Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Men and Bystander Intervention

"There are many great empowerment-based self-defense classes that can give women strategies for avoiding, interrupting, and stopping harassment. In Chicago, Thousand Waves Martial Arts & Self-Defense Center, NFP and IMPACT Chicago are great resources.  For all the men who wish to be allies to women who experience harassment, I'd suggest reading a bit about how to do so in a way that doesn't dis-empower women." Marie O/Brien
Marie suggests reading Colorado State University Men and Bystander Intervention: "Because most perpetrators of gender violence are men, many bystander intervention programs focus on the ways that men  can intervene when they see other men committing gender violence. This can be an effective 
approach but it’s important to take masculine socialization into consideration as to not encourage a strategy that will cause more harm. Most men have been socialized to protect women … and it’s not a bad thing necessarily to want to make sure people are safe (regardless of gender)…Men often make the mistake of assuming that women need the help of men. Sometimes women would appreciate some help, other times it’s unwarranted… The organization Men Can Stop Rape offers some suggestions for men who want to intervene in a way that doesn’t take agency away from the person on whose behalf you’re considering intervening. Note that these tactics involve things like checking in with that person, using low-key methods like calling her cell phone, and generally keeping the intervention fairly covert as to not escalate the situation."

Monday, December 21, 2015

Domestic Violence Survivors Speak Out About Law Enforcement

The National Domestic Hotline with the assistance of TK Logan, University of Kentucky, surveyed 637 survivors of domestic violence who called the Hotline. The average of participants was 30 and mostly white (56%) with 15% Hispanic and 11% African-American.

Twenty-five percent of the women who had called the police in the past said they would not call again. Both women who had called the police and women who hadn’t stated calling the police would make things worse (1/2) and expressed fear that the police would not believe them or do nothing (2/3)

The report recommends that law enforcement responses to survivors must be based on the following principles:

• Treating survivors with dignity and respect

• Giving survivors their “voice” during encounters

• Being neutral and transparent in their actions”

For more information or to read the full report: National Domestic Violence Hotline, Who Will Help Me? Domestic Violence Survivors Speak Out About Law Enforcement Responses. Washington, DC (2015).

Monday, December 14, 2015

Caring for Each Other After Violence

In “Caring For Each Other After Violence: 4 Things We Can Do To Create Trauma-Informed Communities in Our Schools, Organizations and Activist Groups,” CarmenLeah Ascencio identifies four things we can do to build trauma-informed communities:

1. Build on and affirm our cultures and history

2. Increase physical and emotional safety

3. Build trust

4. Foster collaboration, power sharing and choice

For the details about each of these four things, check out her essay on the reader-funded, non-profit project Black Girls Dangerous (BGD).

Monday, December 7, 2015

Who Benefits from Dissing Self-Defense Training?

In Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do About , Kate Harding presumes that self-defense blames victims, restricts women’s freedom, and is not part of the anti-violence movement. See Jane Fight Back responds to Harding’s distorted views of self-defense reminding everyone that: “…making women aware of their rights to defend themselves, and offering them training in self-defense skills, empowers women to move freely about the world and make the choices that are best for them – choices like how short to wear their skirts, or what beverages they consume, or which neighborhoods they frequent, or yes, whether to go for the groin or the solar plexus if someone is trying to assault or rape them. “

For more
Harding, Kate. September 17, 2015. “We demand that women live in fear and behave impeccably to avoid ‘asking for it.’” The Guardian. 

See Jane Fight Back. September 19, 2015. “Protest the ‘Asking for It’ Rhetoric by Dissing Self-Defense ?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Taking Street Harassment Seriously

Soraya Chemaly (2015) argues that we need to take street harassment seriously. While it varies from country to country, 80-90 % of women experience street harassment, most before they are 17 years old. The harassment that girls of color, LGBTQ community, and women with disabilities experience is particularly intense. She acknowledges that most men and even some women view street harassment as a compliment, but Chemaly argues that it is on the continuum of gender-based violence and creates tolerance for disrespecting women and girls.

Chemely urges parents to talk to kids about street harassment and to use the resources developed by Stop Street Harassment to raise awareness of and provide avenues for stopping street harassment.

Chemaly, Soraya. 2015. “Why We Need to Take Street Harassment Seriously. Washington Post, September 28.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Overcoming Self-Blame for Sexual Assault

Empowerment self-defense is not just about preventing, interrupting, or stopping sexual assault, it is also about getting support, being safe, and healing from assault. Given that we live in a society where people who are sexually assaulted are often blamed or criticized, it is not surprising that survivors of sexual assault may blame themselves. Sian Ferguson identifies four ways to overcome self-blame after sexual assault:

1. Understand victim-blaming at an intellectual level.

2. Tackle those self-blaming thoughts directly.

3. Surround yourself with people who support your healing.

4. Be gentle with yourself when you get it wrong.

For more, see Ferguson’s blog at Everyday Feminism

Monday, November 16, 2015

Empowerment Self-Defense Part of the Solution

When people take empowerment self-defense, they develop an informed and embodied understanding of violence and develop options to recognize, prevent, and interrupt violence—in short, they gain the capacity to become powerful and effective social change agents right now.
The above quote is part of IMPACT Chicago Instructor Martha Thompson's response to an anti-self-defense letter published in the DeKalb Daily Chronicle

Monday, November 9, 2015

Conflicting Reports on Rape on College Campuses

Mother Jones recently compared the findings of a survey by the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the data that 25 universities report as required under the Jeanne Clery Act of 1990. Their major finding: official records report only a fraction of reported rapes. For example, at Ohio State, 271 university students say they reported a rape in 2014-2015 but the university Clery filing reported only 22 reports. For information about other universities, read the Mother Jones article.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Seventeen Years Ago, I Took a Self-Defense Course

Jill Cermele writes about the ways that taking IMPACT with Prepare of New York has affected her life.
"I’ve used what I learned in self-defense every day for the last 17 years.  Because self-defense training changed my life.  It taught me that I am worth fighting for, and that I can be the person in that fight.  It taught me that I can stand up for myself and for others because I know what to do if a situation turns threatening or violent.  Because I can fight, I don’t necessarily have to."
For more of her journey and its influence on her research and teaching about self-defense, check out her blog on See Jane Fight Back

Monday, October 26, 2015

Teaching the Realities of Sexual Assault to First Responders

In “Using CNF to Teach the Realities of Sexual Assault to First Responders: An Annotated Bibliography," Christian Exoo and Sydney Fallone offer resources and a rationale for using creative nonfiction (CNF) in conjunction with academic research as a way for first responders to understand trauma, empathize with survivors of sexual violence, and deal with the emotions that arise when providing services to sexual assault survivors. Exoo and Fallone’s creative nonfiction examples illustrate:

1. Neurobiology of sexual assault: Almost no memory

2. “Why Didn’t She Fight Back?”: Toxic immobility

3. Self-defense: Disputing the myth that resisting an assault will incur additional injury

4. Vicarious trauma

Monday, October 19, 2015

I Defeated Him. I Took Him Down

After being raped and stabbed 17 times, Melissa Schuster was laying on the floor while the man who attacked her was searching her home. She knew she was going to die if she didn’t do something. She summoned all her strength and ran to her neighbor’s house. Days later, she picked the attacker out of a line up. He has been charged with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, home invasion and armed robbery. Melissa Schuster says: “I defeated him. I took him down. Ultimately, I won in the end.”

For more, see the Chicago Tribune article.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Awareness + Action =Social Change

In October the Domestic Violence Awareness Project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence is encouraging healthy communities through their campaign Awareness + Action = Social Change. They are committed to creating a prevention framework that addresses intersectionality of oppressions and creates partnerships with other social justice movements.

October prevention in action events include:

October 6 National Call of Unity

October 13 Fostering Healthy Communities

October 21: Allies in the Struggle

October 28: Embracing the Intersectionality of Oppressions Lens

For details about these events, go to

Monday, October 5, 2015

Mark Nessel: It Is Time to Hang Up My Helmet

I saw my first IMPACT Chicago graduation at Patton Gym at Northwestern University in the fall of 1990 or '91 (I can't remember anymore) and certified as a suited instructor in October or November of 1992. It’s time for my career in the Suit to wrap up. 

The September Core Program was my last Core. I'm scheduled to work in Defense Against Multiple Assailants class in October. When that class concludes I will have met all of my class commitments for this year and it will be the last time I suit up for an IMPACT class. This was not an easy decision to make, and I expect that I will have doubt about it for quite a while, but I am confident that it's time. It's my intention to remain involved in IMPACT Chicago at least in curriculum development and instructor training and I’m talking with the instructors about other ways I may be able to contribute to IMPACT, and that's a conversation that we will continue.
I was 25 years old when I strapped on my helmet for the first time; at the end of this coming November I will turn 49. That my time in the suit will end has always been a certainty, I only have a choice about how it ends. I feel like I'm at a juncture where I can choose to end that part of my work on my terms, or push on until that choice is somehow made for me. I very much prefer the former.

As you may well be aware, few 25-year-old males are really adults. While I'm sure there are some that are, I'm equally certain that I wasn't one of them; so I have been an IMPACT Chicago instructor for pretty much my entire adult life. Almost everything of value that I know about being a man, I learned on the mat. I can't begin to articulate how grateful I am to IMPACT Chicago for that, and for the opportunity to do my work for so many years with people that I consider, for the most part, my family.
Mark Nessel

Post from Mark on FB October 22:
 "In 1990 a martial arts student invited me to see my first IMPACT Chicago graduation and changed my life. After 24 years in The Suit it's time for me to be done with that part of my work. To the folks that don't believe that there's a war against women in this country: You haven't seen what I've seen, heard the stories I've heard, and met the people I've met. I've been a soldier in that war, working with a team that's become my family, training women to fight back for 24 years. It's time to find other ways to fight. I will remain involved in curriculum development and instructor training, and maybe a few other things. There are too many people to tag and to thank, you know who you are. I'm forever grateful for the opportunity to pursue my calling with all of you."

Comments on Facebook and in Emails
Mark, you will be missed greatly and I want to thank you for all of your years of wearing the helmet. I feel grateful that I was one of your students as well as having the opportunity to work with you as an assistant. As Lauren said, you, as well as the other male instructors, have changed my life forever, and I don't say that lightly. Thank you for everything and best of luck in the future!!
Mark, as one of the women whose life you changed by putting that helmet on, I thank you for your service and dedication from the bottom of my heart. I realized early on during my IMPACT training that it was no easy task for a decent, good man, to willingly become a "mugger". I understand the sacrifice that you made for me and countless other women, so that we could learn the skills we needed to defend ourselves. You showed me the lengths that a good and decent man is willing to go to, to be an ally, a supporter, and an effector of real change. Best of luck with whatever the future holds and know you have my eternal gratitude.
Audrey Raden As an IMPACT grad, thank you for all your years of service, your knowledge and support, and your willingness to be a part of positive change in this world. You've had more impact than you can guess.

Nat Wilson I have learned so much working with Mark these past 10 years. He is a master of his craft, has been a great inspiration to me and transformed my entire perspective on self defense and teaching. I'm sorry I missed participating in his last class but I am looking forward to continuing to work with him in different ways through IMPACT. Thank you Mark.

Lisa Amoroso It has been an honor to work with Mark on and off the mat since he brought his energy, skills,and too many other positives to name to our team in the early 1990s. Mark's technical skills are so readily apparent; however, one thing I have consistently appreciated about his interpersonal skills is his willingness to express and defend an idea or opinion and to engage in respectful dialogue to come to a consensus or an acceptable "agree to disagree" point. Mark is able to simultaneously coach, learn, and create space for others to do the same. Many thanks!

Michelle Barnes Schmitt Mark, I carry you with me everywhere. Thank you.

Scott Schmitt Mark, Thank you for the tools that you helped my wife develop. You have changed her life!

Rose Naegele thank you Mark

Ernest Natur From a suit in NYC, thank you and Godspeed on the next steps

Meg Stone Mark I remember meeting you at 9 one morning and teaching with you only an hour later. Though you'd never taught little kids before you jumped right in and were a seamless co-teacher. It has always been a joy to collaborate with you.

Anastasia Madeleine Korbitz Thank you Mark for all your years of dedication and for helping Benjamin a member of such a valuable program. Good luck to you and so happy to hear you will remain involved in some capacity. You have done great work all these years!

Andrea Smith-Gage Thank you for your compassion and dedication to the work. May you continue outside the helmet!

Evangeline Su thank you so mch.

Therese Schmieg Mark, I will never forget you. Thanks for being there for all of us.

Amelia Norfleet Dorn The end of an era!

Katie Bee Thank you, Mark - you made me so much stronger than I ever knew I could be!

Maureen Dunn Poet Buddha of power, the umame of Impact. Come back. For us all.

Jeanette Andrews Thank you Mark, your time in the suit has changed my life. I feel able to move so much for freely in the world! You are doing the real work of creating genuine change and please know how much that is valued on a daily basis but those whose lives you and all impact instructors, impact.

Abigail Lynn Thank you thank you thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Anita Ginther Heartfelt thanks for all you have given and shared, Mark. The world is a better and healthier place because of you. And the ripple will continue outward. Wishing you Joy!

Jim Watson Well done, Mark. Thanks for your many years of service in the suit.

Yudit Sidikman Think of all the amazing seeds you have planted along the way. Without you and Martha, there wouldn't be an IMPACT ISRAEL! smile emoticon love you!

Rudy Andrew Trejo Mark its been a pleasure knowing and working with you in this war we fight. Nice doin battle with you! Looking forward to future collaboration and learning from your many years of suit knowledge.

Timothy Patrick Kinney Thanks for the knowledge, encouragement, and support. It's been an honor. I hope it continues to be one, because I hope to see and talk with you again. 
There's something in my eye right now, gotta go.

Ika Chipman Speechless.
Greatful for the training I got from you.
And glad to know you're staying around for development.

Kate Washabaugh I couldn't be prouder of you for all you've done and a har decision gracefully executed. I love you in and out of the suit.

Margaret Vimont Words can't do it my brother in arms.

Martha Thompson Mark, your work in the suit has been incredible and also transcends the suit. You are not done yet!

Jenny Williams Thank you mark for all your amazing work! I am very grateful for the times I got to work with you and Martha I learned so much smile emoticon
Enjoy your next chapter, wherever it may lead you

Lisa Scheff Mark, there are no words sufficient to express my gratitude for your incredible dedication to this work/war, and on a personal level for all of the support and encouragement you have given me in finding my way in the Impact world. I will have to make due with: Thank you. I am so happy that you will continue to share your incredible knowledge of the craft and look forward to working with and learning from you for many years to come.

Anthony Nitsos You were a true sensei/sifu. Thank you for the work and the guidance my friend!

Yotam Barr Sensei!

Mary Shimandle Thank you Mark!
I took the course at North Park College 1995 I think & still talk about the great experience - of bringing you down! Most recently to kick box instructor Isaiah Johnson. The learning is in me and so far I have not had to use it. In graduation video, Northwestern Univ, my dad and husband can be seen in my part, jaws open to the floor, hands over their (privates)... It's the best!!

All the best to you and your next steps!!

Carol Middleton DC IMPACT Director
Gosh, it’s hard to imagine Mark Nessel never being in the suit again, but it’s wonderful that he will still be with IMPACT Chicago.  What a spirit and heart he has, not to mention that analytic mind!  He will still be a huge help in training suits—couldn’t come from greater experience and wisdom!  And I’m sure that every other way he contributes will be golden as well.  A wise decision, I’m sure, though yes, it does feel like the end of an era.

Mark Nessel Thank you all for the kind comments about my work and its reach and impact. This was a hard decision to make, but nobody can be in the suit forever and I felt like I'd hit the crossroads where I could hang it up on my terms or eventually have that decision made for me.
Those of you that have also been in the suit or on the whistle (or still are), since that first day in 1990 all I've ever wanted to do with my life was fight this fight in your company.
It has been an honor to get to do that for so long. I'm not going anywhere (where could I go at this point?). Just changing roles

Monday, September 28, 2015

Quiet Power

In a Ted Talk “Quiet Power,” Kate Webster of Breaking Through Barriers explains and illustrates a fusion of verbal and non-verbal communication that is neither passive nor aggressive but an authentic means of communication.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Let’s Raise the Capacity for Support as We Raise Awareness

In “Rape’s Long Shadow: Dealing with the Personal Costs of Sexual Assault,” Bielski highlights the personal costs of rape with particular attention to the negative consequences of others ‘ disbelieving, dismissing, or demonizing someone who has been raped. In addition to increasing awareness, individuals and organizations need to offer support as rape victims come forward with their stories.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Dr. Ruthless Says Setting Boundaries is a Girl’s Best Friend

Dr. Ruthless (aka Melissa Soalt) is a women’s self-defense instructor, a Black Hall of Fame recipient, and former trauma psychotherapist. She lives her reputation as “fresh, fierce, and unabashedly funny.”

Melissa’s latest blog on Find Your Fierce is “Setting Boundaries Is a Girl’s Best Friend.” She says setting and defending your boundaries is the key to staying safe.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Real Estate Agent Listened to Her Intuition

The Tampa Tribune reports on the arrest of a man who was targeting real estate agents for rape and robbery.

Two real estate agents—in separate incidents-- used their wits to defend themselves. One realtor listened to her intuition and did not enter the house with the man but let him look around on this own. He attacked a second realtor but ran when she told him that the homeowners would be there any minute. The first realtor realized it was the same man when she heard about the attack on the other realtor.

Thanks to Strategic Living for the information.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Creating Safer Spaces in IMPACT

IMPACT participants often tell us that our programs feel “safe” even though a focus of the course is defending oneself in realistic attack scenarios. Our programs are an example of empowerment self-defense practices which include a commitment to creating safer spaces.
A safer place is where each participant

  • is treated as an important part of the classroom community and members of marginalized groups do not face mainstream stereotypes or are marginalized
  • can freely and fully participate 

  • is welcomed regardless of gender identity or expression, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, cultural background, religious affiliation, age, or physical or mental ability
  • is treated with respect and dignity.

Elements of a safer self-defense training space
·         Introductions of instructors establish competence and compassion, such as  providing information, word choices, and storytelling to convey:
ü  Skills to teach self-defense
ü  Classroom management skills
ü  Ability to support a range of emotions and issues that may arise
ü  Flexibility
ü  Compassion for and acceptance of others
·         Ground rules that make expectations public and clear, such as
ü  Confidentiality
ü  Treat self and others with respect
ü  This is a community where no one is isolated, told what to do ignored or judged
ü  Being fully present
ü  Active and nonjudgmental listening
·         Introductions of participants establish that we are creating a community that supports each person having a voice and choices about how to express themselves within specific guidelines, such as participants:
ü  have options and choices about how to present themselves, not a free-for-all or no options
ü  have options and avenues about how to express their concerns
ü  are asked to speak from one’s own experience, not expressing their opinions (serial testimony)
·         Establish violence as a social issue, not an individual problem, such as
ü  Reference to ways that cultural values and norms support violence, inequalities in experiences of violence and responses to self-defense
ü  Making it clear that responsibility for violence is the responsibility of perpetrators and those who ignore it; not the responsibility of targets of violence
ü  Making it clear that there are no absolutes or formulas for self-defense or only one way to respond to any situation because violence arises in a social context and people are targeted differently as are their efforts at self-defense
ü  People will not be blamed or belittled for choices they have made or will make
Martha Thompson & Alena Schaim
2015 NWMAF Empowerment Self-Defense Model Course

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Power of Presence

In “The Power of Presence,” Silke Schultz explores different meanings of presence and how it relates to self-defense, empowerment, and becoming agents of social change. Read more at the Touchstones of Empowerment.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Healing from Oppression

In “The Socialization Process of Oppression and How to Heal from It,” Two Cranes explores ways that shame, stigma, and silence are produced through socialization.  Ways to transcend these harmful dynamics: 

  • Connection transcends shame 
  • Speaking out transcends silence
  • Unconditional acceptance transcends stigma
  • Reclaiming ourselves transcends negative socialization

For more details, check out the blog post on Equality is Coming