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.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Challenging Toxic Trauma within the Field of Trauma Treatment

Diane, Self-Defense & Sex Ed, 2018 NWMAF Special Training
Allegations of employee mistreatment roil renowned Brookline Trauma Center
 Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, a best-selling author on trauma whose research has attracted a worldwide following, has been fired from his job over allegations that he bullied and denigrated employees at his renowned Trauma Center.” Liz Kowalczyk, Boston Globe: March 7, 2018.

Reflection on this news from Empowerment Self-Defense Instructor Diane Long:
My studies with Bessel van der Kolk
I have studied with van der Kolk 3 times in person, once for a two-day workshop in the Twin Cities – Minneapolis-Saint Paul, once at an international conference and once in a 7-day intensive at Kripalu Yoga Center called "Recovering the Body's Natural Rhythms through Yoga and Play.” One of the reasons I chose Kripalu as a venue to study with him was that I thought the combination with yoga would help to offset his somewhat surly and reactive personal demeanor.

Gap between his written contributions to trauma and his teaching style
Even though van der Kolk has done a tremendous amount to increase the credibility of alternative approaches to treating trauma (e.g. Yoga, EMDR, Somatic Experiencing), I have thought of him as one of the least trauma-informed instructors I have worked with, in terms of his actual teaching. He was extremely chauvinistic - one of these guys that kind of makes you wrong whenever you ask a question. He reminded me of my father - absolutely brilliant, but socially prickly, insensitive, even hostile, especially if challenged in any way. He also clearly treated female assistants with less respect than the male ones. Sometimes it was subtle, but palpable.

One of my big issues at the Kripalu intensive was that he did not give any formal breaks during our training. So, if you wanted to pee, you would consistently have to miss a part of the presentation. It was oddly ironic for him to be teaching about trauma and reconnecting to body rhythms and yet fail to respect the body’s most basic biological needs. I pointed this out to him. 
Once, during a Power Point, he showed a piece of artwork by a child who had experienced severe abuse. The line drawing was graphic in nature, with phalluses aggressively dominating the screen. The use of the image served his point and it was valid for what he was talking about in terms of art therapy and common themes. However, he left the image on the screen (not deliberately, but unconsciously) while he moved on to talk about something else more positive in nature. I was pretty triggered and distracted as were many others I am sure, and it was hard to focus on what he was saying. At a lunch break, I pointed this oversight out to him (gently) and his response was something like, “Most of these people are therapists. It is good for them to be uncomfortable.” It was a classic defense pattern – a dismissive denial of any personal accountability, justification, and projection of blame. It was also sadly revelatory about his personal history. Even though he could acknowledge how some of his own trauma impacted his behavior, he could not integrate any critical feedback.

Experiences with Other Experts
I have worked with several other well-known men in the field who have this same pattern. Many years ago, I attended a training where an audience member asked a presenter not to tell the graphic story of a young boy’s death which she knew from his book. He suggested she “cover her ears,” and mimicked the action of covering his ears in a kind of infantilizing tone, and then launched into the story. A few years ago, I was asked not to return to an Advanced SE training where I was an assistant because I expressed anger and disappointment (though it was behind the scenes) when an instructor was unwilling to address concerns about the physical comfort of participants and questions about a lack of racial diversity in training. He was dismissive and not open to feedback in ways that were similar to van der Kolk. His dismissive nature was known, even expected and rationalized by those around him, and yet he is currently one of the most senior trainers in this particular modality for treating trauma.

What Happens When You Don’t Deal with Your Own Trauma
I wish I understood this piece of developmental trauma more so I could better respond when I am confronted with it. At van der Kolk’s intensive training, I questioned/challenged him about a few things like the ones I mentioned above. Women kept thanking me in the bathroom for speaking up. This seems to happen wherever I go. I speak up or ask for clarification with male authority figures (thanks largely to the confidence and skills I have gained through ESD) and women thank me in the bathroom. Again, this was familiar to me in terms of family dynamics. I was the one who was sent to ask my Dad for things like money, time or attention because he would tend to be less volatile with me. So, even though people with these patterns come off like real assholes, and it can feel uncomfortable, even unsafe to be around them, I have compassion for them, wondering what kind of childhood trauma contributed to these behaviors. I loved a man who was like this. Many of us probably did if we had fathers in our lives. It is so ironic and sad that some of the men in the field who have been the most visible in advocating and promoting effective trauma treatment have often not dealt with their own traumas, which then get reproduced within families, within education and in the workplace.

Compassion, Accountability and Healing
Please don’t think that my compassion in any way excuses this type of behavior. Aggressive, demeaning behaviors should not ever be tolerated. At the same time, rejecting the people who exhibit these behaviors is tantamount to rejecting the shadow parts of our selves. These behaviors are rooted in deep, deep insecurity, experiences of childhood abuse and neglect and a lack of emotional resilience and empathy. These beliefs and behaviors are all defenses designed to protect against wounds that call desperately to be healed. We are all impacted. I feel urgency in finding ways to interrupt these cycles. I yearn for restorative models.

I have less and less patience for male "gurus" (or authority figures of any gender for that matter), who use power and privilege in ways that belittle people or perpetuate and reinforce authoritarian hierarchies or refuse to look at the effects of their own behavior. Being queer/genderqueer definitely helps me have some distance and perspective because I am not so directly invested in heteronormativity, which often includes justifying and rationalizing men’s bad behavior and emotional care-taking. At the same time, I have more compassion, almost strategically, because abusive behavior is so widespread.

Toxic Masculinity and Disdain for Vulnerability
I feel the effects of this kind of toxic masculinity, even in feminist martial arts community where there is sometimes a “no pain, no gain” attitude, where having needs, particularly emotional needs - for safety, comfort and belonging, - go unacknowledged, or are seen as a sign of weakness, and where injury, illness or disability are seen as being “less than” or burdensome. Sometimes, questioning a teacher’s beliefs or actions (directly or indirectly) is perceived as a threat to existing authority. Passivity, feeling helpless, or “being a victim” is still often judged, seen as shameful, and so we distance ourselves from the “the victim role.” This disdain for vulnerability can come through in our language and attitudes, sometimes unconsciously. It often manifests as a lack of compassionate holding for our own fears and feelings of inadequacy. These beliefs and behaviors affect the collective field. None of us is immune from the oppressive effects of emotional neglect. We are all wading through the same toxic sludge. 

I started a long letter to Bessel van der Kolk that I never finished and never sent. I actually wrote letters to all of these men that I never sent. I think it is time to start writing again…

Diane Long
Empowerment Self-Defense Instructor, Somatic Therapist
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Diane's comments were first published on the ESD Action Group Facebook Page.

I wrote this piece 4 months ago, just after news of van der Kolk’s firing, feeling validated and emboldened. I was still healing from the effects of being excluded from another trauma training for speaking up about a teacher’s dismissive behavior. I was still carrying a lot of shame. Even though I didn’t do anything wrong, I still blamed myself until a few weeks ago, thinking that if only I had managed my anger differently, if only I had asked for help, etc., things would have been different. I feel much more vulnerability when advocating for myself than when I am advocating for others. When I am harmed or injured or ill, my “go to” place is still the belief that I have done something wrong, that I am somehow to blame. This is one of the ways that victim-blaming is still at work in my life. When these kinds of things happen, it erodes my self-confidence. Blaming myself, though painful, is self-protective. It is easier to manage than the helplessness I feel around abuses of power. I tend to withdraw and it takes a while to recover.
I believe neglect has a similar dynamic. Neglect is a way to distance ourselves from pain but we also distance ourselves from ourselves. This erodes our ability to empathize. I am glad that more people are speaking out about these issues so that we can begin to heal.  

Monday, July 16, 2018

Mark Nessel: Training the Next Generation of IMPACT Suited Instructors

Mark with his kids Sam and Sofie
The IMPACT core class is such a complicated and multi layered thing that the training and certification period for new instructors, which frequently seems unnecessarily long to people that are unfamiliar with the details of the class, is a one of the foundational elements of the success of the program.  The necessary skills can't really be put into practice in a laboratory environment, it's simply impossible to simulate all the possible permutations of what might happen in a class.  The only real way to effectively train staff is to utilize an apprenticeship model where staff in training are working in a class with real students under close supervision of senior certified instructors.
     There are no throw-away moments in the IMPACT core program.  Every interplay with the class or individual students is an opportunity to either enhance or diminish their learning.  IMPACT instructors are always "on", from the moment the first student arrives before the class until the moment the last one leaves.  Every interaction needs to be intentional.  The only way to learn this is from practice and the experience of the senior staff.
     While I'm no longer able to be in the suit, I'm grateful for the opportunity to share my experience with the next generation of suited IMPACT instructors.  We need this course and this organization now more than ever before.  Highly trained professional instructors are critical to the IMPACT program's survival and advancement of our mission of reducing and eliminating predatory violence against women.  I'm thrilled to be able to contribute to the mission through training new instructors.
Mark Nessel, IMPACT Chicago Instructor Trainer 
For more about Mark as a Suited Instructor, check out  "It's Time to Hang Up My Helmet."


Monday, July 9, 2018

Catcalling Citation Card

A group of creative people in Brooklyn came up with the idea of "Catcalling Citation Cards." Tired of dealing with street harassment, they designed a card to distribute when you want without having to give too much of your time to the people doing the catcalling.

To read more about the group and the ideas behind it and to download catcalling citation cards go here.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Bringing IMPACT to Native Women in North Dakota

Shanda with her daughter Madyson on the Turtle Mountain Reservation.

Ten years ago Shanda Poitra thought that spending the rest of her life with an abusive husband was the way things had to be. 

At the time she was raising three children and attending the University of North Dakota. She only signed up for an IMPACT class because she needed a gym credit.

Shanda could not have anticipated how much IMPACT changed her.

She found strength. She found her voice. She left her husband, returned to the reservation where she grew up, and began to build a new and better life for herself and her children.

Having IMPACT skills for herself was not enough for Shanda. As a member of the Turtle Mountain band of the Chippewa tribe, she wanted all the women in her community to have the opportunity to learn the skills to defend themselves. She convinced several tribe members to drive four hours to the University to experience IMPACT for themselves.

But even that wasn't enough. The need was much greater. According to the National Institute of Justice, 56% of Native women and girls experience sexual assault. Native women are murdered at rates ten times the national average.

Today, thanks to Shanda's fierce determination and excellent planning, instructors from IMPACT Boston are heading to North Dakota to teach safety and self-defense skills to more than women and girls on the reservation.

Meg Stone, IMPACT Boston, Executive director

Monday, June 25, 2018

Is Any Self-Defense Training Better than None?

As Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD) instructors talk more about their work, other self-defense practitioners and students raise questions. ESD Instructor Clara Porter answers some of those questions below.  
Is any self-defense training better than no self-defense training?
No. If you are taught physical self-defense in an environment where success means being able to fight through something every time and being able to power over another person every time, it is unrealistic, doesn’t address the realities of violence that women face, and it can damage women’s self-confidence.
Teaching solely physical skills does a disservice. From street harassment to sexual assault by strangers or familiars, physical tools are not always the best or safest option. There are many reasons women may choose not to fight back physically, particularly in situations with people they know and love. Women who have had a self-defense course with a narrow approach to every situation are not realistically prepared.  Failure in the real world after taking such a self-defense course can result in self blame causing psychological, emotional, and physical damage that is more harmful than if they had not taken a self-defense course.

By promoting Empowerment Self-Defense, are you disrespecting other systems of self-defense?
Promoting one thing is not necessarily tearing down something else.
Most self defense systems do not have the data to support their approach. We have the data to show empowerment self-defense works and is rooted in knowledge and experience built over the last 40 years. There is a basis for the claims we make.
The ESD model can be achieved by anyone who wants to teach self-defense and whose goal is to make people’s lives truly safer.

What are the benefits of Empowerment Self-Defense?
What I find most compelling is that after taking an ESD program, people experience increased confidence and feelings of self-efficacy and are more likely to intervene early in situations. They are also more likely to use their voices, to de-escalate, and to interrupt inappropriate behavior. Further, people with ESD training are more likely to report and are less likely to blame themselves.
One of the things I find very fascinating and we need more data to understand is the dramatic reduction in attempted sexual assault when comparing college women who have had ESD training with those who have not. What are the particular ways that women are embodying their ESD training that reduce attempted assault?

Clara Porter is the Director of Prevention. Action. Change in Portland Maine. She is certified by the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation and the Center for Anti-Violence Education. She is also a member of the Empowerment Self-Defense Alliance.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Chipping Away at Rape Culture with Girls' Emotional Self-Defense Training

In "We Can Chip Away at Rape Culture by Teaching Girls Emotional Self-Defense," Thu-Huong Ha writes about empowerment self-defense (ESD) programs that teach girls--preteen and teens--how to say an effective "No" while also claiming their emotional and physical space. 

She addresses:

  • The distinctive features of ESD
  • The importance of practice
  • Assertiveness is not aggressive
  • Recognizing boundary violations
  • ESD works
  • The Future is forthright
Check out the full article where she draws upon the insights of many ESD instructors, including:
No Means No Worldwide Lee Paiva, Sun Dragon Susan Shorn, IMPACT Boston Meg Stone, Defend Yourself Lauren Taylor, Breaking Free Nadia Telsey, IMPACT Chicago Martha Thompson, Safe Passage Lynn Marie Wanamaker.

Monday, June 11, 2018

IMPACT Chicago Instructor Retreat

2018 IMPACT Instructor Team

[front to back]
Martha                                              Rachel
Katie                        Margaret
Rob                     AC
Nat      Bruce

IMPACT Chicago instructors met for an all-day instructor retreat in May. We use our annual retreats as an opportunity to reflect on the past year and to look ahead to the future. Each of us co-organized  and co-led a portion of the agenda.

This year we addressed:
  • The language we use about consent in IMPACT for Girls
  • Language to increase LGBTQ inclusion in the Core Program
  • Optimizing teamwork
  • The hip toss to see how we could improve our teaching of it
  • Three major documents: the re-certification process, applying to be an instructor trainer, and the instructor coordinator position
  • Organizational expectations
  • 2019 Schedule
A dedicated group of people!