Monday, December 31, 2018

Let's Close the Confidence Gap

Without intervention, girls' confidence drops between the ages of 8 and 14.

In the New York Times article  "The Confidence Gap for Girls: 5 Tips for Parents of Tween and Teen Girls, " Claire Shipman, Katty Kay, and JillEllyn Riley offer advice for parents.
  • Encourage your daughters to take risks and move beyond what they know they already do well.
  • Take the fear out of failure.
  • Encourage your daughter to train her brain to think about possibilities (not diaster).
  • Be a role model for risk and failure.
  • Embrace the bumps.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Turtle Mountain Starts on the IMPACT Path

"IMPACT International officially approves your entry into the process of becoming a certified chapter." ~Karen Chasen, Chair, Chapter Development Committee, IMPACT International
"It's happening!! Turtle Mountain Empowerment Self-Defense is on the way to becoming Turtle Mountain IMPACT!! We are SO excited that this is finally coming together!" Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians is located in Belcourt, North Dakota. 
IMPACT is an international affiliation of independent chapters. Each IMPACT chapter has its own organizational structure and programmatic focus. Turtle Mountain Empowerment Self-Defensef will focus on Native American people and will never turn anyone away.
Turtle Mountain Empowerment Self-Defense offers special thanks to MPACT Boston who will be our mentors, to Kay Mendick from UND IMPACT who has always had our back in making this possible, and to our Tribal Chairman Jamie Azure for believing and supporting our mission.
Welcome to the IMPACT path!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Baby, a No’s a No Tonight

Baby, a No’s a No Tonight
(New lyrics to that classic, holiday boundary-crossing song "Baby, It's Cold Outside!")
Cathy Chapaty
I really can’t stay
(Baby, it’s cold outside.)
D’you hear me say…?
(Baby, it’s cold outside.)
This evening’s been swell; just wanna thank you.
(I’ll hold your hands; they’re icy—these two.)
Listen, I’m starting to worry.
(Beautiful, what’s your hurry?)
I think that I’ll just head for the door.
(Listen to the fireplace roar.)
I really must go. A no’s a no tonight.
[Cue ’40s musical interlude while Person 2 rethinks behavior—but, alas, still doesn’t get it.]
Don’t want another drink.
(Baby, it’s cold outside.)
This isn’t what you think.
(But baby, it’s cold outside.)
The answer’s still no; won’t say it again.
(I thought you wanted me to make you give in.)
I really like you—that’s certain.
(Shouldn’t I draw the curtains?)
But I’m not in the mood tonight.
(Come on, baby. Why put up a fight?)
You need to hear me: A no’s a no tonight.
[More musical interlude while Person 2 rethinks behavior. Couple gets up and walks to the door, switches signing roles.]
I’m sorry. I was wrong.
(So glad you listened to me.)
I just like this song.
(Some other time, if you please.)
I really can’t tell. I’m bad with social cues.
(I’ve learned to set clear boundaries, thank you.)
When you say no, no, no sir…
(That doesn’t mean to come closer.)
But what if I never tried?
(It’s not about hurting your pride.)
I get it now…
(Together) A no’s a no tonight!

Revised lyrics by Cathy Chapaty
Martial Artist and Author
Chair, National Women's Martial Arts Federation (NWMAF)

For an analysis of the original version, see Sheila Watson's December 10 post: "What's wrong with Baby, It's Cold Outside?"

Monday, December 10, 2018

What's wrong with "Baby, It’s Cold Outside?"

More on the "Baby, It's Cold Outside" discussion. It's an important conversation. Comment on one of the half dozen threads I have read: "If she doesn't like how pushy he's being, why doesn't she just leave?" Yeah. Let that sink in. Literally what the song is about. Her trying to leave. The first line of the song is, "I really can't stay." (For those who are unclear about consent, that is a strong boundary set there).
First, thank you for acknowledging he is being "pushy". Yes. He is. And nearly everyone on the threads minimized his pushiness as being some level of flirtation or innocent or at least excusable behaviour. But let's be clear what is going on: he is actively rejecting her boundaries and refusing to consider them, let alone comply with them. He is refusing to comply with her expressed wishes for agency over her own actions. That is the very definition of non-consensual behaviour.
Most people have answered that the reason she didn't leave is because she didn't actually want to leave. She wanted to stay. But let's take a look at that. She very clearly articulates her wish to leave. Repeatedly. She very clearly says, "no". But her articulated wish is NOT to be accepted. Indeed it is incumbent upon her partner to determine her _true_ wish and to act upon that _true_ wish rather than her very clear expressed wish.
Almost no one in the threads had advice on how he could improve his behaviour. Almost everyone had advice on how she should adapt to the violation of her boundaries.
Think on that in terms of consent. The message is that consent is not found in her expression, but only in what the perpetrator (and the audience) _thinks_ she _truly_ wants. The rule for sexual encounters becomes, "What does she _really_ want?" (Which he gets to decide). VS "What is is she telling me she wants?" (Which she gets to decide). It establishes consent as an internal dialogue of the perpetrator rather than a paying attention to and complying with the wishes of his partner!
And THAT is rape culture operating in the present day. Still. Dismiss the communication and replace it with whatever you want to believe. That is NOT consent.
And yes, I hear that "things were different back then" and that we are looking at past events through the lens of modern thinking. The problem is that modern thinking hasn't changed that much. If it HAD, we would all be agreeing that when making the choice between complying with explicitly expressed non-consent and doing what we think they _really_ want, the former wins. Period.
This is not a conversation about the past. This a conversation about how we can understand the present. It's a conversation about what to teach our boys about consent. And what to teach our girls about whether their agency will be respected.
Someone needs to take this song to their child and say, "Don't do this. Doesn't matter what you think they want. Matters what they communicate to you." And from the conversation I witnessed on social media, not enough people are doing this. We, as a society, are not doing this. Instead we are dismissing and minimizing this. It's wrong. And we need to change.
Sheila Watson

If you like the tune to "Baby, It's Cold Outside" but not the lyrics, check out Cathy Chapaty's alternative lyrics: "Baby, A No's a No Tonight" on the December 17 IMPACT Chicago blog.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Shifting from Trauma Informed to Healing Centered

In the "Future of Healing: Shifting from Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement," Shawn Ginwright acknowledges the importance of trauma informed care but argues it has limitations. Ginwright makes a case for trauma informed care being incomplete and focused on the trauma that people have experienced. Instead, Ginwright says:
"A healing centered approach is holistic involving culture, spirituality, civic action, and collective healing. A healing centered approach views trauma not simply as an individual isolated experience, but rather highlights the ways in which trauma and healing are experienced collectively."

You can find the full article at Medium.  

Monday, November 26, 2018

Yuko Uchikawa: Empowerment Self-Defense, Conflict Resolution, and Peacemaking

Yuko Uchikawa
"I came into self-defense through martial arts. In 1992, I took a five-minute self-defense class at a women's festival: how to use your voice, do a power yell and a palm heel strike, where you strike the nose with the palm of your hand. It had never occurred to me that I could protect myself because I'm a woman and I'm small and not that strong. The next day I signed up for a class. In 1993 some Asian women friends and I started RUCKUS." 
Yuko Uchikawa as told to Rinku Sen "Saving Yourself" in ColorLines, Winter 2004.

About the time that the ColorLines article came out, a self-defense student in Japan asked me, “How do I defend myself verbally and work things out?” That began my transition from Empowerment Self-Defense into conflict resolution and peacemaking. I went back to school to become a mediator and trainer in conflict resolution. Similar to self-defense, empowerment is at the heart of mediation and the process is designed to guide people in making their own decisions. It is effective in addressing immediate needs, put out the fire, and resolve disputes, but it does not change the culture. 

Shifting culture requires building community and creating a sense of belonging. But a sense of belonging is not always positive. For example, white supremacy can be “belonging," so it is key to look at what kind of belonging we are creating. I found Restorative Justice (RJ) to be a process that builds community and works toward social and specifically, racial justice. Justice is when the causes of inequities are addressed and systemic barriers are dismantled. RJ in schools looks at the disproportionality of suspension of Black and Brown students to interrupt the school to prison pipeline. RJ provides a way to bring the harmer and harmed together to dialogue. RJ holds the harmer accountable and at the same time, gives a lot of support so that the harmer could make amends and we all heal as a community. My work in the past five years has been to create restorative justice practices in schools, communities, and organizations. 
Yuko Uchikawa
Open Talk
Ruckus Safety Awareness
New York Center for Interpersonal Development (NYCID)

Monday, November 19, 2018

Wow, I Have a Big Voice!

Sheila and Gracie
I was walking my dog one early morning when I observed a man repeatedly striking a mailbox. I immediately got out my phone to call 911. He spotted me and aggressively crossed the street running right at me.  I thought to myself, "OK, this is it. I'm going to have to fight."

It was one of the scariest moments of my life. I thought I was going to have to fight an adult male several times my size. I yelled "Stop, don't come any closer." My loud voice momentarily stopped him and then he started coming toward me again.

Again, I yelled and he stopped again as he came between the parked cars. He spotted my large dog and I continued to yell. He turned and ran away.

I later found out that others had called the police and that he was apprehended a few blocks away. Thank goodness, I didn't have to fight but I was ready. Thank goodness, I had my big voice (and my big dog).

Sheila Hickey
IMPACT Board Member

Monday, November 12, 2018

If and How You Have Thought About or Used IMPACT

IMPACT chapters in the U.S. and around the world are asking you to join our effort to find out if and how graduates have thought about or used IMPACT. For some of you, that might be last week and others 30 years ago!
Can you help by completing a short survey? It should take about 10 minutes (but take more time if you want!). Your voice and experience matter. IMPACT International is looking forward to hearing from you.
Go to the survey.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Seeking a Better World in the #MeToo Era

IMPACT Chicago was one of 276 organizations that signed a letter challenging social institutions large and small to enact policies to promote safety and ensure that those within those institutions are free from harm. The letter was published it in the New York Times October 27, 2018.

You can find the letter and the list of all those organizations that signed it here.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Active Shooter Training – An IMPACT Way

Krista Hanley Wings
I sat in the back of a row of chairs, unsure of what I was about to see. Despite the cushy mats and audience of all ages, I held my breath as a man in a large helmet and overalls held a plastic gun to a womans head and demanded she go with him. Anxiety choked my throat and made my heart race. Then she defended herself by knees and kicks, with power and ferocity. When she rose with the gun behind her back and the attacker sprawled at her feet, I knew I needed to learn that.

That graduation was my first experience with Impact, and it came at an important time in my life. As a survivor of the Columbine High School shooting, I lived with palpable anxiety and fear through my late teens and early twenties. It felt like my body was constantly in an adrenaline rush, and I didnt know how to manage triggering experiences. Watching that instructor defend herself successfully against an attacker with a gun changed my life. It made me feel hope. Hope that I wasnt helpless and vulnerable. Hope that I could effect what happened to me. Hope that I had power and choice once again in my life.

Why Impact?

Eleven years later, not only have I learned how to defend myself against an armed attacker, but I now teach with Impact Personal Safety of Colorado. As we developed the curriculum for our chapters Defense Against the Armed Assailant (Weapons) course, I returned again and again to the idea of teaching active shooter training. In my heart, I knew that the class would not be complete without something about active shooters. But how could we teach it in an Impact way?

It might be understandable that my desire to teach active shooter scenarios is deeply personal and emotionally charged. Impact has taught me that when I feel something needs change, then I shouldnt be afraid to advocate for that change. I firmly believed that active shooter training had to be a part of our Weapons course. This is the type of training that is taught in many workplaces, on gun ranges, and in martial arts classes. But Impact is very much an appropriate venue to also take on the topic.

Here is why:
·      Impact is trauma informed – We built a safe environment that focused on the individual students and their needs. As an instructor with trauma, I knew I had to consider what would be too much and what would create response.
·      Layering Information – We threaded the active shooter information through the entire four weeks of class. On the day of the active shooter training, we started with discussion and then did simple exercises with the students like getting on the ground or running out the door.
·      Apolitical – As I researched types of active shooter trainings, I quickly found that 2nd Amendment rights and other political issues were wrapped up in the teaching. Impact recognizes the fact that everyone thinks differently about these issues and we do not judge nor advocate.
·      Not victim blaming – Impact recognizes that it is never the victims fault, and no matter how they respond, it is the right way.
·      Grounded in research – My team researched active shooter and weapons scenarios in order to be more real to life. We watched videos and read statistics in order to be fully prepared for every question and scenario.
·      Know every situation is different – We know that we cannot prepare students 100% for real life. No two fights are the same. We gave our students lots of tools and knowledge in order to be able to best stay safe.

I believe we all need to have active shooter training even though these types of events are very rare. Think about it like plane crashes, they are also extremely rare. Still, every time we get on a plane, we go through the safety spiel with the flight attendants. Impact is the flight attendant for life. We need these skills to keep ourselves safe. Just in case.

Krista Hanley, Lead Instructor
IMPACT Personal Safety of Colorado

For more by Krista Hanley
"Krista Hanley, A Columbine Graduate: Arc Interrupted. March 2014. A Sandy Hook/Columbine Cooperative.
"Pistol Shooting Basics." 2018. Memoir Magazine. (Trigger warning: Krista says some people have found this essay very intense)

Monday, October 22, 2018

Ways to Calm a Young Brain in Trauma

In "7 Ways to Calm a Young Brain in Trauma," Lori Desautels shares ways that she supports her K-6 students, many of whom have experienced trauma. Some of those ways:

  • Taking deep breaths.
  • Collective sound and movement (e.g. drumming a rhythm together).
  • Self-massage (e.g. a rubbing a drop of lotion into one's hands).
  • More movement (e.g. rock along one's spine)
  • Chant with fingers on vocal chords.
  • A wiggling body scan.
  • Dancing with scarves.
For more about what is known about trauma and the brain and Desautels' choices for addressing it, you can read the full article here.

Monday, October 15, 2018

When Violence Hits Close to Home

The American Psychological Association Committee on Women in Psychology is doing a series of posts about violence against women and girls. The first two posts:

Shannon Lynch. 2018. "Hit, Hurt, and Distressed: How Violence and Trauma Put Women at Risk of Incarceration." Psychology Benefits Society.

Administrator. 2018. "Stop the Abuse: Why We Can't Neglect Women with Disabilities When We Talk About Interpersonal Violence." Psychology Benefits Society.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Using Our Voices for Ourselves and Others

Within 24 hours of each other, Brett Kavanaugh was appointed to the Supreme Court and Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of murdering Laquan McDonald. Both situations underscore the deep divisions the United States continues to face  across gender and its intersections with disability, immigration, political power, race, sexual orientation, social class, and so much more. What can we draw upon from IMPACT?

In IMPACT, participants often discover themselves, the abilities and power they already have, and the incredible experience of being part of a supportive community. The confidence we gain in using our bodies, feelings, and minds in scenario after scenario most often expresses itself in our everyday worlds through our voices. 

We have many examples on our blog that highlight the importance of our voices and speaking up, for instance:

·       In “Trust Your Own Voice,” Victoria, 2013 graduate, shares how she gained the confidence through IMPACT to contribute her ideas and opinions in her male-dominated workplace.

·       In “Your Voice Has Power,” Sandria, 2018 graduate, describes stopping a man masturbating in public and ways that she alerted the larger community.

We can also use our voices to challenge 
  • disrespect for the bodies of children, immigrants, genderqueer people, people of color, people with disabilities, and women
  • blaming victims for the violence they experience 
  • uses of personal and political power to disregard and override the NO from others. 
Even when we know speaking up is the right thing to do, we may be afraid.  

Audre Lorde reminds us: 
...and when we speak we are afraid 
our words will not be heard 
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

so it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive
Audre Lorde From A Litany for Survival

For more encouragement to speak out, check out my personal blog What Martha Thinks for a poem "Look Now" and for ideas about how to join our voices with larger efforts to improve our communities, see  “Challenge the Culture of Silence: Support Survivors and Hold Perpetrators Accountable."

Martha Thompson
IMPACT Chicago
Social Media Editor and Coordinator
Instructor and Administrative Team Co-Leader

Monday, October 1, 2018

Empowerment Self-Defense, 2017-2018

Inspired by participation in the August 2017 ESD Global Incubator, IMPACT Chicago Instructor and Social Media Coordinator Martha Thompson made a commitment to publishing a blog about empowerment self-defense at least once/month and to seeking the contributions of empowerment self-defense instructors from varied organizations. Below is a list of those blogs and links to them.

 Challenging Rape Culture with Empowerment Self-Defense
August 2017 Clara Porter, Prevention Action Change Portland ME

Principles of Empowerment Self-Defense
September 2017   Julie Harmon, IMPACT Safety Columbus OH

What Do Empowerment Self-Defense Students Learn
October 2017 Mona MacDonald, Lioness Martial Arts, Pittsburgh PA

"Rape Culture" and Empowerment Self-Defense
November 2017  Amy Jones, Thousand Waves Martial Arts & Self-Defense Center, Chicago IL

 IMPACT Chicago View of Empowerment Self-Defense
December 2017 Martha Thompson, IMPACT Chicago, Chicago IL

Self-Defense is Not About Eliminating Risk
January 2018 Amy Jones, Thousand Waves Martial Arts & Self-Defense Center, Chicago IL

Empowering ≠ Empowerment Self-Defense  
February 2018 Martha Thompson, IMPACT Chicago, Chicago IL

What is Empowerment Self-Defense
March 2018 Compilation of definitions from: Empowerment Changes, Jay O'Shea, Sun Dragon Martial Arts, Susan Shorn, Lynne Marie Wanamaker

How Can Empowerment Self-Defense Lift the Personal Burdens People Carry?
April 2018 Carol Schaeffer, IMPACT, New York

Is Empowerment Self-Defense Only for Women?
April 2018 Lauren Taylor, Defend Yourself, Washington DC

Reducing Violence Against Boys and Men Improves Community Safety
May 2018 Ernest Wawiorko, IMPACT, New York

Tap Code: When Sexual Assault Survivors Are Not Alone
June 2018 Lynne Marie Wanamaker, Safe Passage, Northampton MA

Is Any Self-Defense Training Better Than None?
June 2018 Clara Porter, Prevention Action Change Portland ME

Challenging Toxic Trauma within the Field of Trauma Treatment
July 2018 Diane Long, Kaleidoscope Healing Arts, Minneapolis MN

Beyond Protection: Perceived Threat, Criminalization, and Self-Defense
August 2018 Jay O'Shea, UCLA, Los Angeles

Monday, September 24, 2018

Boundary Setting: Rude or Polite Does Not Apply

While I’m retired from the suit, I’m still involved in curriculum development and have transitioned into the role of instructor trainer for new suited instructors.  The instructor trainer role affords me a lot of opportunity to reflect on the things that we teach and the way that we teach them, as I’m preparing the next generation of instructors to get in the armor and carry on the work that we do.
One of the things I’ve always appreciated most about the IMPACT Chicago Core Program is that it challenges accepted norms about what women are capable of doing on their own behalf, and about the way men and women should interact.  Many women are socialized to be polite, and feel very inhibited about behaving in any way other than polite. In normal day-to-day interaction with the world polite is a great thing.  A very long time ago a college professor told me that manners are "... the WD40 of human civilization".  That's stuck with me my whole adult life.  Frankly, I think everyone should be polite, under normal circumstances.  I try to always be, and I work very hard with my kids to develop and maintain habits of politeness.
When we address boundary setting, people often look at it through that lens - am I being rude to this intruder, and is that okay?
But...  This is not a normal interaction.  While experiencing intrusion and threat is a daily occurrence for many people, and certainly many women, it's not a normal interaction and we should avoid normalizing it.
Under threatening circumstances the priority should be our safety, not adhering to the conventional norms of polite interaction.  It may well be that the best option to get to a safe situation is to appear polite to the aggressor, but how we arrive at that option is important.  The focus of our strategizing should be what is safest, not what is socially acceptable. 
What I’ve come to realize is that self-protective behavior simply doesn’t belong on the polite-rude spectrum.  Taking polite or rude into account in formulation of a strategy to boundary violations is a false concern.
Again, I recognize that for many people, especially women, feeling threatened is a regular circumstance that they’re habituated to, but that’s not the same thing as normal.  Under those circumstances our priority should be our safety, not meeting the expectations of others about rude or polite.  Being threatened by another person is outside the bounds of normal circumstances.  Rude or polite does not apply.
Mark Nessel, IMPACT Chicago Suited Instructor (Retired) and Suited Instructor Trainer

Monday, September 17, 2018

Options for When You See Someone Who Sexually Abused You

Lily Puckett tackled the question "What to do when you see your sexual abuser" in the August issue of Teen Vogue. 

Since the majority of sexual abusers know the person they target, the likelihood is high that someone who has experienced sexual abuse will cross paths with the person who abused them.

Taking care of yourself is the #1 priority. Some recommendations to do that:
  • If possible, remove yourself from the situation.
  • If you can't leave the situation, use grounding techniques (the article suggests several)
  • Be prepared if you know you might see them (e.g. have a trusted friend with you)
  • Establish groundrules with family and friends if you are likely to see the person at family or friendship gatherings
For more information, read the full article here.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Ethical Storytelling

Stories are valuable to our understanding of ourselves and others. Michael Kass, founder of The Center of Story and Spirit, says that people who share their experiences have the ability to persuade people of the importance of an issue and inspire others to become involved, to donate, and to engage with an issue. Every organization has a story at its core and having people share stories is a very powerful way for an organization to get its message out.  For instance, the stories of people who have experienced sexual violence and then take an IMPACT course are very powerful for motivating other survivors of violence and their supporters to consider IMPACT.

Kass says that if organizations use stories, they have an obligation for ethical storytelling--making sure that everyone has a shared understanding of not only the purpose of telling the story, but also in knowing where the story will be used, how it will be used, and how long it will be used. And that people must be informed before, during, and after sharing their story

For the IMPACT Chicago Core Program, IMPACT for Girls,  or advanced courses, we let participants know the ways that we might use a quote or story that they share on the "What IMPACT means to me" form (e.g. research, facebook, blog) and participants give permission for us to use it or not and how they want to be identified if we have permission to use it. We have also had instances when a participant has given permission for us to use their quote or story and later decided they did not want to share their and we have removed it.

For more about ethical storytelling:
Navigating the Ethical Maze: Storytelling for Organizations Working with Vulnerable Populations. September 2017.

What does ethical storytelling have to do with GBV[gender-based violence]? Podcast with GBVIMS

Monday, September 3, 2018

Self-Defense and Trauma Healing: An Interactive Workshop for Those Who Work With Trauma Survivors

Self-Defense and Trauma Healing SEPTEMBER 28, 2018 from 9:00am - Noon Tickets: $75 and $20 for CEU Certificate
Instructors: Dr. Bianka Hardin & IMPACT Instructor Margaret Vimont, LCSW
CTC is partnering with IMPACT Chicago to host an experiential workshop for people who work with trauma survivors to learn how taking a self-defense course can be an addendum to treatment and support.
Margaret Vimont
Participants will learn:
 How and why to refer a client to self-defense training
 Empowerment skills through verbal and physical boundary setting
 How self-defense training can be an addendum to treatment
 How to support a client who is taking a course

Participants will receive 3 CEUs provided by Centered Therapy Chicago.
Use: License # 268000085
Bianka Hardin

Participants are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing. 

Register here.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Beyond Protection: Perceived Threat, Criminalization, and Self-Defense

Jay O'Shea
photo credit: Calvin Alagot
It seemed innocent enough. My daughter and I were stopping by the credit union on our way home from the pool. It was after closing but a few employees remained in the parking lot. 

As I approached the cash machine, another person walked up from the opposite side, a few paces before us. A slim, white woman whose expensive casual wear and designer sunglasses marked her as one of our Westside neighborhood’s more affluent residents, she turned and looked at me instead of giving her attention to the ATM. I offered a smile, acknowledging that she had reached the cash machine first and had dibs on it. When she returned my smile with a scowl, I expected the snappish disdain that well-off women in West LA so commonly project toward other women, but not the question she asked.

“Can you come back?” she said.

“Excuse me?” I asked, assuming she meant “Can you step back?” That seemed peculiar since I stood a good six feet away from her but I would have been willing to accommodate the request.

“I need to make a deposit,” she said.

“Go ahead,” I said. “You were here first.”

“I said I need to make a deposit. So you need to go and come back later.”

“What?” Incredulous, I struggled for words. Finally, it kicked in and I understood what she was asking, or rather demanding, of me.

“No,” I added.

“You know what?” she said. “Forget about it. OK, just forget it. I guess I’ll have to wait.”

She stormed past.

Grateful for my IMPACT (and other empowerment self-defense training), I turned to my eight-year-old daughter and said loudly, “OK, so this woman is looking for a confrontation and wants it to be someone else’s fault. She may be dangerous and we need to be prepared.” I knew that wasn’t it, not exactly, but I wanted to deflect her implied accusation and make sure any bystanders knew she was the threat, not I.

Huffing, crossing and uncrossing her arms, and making a show of endorsing her check at distance of twenty yards from me, she pulled out her phone and stood watching as I deposited my own check.

Perhaps my tank top and skate shorts marked me, in her eyes, as poor. Maybe my baseball cap and visible deltoids read as masculine. Or my dark hair, short, muscular stature, and my daughter’s brown skin rendered us ethnically ambiguous in a city whose largest “minority” is multi-racial. Whatever it was, it suggested to her that I was a self-evident threat. In a weird leap of logic, my position as threatening and socially inferior meant that it was my obligation to defer my errand in order to protect her safety. Anything less than complete capitulation confirmed my status as dangerous.

I had recently attended a women’s self-defense conference where speakers pointed out that white women’s ostensible right to protection exposes others, usually men of color, to violence. People of various backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses (people of color, working class people, the poor) have historically been seen as a self-evident threat to elite white women. In the interest of protecting these women, white men inflict violence on marginalized people, who are rendered vulnerable precisely because they are seen as dangerous. Fear and entitlement come together to create violence.

Middle- and upper-class white women play into this system when they come to expect protection, and come to associate people who seem different with threat. Someone who lives at the intersection of different identities from my own (in terms of race, immigration status, or gender expression) could have faced far graver consequences than the social aggression I encountered at the ATM. The criminalization of the poor, people of color, and those whose appearance or behavior seems non-normative ultimately serves the needs not of women, white or otherwise, but of a racist patriarchal system. Criminalization endangers the lives and the safety of ordinary people and deprives the innocent of their freedom. Criminalization is as much a threat to justice and equality as other forms of violence.  

This woman’s actions can’t be, of course, considered effective self-defense. She missed clues that might have signaled my true intentions: do muggers often bring their children with them to an attack? Do they usually have their wallets out and checks in hand? She was responding to a narrative she created – that the person behind her in line showed up just to attack her – rather than the actual circumstances: that more than one person had a check to deposit at an ATM in a major city just after the close of business hours. Worse, in her suspicion, she provoked a confrontation where none needed to happen.

Even so, the flip side of acknowledging that we are responsible for our own safety is realizing that we are responsible for how we interact with others. Just as women need to let go of a desire to displace responsibility onto someone else, we also are accountable to how we demand safety. We are accountable to the social violence that continues in the associations of criminality with difference. We do not have the right to criminalize the ordinary actions of those who appear different from us in the interest of safety.

As self-defense practitioners and advocates we need to make explicit the difference between safety and protection, between boundary setting and criminalization, between intuition and stereotyping. We need to remind ourselves, our students, and others that we are responsible for the conclusions we come to, for the narratives we create in our minds, and the actions we take in response.

Jay O'Shea
Author, martial artist, and empowerment self-defense instructor, Jay (Janet) O’Shea is the author of Risk, Failure, Play: What Dance Reveals about Martial Arts TrainingRecipient of a UCLA Transdisciplinary Seed Grant to study the cognitive benefits of Filipino Martial Arts training, she gave a TEDx Talk on competitive play. She is Professor of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at UCLA.

Monday, August 20, 2018

If Your Partner is A Survivor

In "So Your Partner is a Survivor--Seven Ways to Be Supportive," Kaylee Wolfe reflects on ways to be supportive to a partner who is a survivor.

  • Give your partner space to tell their story.
  • Believe your partner.
  • You are a supporter, not a "savior."
  • They are still the same person they were before they told you their story.
  • Consider asking about triggers and how you can help.
  • Avoid taking things personally that are really about your partner's trauma
  • Remember healing can be lifelong and non-linear
For Wolfe's thoughtful details, check out the full article in The Portland Phoenix here.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Thanks to All Who Made it Possible to Equip and Train Two New Suited Instructors

New suited instructor AC (in white) & longtime instructors Nat &  Rob
Thank you to everyone who helped us raise funds to equip & train two new suited instructors. 
AC (in the white above) is the first new IMPACT Chicago suited instructor in over a decade. He has completed the co-teaching phase and will begin his supervised phase in August. Now that we can cover the expenses for his equipment and training, we can start the search for a second new suited instructor. Thank you!

Why did people donate? Here are some of the things people said:
  • Thank you for all you do! Alexandra
  • Way to go IMPACT for so many years of high quality, powerful training! Anonymous
  • Worthy Cause. Thank you for your work. Anonymous
  • Took this class years ago; glad to see it is still around. Athena
  • Woohoo! Great cause! Debbie
  • Keep up the good work! Dominic
  • Took the class almost 30 years ago, carry it with me every day, tell people about it all the time. Dori
  • Here's to your success!! Elizabeth
  • Sending our love (and $) to IMPACT Chicago from the "Beauty Bites Beast" team! Ellen
  • Impact changed my life. I want to help others benefit from Impact. Janet
  • I took an IMPACT class in 1998 and it changed my life. I saw that I was strong and worth defending. The compassion and expertise of the suited instructors were instrumental in that transformation for me. Kellie
  • Supporting IMPACT Chicago and, by extension, empowering women? Sounds good to me! Ken
  • Thank you for ALL that you are doing to empower women. Best of luck! Kevin
  • Thanks for providing such a great service. Kimberly
  • This is so important. thank you and much love from Slovenia. Martina
  • Love your guys. Michelle
  • It's an honor to support the wonderful work of IMPACT Chicago. Nancy and Sarah
  • Great organization! Noreen
  • Keep up the good work! Pamela
  • Thank you for this opportunity to contribute to this life changing and inspiring organization. The skills I have learned lives on in my life every day and spreads as I share my story and experience with others. I appreciate you all very much. Patti
  • Proud to support such a great organization! Rachel
  • Continue the great work! Sandria
  • IMPACT changes lives. Thank you for all that you do. One day "no" will be enough, until then there is IMPACT. Shelley
  • I tell EVERYONE about IMPACT. Attending the February Core Program was so inspiring and truly life changing. Thank you for all you do. Suzanne
 It is not too late to donate! 
You can donate via CauseVox 
OR send a check to IMPACT Chicago, 4057 N. Damen Chicago IL 60618
Thank you!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Your Voice Has Power

Be alert. Walk during the day instead of at night. If you see something, say something. All things women are often told to help keep us safe. But what happens when you’ve done the “right” things and your safety is still threatened?

I hadn’t expected to put my IMPACT training to use so soon, but I’m thankful the training prepared me to handle the unexpected and bolstered my confidence to use my voice as a powerful tool to fight back.

One week after completing the June 2018 Core Program, I was walking to the bus stop about 8:30 in the morning. A few blocks into my walk I wanted to take a selfie (to document my exercise). I lift my phone up and rotate the camera and see this man walking behind me. I make a mental note. I see a woman and little girl walking toward me and so I smile and say hi. The woman says something about it being so hot when she passes so I turn around to laugh and agree. I make sure to look at the man so he knows I see him. I slowed down my pace just to see if he would ever pass me. He doesn’t. He’s following me.

A few moments after reaching the bus stop, I notice the man is standing on the opposite corner, watching me. I turn away and look for the bus. I glance back over and he’s still standing there watching me, but then I hold my gaze and notice he has his penis out stroking himself. Broad daylight, busy intersection. I’ve never experienced this, but have heard many stories; stories of men exposing themselves on trains and buses, or in grocery stores. Like other women I know, no one ever really prepared me how to respond to something like this.
A different version of me - the pre-Impact training, less aware of my badassery version of me -  likely would have turned away, ignoring this bold creep and waited for the bus. Or, walked to the Walgreens on the next corner and walked around buying time until he hopefully left. But not this day. This is not ok. I pull my phone up and take his picture. He sees me taking his picture of course, puts his junk away and starts walking across the street toward me. He’s talking loud like I did something wrong to him and I get loud back. “Don’t walk over here!” I yelled to him, but he continues to advance toward me.  
He’s standing across from me, inches from my face, yelling, “Oh you don’t know me? You don’t know me?” Me: “No, I DON’T know you!” I’m loud enough to hopefully get the attention of another man walking up the block with a big dog. My thought is surely this big dog will get this man to leave. The man with the dog doesn’t say anything. He turns the corner and keeps walking.
Then, I hear a voice behind me on the other side of a gate. “Are you okay?” I tell the unseen bystander, “No I’m not, this dude just exposed himself to me!” The man behind the gate stepped in and I was able to leave the situation unharmed.
I was proud of myself for speaking up. It felt like a victory. But, it wasn’t enough. I kept thinking about other girls and women this young man will encounter. I probably wasn’t the first woman he’d exposed himself to. I may not be the last. I don’t want us to experience this. It doesn’t matter that he was across the street and didn’t put hands on me. He shouldn’t feel so comfortable to expose himself and intimidate me right on the street in a busy area. What would he do at night?
I decided to file a report with the police. According to the Illinois General Assembly, public indecency is a Class A misdemeanor. If committed on or within 500 feet of an elementary or secondary school grounds when children are present it becomes a Class 4 felony. It is a crime. However, as was my case, it is often not treated with the seriousness of more “major crimes” like homicide or rape. I was nearly laughed out of the police station and left feeling more angry and frustrated than fearful.
I put all of that energy into sharing my story on Facebook to alert my friends and also on my neighborhood’s listserv to alert the community. This may not be major to police, but so many women and girls have experienced something similar. This is major to us.
To my surprise, a detective contacted me two weeks later and the Chicago Police Department issued an official Community Alert that same day. The Alert was picked up and shared on local news and in my Alderman’s newsletter.

I saw something. I said something. And I kept saying it until I was heard. I’m thankful for IMPACT’s reminder that my voice is powerful enough to make change.
Sandria, June 2018 IMPACT Chicago Graduate

Encourage women in your life to register for the Core Program
Sandria used her powerful voice to defend herself. She continued to use her powerful voice to create a safer community for others. Encourage someone you know to register for an upcoming IMPACT Chicago Core Program.

Support IMPACT 
Help ensure that more women have the opportunity to take IMPACT training If you believe in the work that IMPACT is doing and want us to be able to continue, this is your moment. Please donate what you can today.