Media tells us who "the bad guy" is. He's the sinister stranger lurking in the shadows. He's the person who looks out of place, who is somehow different from us. He's the guy whom you can just look at and know he's up to no good. At least that's what popular media would have us believe.
In reality, these images and ideas have less to do with crime and more to do with our cultural beliefs about race, class, and gender. In our modern society, we are constantly swimming in a river of misleading media messages about who is dangerous, how they plan to attack us, and finally how few options we have to protect ourselves. As a result of this constant stream of misinformation, conversations about safety and self-defense have frequently been used to reinforce stereotypes about violence and both racial and class biases.
The truth about violence is that it usually originates closer to home. It's most often perpetuated by people we know, who usually build up to horrible behaviors one small step at a time in predictable patterns of escalation. Not every terrible thing can be prevented, but much of it can. The first step will be to educate ourselves about who "the bad guy" really is. Then we can learn strategies for keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe.
We are pleased to announce that IMPACT has already begun taking that first step. IMPACT has a 25+ year history of working with young women, teaching them the skills of self-defense and emotional resilience. Now we've expanded our interpersonal safety programming to include more focus on rape culture, media literacy, and messaging. Collectively, across all chapters, we have been speaking out about these issues at the following conferences:
• Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Assault Statewide Conference • The National Women's Martial Arts Self-Defense Instruction Conference • New Mexico Advocacy in Action • Vera Institute of Justice on Child Sexual Abuse and Children with Disabilities •
We know that in order to change the prevalence of intimidation, harassment, bullying, rape, domestic violence, and all the other horrors and tragedies that saturate our news outlets—that we must work together to change the conversations we have with our families, friends, and co-workers. As individuals shift language, perception, and behaviors, then the larger change will happen, too.
For thought provoking resources about shifting the dialogue:
Reframing the Conversation Around Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse by @EVB_NOW
"An Empowered View of Media": IMPACT Chicago blog post 8/4/2014
"Unsafe and Harassed in Public Spaces: A National Street Harassment Report" by Holly Kearl
"The Language of Persuasion" by The Media Literacy Project
From IMPACT Safety, Columbus Ohio with content adapted from Alena Schaim, Executive
Director, Impact Personal Safety New Mexico