Monday, September 25, 2017

Principles of Empowerment Self-Defense

Julie Harmon IMPACT Safety Columbus Ohio
All self-defense is not created equal. The desired outcomes may be similar–proving tools for people and their communities to feel safer. Empowerment Self Defense, which is a distinct types of self-defense, is based, not just on desired outcomes, but rests firmly  on key principles in which all aspects of teaching and learning are built. These principles guide curriculum development, implementation decisions, and instruction methodology.

1. Sexual violence as well as other types of violence, like harassment, stalking, and threats are social problems. 
This means that specific responses to these situations are considered based on context and individual choice – there is no one size fits all; no one right answer. For example, at a party, a response to an unwanted hug from someone you know, may elicit a different response, than a hug from a stranger at that same party. Or, if someone is bothering you and will not be dissuaded – the choice of responses could be an assertive verbal strategy, a very loud – attract attention verbal response, (depending on where this is happening: dorm room, street, store, walking path) or entering a safer place.

2. The aggressor is the one responsible for any and all acts of violence
The aggressor is responsible for harassment, verbal threats, to unwanted touch – every single act on the continuum of violence. Victim blaming or excuse giving has no place in ESD.

3. ESD is well researched and informed
80% of all assaults on women are perpetrated by someone familiar.  Most often that is a friend, a friend of a friend, a co -worker, boss – someone we would generally not expect to cross our boundaries. Programming is based on research and data, about who are the likely perpetrators, how these assaults begin and progress, and what strategies have been proven to be effective in addressing these situations.

4. ESD is trauma-informed
What that means is that programs are implemented through a trauma lens, which includes not only individual incidents of trauma, but also systems of oppression and the intersection of race, gender, and class. The impact of trauma and oppression are understood and considered as curriculum is implemented. Individuals are not singled out or isolated, rather the curriculum as a whole is developed based on this principle.

5.  ESD programs explicitly utilize a peer support methodology
Participants experience with others concerns about "being alone in their fears” or "being the only one"  or "worried about doing it right." Peer support methodology is intentional. It is not an accident that ESD program participant experience support for trying new things, for having a voice, for making difficult choices, for taking charge of their life, or for facing their fears. The support is felt – energetically and in new relationships that often become part of participants’ lives.

These five principles are foundational to ESD programs – they guide curricula decisions, instructor training, and programming options. The ability for participants to experience connection, belonging, safety and dignity is possible because of the adherence to these principles. ESD is based on more than outcomes – the processes and the intersection of  many disciplines  and areas, combine to make ESD programs as relevant, customizable, fun and empowering as they are.

Julie Harmon
Member, ESD Global and IMPACT International
Director and Instructor of IMPACT Safety, Life Care Alliance
Columbus, Ohio

From Julie's presentation for an ESD Global webinar organized by IMPACT Chicago Instructor Martha Thompson: "Three Reasons for Feminists to Advocate for Empowerment Self-Defense." Julie addressed Reason #1: ESD Works to Stop Sexual Violence. Thank you to producer Yudit Sidikman. Look for an ESD-related blog the last Monday of each month.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Taking Our Bodies Back

Q: Are you suggesting that fighting back is the solution to violence against women? Why should this onus be on women and not men?
A: Of course it's not the sole solution. To suggest this would not only be naive but insulting to all those past and present who have suffered violence, rape, atrocity and indignities at the hands of men—and who have done everything "right," as individuals or en masse: rape, for example, is still used as a weapon of war to instill maximum shame and despoilment of a people, and as a "bonding ritual" among soldiers.
The roots of men's violent entitlements, the taking and using of the female body, are deeply entrenched. Combating this is akin to fighting a war; it needs to be fought on all fronts, requiring multi-pronged strategies and sustained efforts spanning cultural, social, legal, political and educational reform. The training of women in hardcore self defense is a vital front, yet for too long it's been minimized—its role downplayed as a viable and effective means of combating and stopping assaults against women. This learning has been viewed more as a side dish--rarely the main course; afforded the "little sister" status to more important efforts.
Frankly, the notion that we shouldn't have to learn, that this is merely 'blaming the victim' is not only foolhardy and dangerous, undermining the cause of women, but it misses this crucial point: the reclamation of our female-animal capacity, the desire and know-how to fight to protect life, dignity, and that which we hold sacred, and learning to wield physical power is fundamental to a wholesome robust life. (And it just plain feels good.)
Learning to fight back also stirs deep desires; the wants that lie below fear, that have been kept "on hold," are lured to the fore, called out of hiding. So at its bedrock core, it's connected to larger Life Forces and Desire.
Minimizing the raw power of learning to fight is akin to diminishing women's sexual (or other) appetites, or the pleasure of reveling in bodily prowess. Not to mention the fact that fighting back in self defense IS (often) effective!
I take aim at this not only because it's insidious but because any view that subverts the training of our vital aggressive nature is dangerous, further disconnecting women from our survival instincts, the readied ability to defend boundaries, and to stand in power without floods of fear.
The benefits and applications of self defense are long and mighty.
Here's my final calling and shout: Until women are perceived—and more importantly perceive themselves—as being capable and competent at wielding the tools of aggression, we will NEVER be safe or whole. As long as men are the agents of violence and women are the casualties of their actions, the spoils of war, victims on the pointy end of male aggression, there will NEVER be balance of power between sexes: we will remain relegated to a lesser-than-status, too powerless or simply too fearful to resist brutalities, limited by social contract in the ways in which we express our own yearnings, ferocities and fighting spirit—and above all, in how we protect the sovereignty of our bodies and souls.
This sounds like a bum deal to me.
Upending violence against women and girls requires a global en masse effort. But it will not be accomplished until we also TAKE our bodies back and rally our oldest primal forces.
Author Natalie Angier's foretelling words come to mind: "The next phase of the revolution needs an infusion of Old World monkey sorority."
Say it sistah!
Melissa Soalt

Originally posted 9/11/2017 on Fierce and Female Self Defense Training and Consultancy. Reprinted with permission.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Muscle Memory works for Bystander Intervention

In case anyone ever wonders, apparently adrenalized muscle memory works on bystander intervention as well.

I was walking with my partner downtown during Lalapalooza and we were walking behind a female and male (they seemed like tourists) when an intoxicated guy started moving toward the female, mumbling something and then reached out to touch her. She kept trying to shrink away toward the male she was with who was staring in shock and confusion.  I honestly don't know how I responded so fast and without thinking.  I started yelling at the guy reaching for her and got in between him and her and got rid of him.  She was scared and thanked me.  

I was surprised at how without thinking I started yelling at him to move away and not touch her. I was just so angry that he thought he could attempt that. So, adrenalized muscle memory works for bystander intervention.  And I hope she could see there were other options to her in the future as well.

I know one of the options for bystander intervention for harassment to decrease violence is to begin to talk to the person being harassed and deprive the person of attention so they go away.  There just wasn't time when he was already reaching for her.  

Sarah Grove
IMPACT graduate 

Monday, September 4, 2017

How IMPACT got its name

From Mark Morris’ “Making IMPACT” in A History of Model Mugging
In July 1990, Carol Middleton of  then DC Model Mugging organized a meeting with chapter heads from Boston, LA, DC, Chicago, and the Bay Area to meet with Matt Thomas to come up with a plan to pay him for the rights to use the name Model Mugging, even though he had not taken any steps to protect the trademark. Negotiations broke down and some chapters decided to explore a national organization with a new name.
The Chicago Meeting
On March 12 and 13, 1991, [what Mark called] the Organization Faction met in Chicago.* This meeting was attended by Melissa Soalt, Model Mugging (MM) of Boston; Al Potash and Lisa Gaeta, IMPACT Personal Safety in Los Angeles; Carol Middleton; DC Model Mugging;  Sheryl Doran. Bay Area Model Mugging (BAMM); Martha Thompson and Joe Connelly, Self-Empowerment Group of Chicago (SEG). I was there too -- however I no longer represented a Chapter. Bill Kratoska (MM of Minneapolis) was very supportive of our efforts, but he was unable to attend. We were joined by Laine Jastram and her husband, Jeff Evans, representing MM of New York, and Rick Gibbons from MM of Kansas City….
We approved an idealistic Mission Statement that focused on the public good. I pointed out that we were also working together for our own benefit. Failure to keep this agenda out in the open would lead us directly to the same sort of self-serving self-righteousness we all resented so much in Matt Thomas. After this good start, we quickly got bogged down in a debate over a name for the proposed association. There was a deeper question underneath this surface issue. Were we trying to create a strong association built around a new trademark or a weak association with a generic name? Most of us agreed that IMPACT was the best sounding of the suggested names.  Al said he was willing to yield the IMPACT name to the national organization. However, concerns were expressed about giving undue influence to the LA Chapter.**
Sheryl Doran Tips the Scales
In May, Sheryl [Doran] opted to support "IMPACT" as the trademark for the national organization. [Sheryl’s support was critical because she was “the mother” of Model Mugging. She created and defined the female instructor role. She was technically skilled, professional, empathetic, and a skilled facilitator. Sheryl’s combination of networking, word of mouth, and ability to connect with people brought women into the courses. Her business and marketing skills were key to the success of Model Mugging]. At our next meeting, a phone conference on May 16, 1991, we settled on Impact International Inc. (III)…. A majority (the Chapters in LA, the Bay Area, Chicago, and D.C.) now supported a strong association and the III name….
May to October 1991
From June until the December 1991 National Retreat, we held III meetings on a monthly basis through phone conferences….Martha Thompson played an important role (beginning with the March conference) by facilitating our meetings. Through her leadership, we were able to move forward, if only at a crawling pace, through even the thorniest issues…
Impact Personal Safety organized a National Model Mugging Staff Retreat for December…By the time of the Retreat, III consisted of an association between the [former] Model Mugging Chapters in the Bay Area, LA, Chicago and DC….Carol Middleton from D.C. was the first President of IMPACT International, Inc.
*this group is who Mark called the Organization Faction, chapter leaders who wanted to form a national organization. Mark identified two other factions: the Owners (some of the founders who developed Model Mugging into a full-fledged program—Matt Thomas, Julio Toribo, Danielle Evans) and the Community Faction (people who did not want to go either way, but wanted to maintain relationships).
**According to Mark’s chapter The Dust Settles, in 1989, Irene van der Zande , Al Potash, and Lisa Gaeta decided to establish a new organization. They all wanted a new name for the organization that did not involve the name Model Mugging. In 1989, Al came up with the name IMPACT, the IMPACT Foundation was incorporated, and Model Mugging of Los Angeles began a transition to the IMPACT name. 

Martha Thompson selected the above excerpts and has inserted some explanatory notes. To read the full history as written by Mark, contact Martha (