at a time, IMPACT graduates react to potential violence and abuse, and counter it. If you know someone who might be in my situation one day, do her a favor: tell her about IMPACT. She will thank you.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Looking forward to IMPACT: Josie, Co-founder of Chicago Party Animals (CPA)

Interview by Julie Curtis

I’ll just start with, “Josie’s really cool!” As I walked into the CPA space, it struck me how the place is so  pointedly designed to welcome the humans and animals that come to socialize here. Co-owner, Tim, credits Josie with the CPA vision.

And there she was, completing the presentation: turning chair seats into the space as if to say, “Come in, sit here!” That’s when Mr. Big “pugged” his way over to me.

“Hi, Josie! I’m Julie Curtis from IMPACT Chicago.”
“Hi, Julie! We’re just getting ready for Waggin’ Wednesday; the food trucks, people,
and dogs will all be flooding in after 6pm.”
“Yes, I’m really excited to support The Puppy Mill Project this evening!”

Josie and Mr. Big

“So, how are you feeling about taking IMPACT?”
When I was a kid, I was in karate. I was raised in Gary, and I used to get jumped a lot but my mom put me in Tae Kwon Do [which I ] probably [did] about 6 years, and then I just got away from it, and then I was taking Krav Maga a couple of years, then I was at POW for a little while. I wasn’t consistent with it because I didn’t have a set schedule. Then I saw the [IMPACT] video and I said, you know, let me get back into it
and see what happens. I liked the enthusiasm on the video.

“What are you looking forward to most about taking IMPACT?”
I like the camaraderie. I think that’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m on a mission to loose 30lbs so I want to get more active [and] actually for protection purposes even more importantly. I mean it’s amazing how much stuff is happening here in Chicago. [Y]ou know it’s always been bad, but now we’ve really become numb to every day violence, it’s like if there’s not a shooting in a day it’s like something’s wrong. It’s every place. And I’m out with my dogs a lot.

I have my dogs for protection. And I have my girl, Diva, she’s my Rottweiler, and we’re about to adopt a pit bull and of course there’s Mr. Big. (he’s now contently sleeping on the couch next to her). No one ever messes with us if I’m out with Diva, of course she’s pretty big at a 100lbs. They see her and cross the street. But if I’m alone…

I really don’t want to put my dogs in a position where they’d have to do anything. You know, knowing how things get turned around… like the way people feel about pits and rotts, our dogs would get put down even though they are just protecting us.”

Thus, organizations like “Don’t Bully My Breed” and several others are needed to educate people and advocate against cruelty to these breeds.

Any questions for me?
“I saw also that there’s advanced classes, I’d definitely be interested in that.”

Sure, once you’ve done the Core, you’re eligible to take the Advanced Course. There’s one in December, so after the November Core here at CPA, you’d definitely be eligible.

Monday, October 8, 2012

IMPACT and CPA: Partners in Ending Violence

During my transition into IMPACT Chicago, and as I was learning about our Core programming, I heard we had a course scheduled in a new location, C-P-A. CPA stands for Chicago Party Animals. Admittedly, “Party Animals” is not a phrase I’d have associated with IMPACT…However, after learning more, especially after attending a CPA sponsored “Waggin’ Wednesday” event, I can see the fit.

While IMPACT’s mission is to end violence against humans, Chicago Party Animals focuses on ending violence against dogs. Like IMPACT, CPA provides a safe and supportive space for learning and works within the community to increase awareness to help end violence. Not only am I excited that we are bringing the Core to a new neighborhood, I am excited because preventing cruelty to animals is near and dear to my heart: I live with and love two dogs that were rescued from no-kill shelters and each is a survivor of abuse and cruelty.

Puck, a flat hair retriever mix had been returned from his 3rd home and because of his anxieties, it was questionable if anyone would take him again. He’s been with us for 9 years. Maggie, a shepherd-sheltie mix, was dropped off at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The vet who saved her felt that Maggie’s abusers had left her there on the last possible day of recue. The vet had to surgically remove an embedded collar from Maggie’s neck. Because of the damage to her neck and throat, we thought she’d never bark. But one day, a trespassing cat slinked along the top of a nearby fence and Maggie barked. She looked more surprised than we did, and we were very surprised! We were also so relieved to realize she could bark, so we laughed and cheered for her! Picking up on our delight and encouragement, she barked some more… Setting a boundary with that cat, she found her voice!

While I am happy to report these successes, the need to raise awareness and promote an end to violence against animals is immense. IMPACT’s partnering with organizations like CPA makes sense, because research indicates correlations between reoccurring acts of violence toward animals and later reoccurring acts of violence against humans. (Hensley, 2003; Bernard & Hogan, 1999). The ASPCA recognizes the ties between animal cruelty and domestic violence. You can learn more about the connection and what you can about it by going to their site,

Fortunately, there are people like Josie and Tim, the founders of CPA, who are working to raise awareness and help channel funding to organizations like Barriers Against Repeated Cruelty (BARC) where volunteers mobilize to aid animals in domestic violence situations. BARC is able to assist in saving lives and grant relief to women trying to escape domestic violence who might otherwise stay out of fear for the safety of their companion animals. In partnering with CPA to present the Core program this November, we complement one another’s missions to end violence.

Monday, October 1, 2012


IMPACT Chicago has reached thousands of people. Its goal is to reach people with disabilities, more youth, more people of color, and more people in the LGBT community in the years to come. On October 14, IMPACT Chicago will celebrate its 25th Anniversary. In a day of workshops, refresher courses, and interactive and creative activities, graduates of the IMPACT Core Program and people interested in IMPACT’s programs will come together to share, remember, and learn. 

As a long-time student of martial arts, Rachel has always been a fighter. But when a person she loved and trusted assaulted her, she found she was unable to do anything about it. The deep emotional wound outlasted the physical wounds, hampering her actions, her sense of safety and self, and undermining her quality of life. That is, until she walked into an IMPACT Core Program where she reclaimed herself, her dignity, and her future.

Rachel is now throwing off the burden of silence and stepping into her life again. She has become an advocate for IMPACT Chicago. “I found a will to live, other women to inspire my life, an organization that not only takes a stand against violence against women but is successfully changing the world one group of women at a time.” She says, “I recommend IMPACT to ANY woman at ANY stage and age in their life. It is so empowering.”

The first IMPACT Chicago (formerly Model Mugging) course was offered in 1987. Then as today, courses are taught by teams of women and men, with women as the lead instructor. As students face an instructor playing the role of an attacker with a personal coach by their side, they use their voices, their awareness, and their bodies to protect themselves. IMPACT Chicago holds that no matter a person’s size or age, she can change the course of events. For more on IMPACT Chicago history, check out
The beginning," “Building an organization, 1988-1990," and “How IMPACT got its name.”.

Come celebrate 25 years of women and girls reclaiming their lives! The event on October 14 will take place at the Knapp Children’s Center, 3145 West Pratt, in Chicago. 

To signup today, click here.

For more information, call (773) 561-9000 or visit

By AC Racette, IMPACT Chicago Assistant Director