Monday, December 30, 2013

Sexual Assault on College Campuses

Sonya Chemaly (2013) offers her assessment of recent incidents and research on sexual assault on college campus in “5 ways sexual assault is really about entitlement.” The highlights:

1. Sexual assault occurs in setting where there is tolerance of discriminatory double standards.

2. Sexual assault is related to rates of other types of violence, for example, intimate partner violence and stalking.

3. White kids from higher-income families were more likely to sexually assault a peer than others.

4. Male athletes are about 3 % of the US college population, but commit 19% of sexual assaults and 37% of intimate partner violence.

5. Almost ¾ of parents with children under 18 have never discussed sexual assault or domestic violence with their children.

Chemaly, Sonya. 2013. “5 ways sexual assault is really about entitlement.” Salon. Retrieved October 24, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

I Put What I Learned into a Real Life Situation

I had to put what I learned from class into a real life situation. I went to New Hampshire to visit a friend from high school this past Saturday. It seemed like a great idea to get my mind off of family issues that are going on. However, that night he was all sort of messed up on drugs and alcohol and I was completely sober (I don't like to let my guard down in unknown places). Around 3 am I was sleeping and he woke me up, on top of me, essentially pinning me to the bed. He was holding my arms above my head and trying to make out with me. I first told him, "It's Sarah, what the hell are you doing?" Because I didn't know if he thought I was another girl that was expecting him. And he said, "I know, I've been thinking about this all day, why do you think I invited you." To which I responded, "that was not in the invitation, you know I have a boyfriend and don't do this." He then told me to be quiet and just do "it". He went to go under my sweatshirt and I literally screamed "get the f**k off." He still didn't listen so I continued to yell it. He went to cover my mouth right as his other roommates came in and freaked out on him, pulling him off. I was about four seconds away from kicking him though.

At first I was so incredibly upset with myself. I couldn't believe that this was happening again. I just thought I must have a sign over my head that reads, "take advantage of me." But after I thought about it and talked on the phone with my boyfriend and emailed my therapist at school they both said how proud I should be of myself for not just letting it happen. Because out of fear that's what I would have normally done. But I found my voice and thankfully my voice was loud and strong enough to get the attention of his roommates.

So once again I just wanted to voice to you how incredibly grateful I am for this class. Not just for the immense knowledge I've learned academically [ IMPACT was offered in conjunction with an academic course] but the strategies I have learned to use outside of class in the real world. I'm still utterly disgusted that so many of these people exist but I'm happy to know I can fight them off now. Had this had happened without me taking the class...I don't even want to think about the consequences. So just thank you so very much again.

Sarah, Graduate of Prepare New York City

Monday, December 16, 2013

How Do Suited Instructors Stay Fit?

Being a suited instructor in IMPACT, we quickly realize that once we are on the mat with a student during a scenario, there is a lot we cannot control. That being the case, one of the few things within our domain is physical fitness – which is an essential part of being an effective suited instructor – and we take it very seriously.

A few years ago, I joined a new gym. Part of the cost of joining was one free (mandatory?) session with a personal trainer. I was not really interested in hiring a trainer, but I figured I would go through the motions for the session. He asked me what one of my fitness goals was, and I answered, “I need to be able to run around in 40 pounds of body armor for six to nine hours and be able to have about 75 – 100 fights, each lasting anywhere from five to 45 seconds.” The trainer looked at me quizzically, paused, and said, “Uh…what exactly do you do?”

As much as I thought that was funny, I really couldn’t blame him. IMPACT is unique in a lot of ways. Since there is no manual on how to stay physically fit enough to do this work, we all kind of do our own thing.

I try to keep a general fitness baseline with both cardiovascular conditioning and weight training. I like to do a lot of cross-training – biking, elliptical, running, swimming, aqua aerobics, push-ups, crunches – because it involves using lots of different muscles. When suited instructors are on the mat, we never know when we are going to need to twist in one way, or take a kick in an awkward position, so our entire body must be prepared for taking strikes and moving quickly.

And now that most of our classes are packed into one weekend (for years, the core class was over two weekends), stamina is even more important. So in my fitness training, I alternate interval exercises on some days, like sprints or step-ups, (to mimic the fights on the mat) with longer periods of exercise (40 – 60 minutes) to prepare for the long days of teaching. And general weight training is always good for tone and injury prevention.

Who knows – maybe when I retire from IMPACT, I will work on a fitness video for suited instructors, so the poor personal trainers at our gyms won’t be so overwhelmed.

Rob Babcock, IMPACT Chicago Suited Instructor

Monday, December 9, 2013

Self-Defense Can Stop Violence for Ourselves and Others

As hard as it is to believe for those of us who know what high quality self-defense is about, self-defense for women remains controversial. In response to a statement from an anti-violence organization that “…if you are promoting changes to women’s behavior to ‘prevent’ rape, you’re really saying ‘make sure he rapes the other girl.’ Lisa Scheff (Bay Area) and Lia Nagase (Prepare Portland) remind us that self-defense can stop violence for ourselves and others.

Lisa Scheff of IMPACT Bay Area says: “While changing the way you dress has no bearing on whether you are sexually assaulted, self-defense skills can and do prevent rape. Teaching women to recognize their own boundaries and say ‘no’ when someone tries to cross them, and then teaching them the physical skills to back up their ‘no,’ does indeed teach women to change their behavior. So in the case of self-defense, changes in a woman’s behavior may prevent her from getting raped. Not to mention, there are a whole host of other positive benefits even if the changes are never used to prevent an attempted rape, from speaking up in the classroom and workplace to setting polite but firm boundaries with family members when they cross our boundaries.”

Lia Nagase of Prepare Portland says: “The more times someone hears ‘no,’ the more difficult it is to ‘get away’ with perpetrating an act. The same message applies to boundary-setting, especially interpersonal boundary-setting. If someone encounters a ‘no’ from their partners about pushing, say, a lower-on-the-spectrum sexual boundary: is there a chance that the pusher could keep searching until they find someone who won't set a boundary? Sure. But is there also a chance that healthier boundary systems start to become part of their lens? Yep. Also, there's the attempt and work toward establishing a cultural norm of empowerment, choice, strength, resistance.

Related blogs In October, we shared insights from IMPACT Directors about the lack of relationship between how women dress and sexual assault, in November, we addressed why self-defense is NOT about “raping the other girl.”

Monday, December 2, 2013

What About the Bully in My Head?

On the weekend of November 9th, I took the IMPACT core program even though I don’t live in much fear about being attacked by an assailant. I’ve been taking public transportation in Chicago for 20 years and apparently I carry myself in a way that does not invite harassment. Still, the nightmare scenarios live in the back of my head that I might come home to a stranger hiding in a closet or wake up to find an intruder in my bed.

The goal of IMPACT self-defense is to incapacitate your attacker so you have time to safely walk away and call 911. One of the most valuable lessons IMPACT taught me was that a big unarmed man against a small unarmed woman does not have the advantage. I learned that if I can get in a good strong kick to a guy’s groin, chances are the fight will be over. More than that, I got the opportunity to practice physically slamming my knee/hand/butt into another person so I could get these moves into my body memory. If a man grabs me from behind or I wake up to find him sitting on top of me, how do I position myself so my knee is in the right place to slam into his crotch? IMPACT has shown me how.

As the weekend went on my classmates described how much more powerful they felt, but I didn’t share the feeling. As I obediently learned the moves, I felt increasingly detached from the class. Why? I eventually realized it was because IMPACT wasn’t helping me with my fears. I wasn’t afraid of men. I was afraid of the bully that lived inside my head.

A highly sensitive child, I took all my mother’s and society’s criticisms to heart. As a result, a cruelly judgmental voice has dominated my mind for as long as I can remember. That was the attacker I helplessly battled every day and no amount of throwing around male instructors could touch it. On Sunday morning I broke down in tears, telling the group how angry and scared I was that I couldn’t stop the asshole in my mind unless I took a knife to my brain. Our instructor was wonderfully responsive and everyone gave me as much time as I needed to express myself. I felt grateful that my strong emotions didn’t seem to make anyone uncomfortable. I felt heard.

As that final day went on, I began to feel less hopeless and more mentally present as we cheered each other through our “graduation” exercises. In the days that followed, I expected depression, since that’s the stress response I tend to have, but that bleak feeling didn’t return. Maybe going through the physical moves of fighting off an attacker resonated in my psyche. I don’t think IMPACT has made much difference in my physical safety, but it might have helped my inner feeling of safety. Maybe the body can teach the mind how to defend itself.

Regina Rodríguez-Martin
My blog: Chicana on the Edge