Monday, November 24, 2014

FAQ: What is women’s self-defense?

Over the next few months, the IMPACT Chicago blog will feature a section each month from Women’s Self-Defense Frequently Asked Questions. Jocelyn A. Hollander, Ph.D. University of Oregon, September 15, 2014. First up:

  • Perhaps the most common stereotype of women’s self-defense is a woman—probably young, white, and fit—karate-kicking a stranger in a dark alley or parking garage. However, self-defense is far more than just physical fighting and it is accessible to all women, regardless of their age, race, level of fitness, or physical ability. It also addresses far more than just assaults by strangers.
  • There are many types of self-defense training. The kind that has been most frequently studied by researchers is empowerment self-defense. These classes:
    • Focus on the full range of violence against women, especially acquaintance assaults, which are the most common type of sexual assault.
    • Include awareness and verbal self-defense strategies as well as physical techniques. These skills empower women to stop assaults in their early stages, before they escalate to physical danger.
    • Teach effective physical tactics that build on the strengths of women’s bodies and require minutes or hours rather than years to master.
    • Offer a toolbox of strategies for avoiding and interrupting violence, and, rather than teaching a single “best” way to respond to violence, empower women to choose the options that are appropriate for their own situations.
    • Address the social conditions that facilitate sexual assault and the psychological barriers to self-defense that women face as a result of gender socialization.
Further resource

Thompson, Martha E. 2014. “Empowering Self-Defense Training.” Violence Against Women 20 (3): 351-359.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Top Five Self-Defense Techniques Most People Don’t Know They Already Have

Tagg Magazine recently published an article about what Defend Yourself in Washington D.C. says are “5 self-defense techniques you didn’t know you could use.” 
IMPACT grads know these, but not everyone does:  loud voice, foot stomp, use what’s around you, size doesn’t matter, power of a strike to the groin.
See the full article for details and videos.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Gun Control and Women’s Self-Defense

In her article "From Gun Politics to Self -Defense Politics: A Feminist Critique of the Great Gun Debate," Jennifer D. Carlson takes a hard look at how the issues of self-defense are often confused with general issues around gun rights.  She points out that debates about self-defense are often presented as a false choice, what she refers to as "self-protection with a gun or no protection at all."
She points out that on the pro gun rights side, owning a gun and having the right to use it is the only effective means of self-defense.  On the pro gun control side, targets of violence should rely only on the police and non-violent methods of protection. In terms of self-defense for women and sexual violence, Carlson argues advocates on both sides of the debate are failing to present realistic solutions - that women need options for "effective, physical unarmed resistance" that fall in-between the two extremes. 

One problem however is that our culture does not accept the idea that women can, and should, defend themselves.  Take for example the case of Marissa Alexander.   She is currently on trial in Florida for firing a warning shot to protect herself from her abusive husband who had strangled her and threatened to kill her.  She originally lost her case and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but her case is now being appealed and she is now under house arrest.  Even though she had a gun, had cause to use it and showed restraint in how she used it, she is still being punished for protecting herself. 

Alexander's case is one of many illustrating that self-defense is more than simply a matter of superior firepower; issues of gender, race and class all limit the ways women can keep themselves safe.  Guns will continue to be one method of self protection, but women should have access to a wide variety of options for defense, as well as the legal right to act.    

Nat Wilson, IMPACT Chicago Suited Instructor

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bringing IMPACT to More Women and Girls: Laura M. Dini, IMPACT Chicago Referral/Outreach Coordinator

Laura M. Dini is new Referral/Outreach Coordinator for IMPACT Chicago. Laura works with graduates from the Core Program and with Workshop participants as well as their supporters. She also nurtures contacts with female-focused support organizations, such as rape-crisis centers and social services organization to promote the benefits to their members of IMPACT’s Core Program. Key among her responsibilities is collaborating with Core Program graduates for referrals, as well as increasing  social media and press contacts.
Another focus is to increase the number of schools, universities, nonprofit organizations, and businesses contacting IMPACT for workshops from graduates and their supporters. In the first 1½ months at the job, Laura has increased the number of participants in one  Core Program by 50% through collaboration with Chicago’s largest provider of supportive housing exclusively for women, researched new locations, reached out to recent graduates & collaborated on the annual fund drive. Laura works closely with Lisa Amoroso, Board Chair, Martha Thompson, Director Emeritus & IMPACT Instructor and Tara Brinkman, Registration and Workshop Coordinator.

Laura received her B.A. from UMKC and her Master of Arts in Applied Professional Studies from DePaul with a focus on Project Management, Knowledge-sharing and Cross-Cultural Integration for International Nonprofits.

Throughout Laura’s working career, she has brought strong analytical, planning and organizational skills to the successful execution of numerous projects, focusing on cooperation and efficiency. Moreover, her public relations and marketing experience, particularly in the nonprofit sector, has provided her with strong communications and networking skills. Much of this experience was devoted to building support for, and increasing participation in the programs at the continuing education school at the University of Chicago. “Networking and outreach are traits that come naturally to me. When I believe in an organization, it is second nature for me to promote it!”

She also has a variety of volunteer experiences such as as a volunteer fundraiser for the
Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, volunteer fundraiser for Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and Member/Facilitator/Volunteer for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
Laura has a broad cross-cultural perspective, strong work ethic, and personal initiative and knows the value of establishing and nurturing a network of support resources and professional relationships.

Laura has just recently finished her first IMPACT Core Program and has the utmost respect and admiration for the instructors and volunteers who run the program. “I have seen all the hard-work and organizing that it takes to plan these programs and workshops but to then see the dedicated and energetic instructors and volunteers who guide the participants through this incredible program has been thoroughly inspiring!”

You can reach Laura at