Monday, July 28, 2014

Location, Location, Location

Earlier this year an IMPACT Chicago Instructor Team worked with a magnificent group of women at the University of Michigan. University of Michigan staff Katy Mattingly, author of Self-Defense: Steps to Survival, and Kellie Carbone were fantastic hosts for Margaret Vimont, Bruce Brio, and myself. The trip got me to thinking about travel and IMPACT.

While IMPACT Chicago would love a permanent, convenient, and easy-to-get-to location (with plenty of free parking!), we teach the class in a variety of locations around the city to make ourselves accessible to as many women as possible. We’ve heard over the years that location (in addition to the time commitment and money) is one of the reasons why women do not enroll. Folks don’t want to travel too far out of their way in order to take the class.

But after our recent foray to Ann Arbor, Michigan, I see this in a different light. I would never make light or dismiss anyone’s position on why they can’t make it to a certain class because I certainly acknowledge there are real-world limitations to getting around Chicago. But seeing how hard our hosts worked to bring us to Michigan, struggling for five years with bureaucratic red tape, apathetic administrators, fundraising to cover our costs – it did give me some perspective.

I mean, if this group can jump through this many hoops, wait this long in order to bring us to them, what are your hurdles to take the class? Again, not to say they aren’t real or do not need to be figured out – but seeing how long it took for this group to prevail, I feel confident saying that for most folks, we can probably work together to find a solution to your obstacles—whether it means you coming to one of our locations or you making it possible of us to come to you.

We’d love to have you in one of our classes soon – and will happily give you directions.  :)

Rob Babcock, IMPACT Chicago Suited Instructor

Monday, July 21, 2014

Falling Short: The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault

I have been thinking about “Not Alone: The First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault” since it was released last week. To help me sort through my complicated reactions, I turned to Martha McCaughey’s and Jill Cermele’s introduction to the March 2014 Violence Against Women Special Issue: Self-Defense Against Sexual Assault. When examined side by side, it is as if the White House Task Force repeated what McCaughey and Cermel identify as the inadequacies of contemporary rape prevention programming—a focus on information about rape, rape avoidance with special attention to empowering men to step in when someone is at risk, after-assault support, and state regulation and punishment of sexual violence . When I view the White House Report through McCaughey’s and Cermele’s lens, I can better understand my disappointment with the report: it falls short, it breaks no new ground, and it sustains the status quo of treating college women as helpless victims.
         So what is wrong with the White House Task Force Report? What is missing that contributes to my disappointment? To help me explain it, I will use an analogy. Imagine that you live in a city on a large body of water and people know the risks of drowning down to the decimal point. Imagine there are all kinds of systems in place to keep people from falling into the water plus lifeguards and emergency services are located in key places, support personnel are highly skilled in helping people recover from near-drowning experiences, and law enforcement excels at locating and bringing to justice people who push others into the water. I do not want to eliminate these structural supports for minimizing drowning, but I want to add the possibility that people have opportunities to learn how to swim. It does not mean that knowing how to swim will eliminate drowning or that people who can swim are at fault if they are suddenly at risk. It just means recognizing that most people are capable of learning how to swim and participating in keeping themselves safe if they are in the water.
       What McCaughey and Cermele identify as missing in current rape prevention programming is also missing in the White House Report: self-defense training. Instead, just like in our mythical city on a lake, the focus is on experts and bystanders saving people in danger without any mention of the considerable body of evidence demonstrating that women who have self-defense training are more likely to resist sexual violence than those who do not have the training. The message of the White House Task Force that women should focus their attention on awareness of risks and avoiding danger because only men can stop another man from rape and sexual assault is an obsolete message. I was hoping for a contemporary evidence-based message that self-defense training is an important component of any plan to protect students from sexual assault.

Martha Thompson, IMPACT Chicago Instructor and Director Emeritus
National Women's Martial Arts Certified Self-Defense Instructor
Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Women's Studies, Northeastern Illinois University

McCaughey, Martha and Jill Cermele. March 2014. Guest Editors’ Introduction. Violence Against Women Special Issue: Self-Defense Against Sexual Assault 20 (3):247-251.

The White House. April 2014. “Not Alone: The First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.”

Originally published May 2, 2014 on The Mindful Professor.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Traveling—Informed, Fun, and Safe

Thinking of doing any traveling? Check out these two resources:
GTW is for women who want to travel, not pay a lot of $$ to do it, and be safe. IMPACT Chicago is featured on the website under “Health and Safety.”  Founders: IMPACT grad and IMPACT Chicago social media tech coordinator Arden, IMPACT grad Dawn, and Debbie.

Traveling While Female is a blog on street harassment, sexual harassment, and sexual assault for women traveling to India and South Asia. Blogger Erin is a Ph.D. candidate in University of Chicago Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and a self-defense instructor at Thousand Waves Martial Arts and Self-Defense Center. She offers a perspective on common misconceptions about traveling in Southeast Asia and recommends many resousrces.

Monday, July 7, 2014

What's the Fuss About? Controversies about Self-Defense Against Sexual Assault

This blog is a repository of critiques or ignoring of self-defense and responses by self-defense scholars and instructors.

In recent years, there have been numerous on-line comments, articles, and blogs critiquing self-defense and its role in feminist and anti-violence movements. For example, in December 2013, Everyday Feminism published Danica Johnson's article "Ways to protect yourself from sexual assault." Online reaction was swift and brutal, charging Johnson with blaming victims for rape. Everyday Feminism removed Johnson's article and the comments. To get an idea of the reactions, see below in Susan Shorn's "The shark has pretty teeth, dear."

10 feminist reasons to advocate for self-defense, including the decades of research that provide evidence that self-defense stops rape and sexual assault and teaches men not to rape.

Addresses rape culture (shark's teeth), empowerment self-defense, and why empowerment-based self-defense is part of the challenge to rape culture.

Stone, Meg. September 14, 2010. A call forself-defense against victim blaming AND against rape. Presents reasons why it is important to hold perpetrators, not victims, responsible for rape and to offer self-defense with a social justice perspective.

Reveals the shortcomings in rape prevention by comparing to the approach to dealing with swine flu, the threat of which was a prominent news story in 2009.

Addresses the critique that self-defense training inherently blames victims and offers an overview of an empowerment-approach to teaching self-defense.

An overview of how a social-justice empowerment-based self-defense addresses the paradox of self-defense.

Four priorities in addressing the problem of sexual assault on college campuses:
·         More information about the problem with campus climate surveys
·         Engage men as allies and empowering them to step in when someone’s in trouble
·         Develop effective institutional supports for when a student is sexually assaulted
·         Increase transparency by posting sexual assault data and improving law enforcement

Addresses the value of self-defense training as providing a short-term strategy between the current situation and the days when bystanders will reliably intervene and as challenging the implication that women are inherently vulnerable and in need of protection.

Points to ways that the report frames women as damsels in distress, needing men to protect them. Discusses the value of self-defense training for stopping sexual assault.

Collection of responses to the White House Task Force Report.

Stone, Meg. September 11, 2014. Campus Rape Crisis: What is Missing from the White House Sexual Violence Plan. 
Acknowledges the importance of offering programs that are evidence-based; raises questions about why self-defense programs are not included when there is substantial evidence of their effectiveness.

Acknowledges the value of the White House Task Force recommendations, but points to the lack of self-defense training in the report and the problem with a focus on what men can do to save women and what experts can do to help assault victims deal with the aftermath.  

NIA SANCHEZ, 2014 MISS USA June 9, 2014
A compilation of reactions to Nia Sanchez’s response to a Miss USA judge’s question about sexual assault. Sanchez said that women need to be able to defend themselves against sexual assault.

Offers support to Nia Sanchez by acknowledging the uphill battle in bringing self-defense to all women, recognizing self-defense as part of a holistic prevention plan, not the only solution; and a shout-out to Sanchez for raising this issue with the Miss USA contest.

Until women are no longer at risk of sexual assault, self-defense is a solution for women to protect themselves and to make their way in the world.

Agrees that men should stop raping women, but focuses on the necessity of providing women with tools to protect themselves until that day comes of perpetrators stopping rape. Argues that self-defense is not victim-blaming but a realistic strategy in a world where sexual assault is still very much with us.

An overview of how Sanchez responded to a question about the high rate of sexual assault on college campuses, how she was attacked in the media, the role of class, and why self-defense training is so important.

How media ignores self-defense experts and the consequences for public knowledge and awareness.

In response to the charges that self-defense is victim-blaming and anti-feminist, addresses the importance of women’s empowerment self-defense training and why in the absence of public and private safety for women, self-defense training is essential.

Compiled by Martha Thompson, IMPACT Chicago June 7, 2014; updated November 18, 2014.