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Monday, December 9, 2019

Ask ESD Instructors: Trauma and Empowerment Self-Defense





Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD) Instructor Lisa Klenk asked:
What experiences of re-traumatization have you had in your classes? How did you deal with it? What is the most important advice you can give me?




Empowerment Self-Defense Instructors responded
Clara Porter, Prevention.Action.Change, Portland Maine
I've been teaching ESD for 25 years and no one has ever been 'retraumatized' by a class. They've experienced activation sure, been triggered even yes, but the frame is there to hold and normalize all responses. 
  • We say from the beginning that participants are the experts of their own bodies and know best what will work for them.
  • We tell them that we'll check in if they leave the training floor but just to see if there's anything we can do to be supportive. 
  • We never ask people to tell their stories but we hold space for them if they choose to do so.
  • Extra training is helpful and will give you more tools for both helping people ground and re-center in the moment and for recognizing when someone is 'checking out' or disassociating because the material is getting overwhelming so that you can intervene early. One of the best trainings offered is for volunteer advocates at local sexual assault centers. Some will allow folks who don't intend to be a hotline volunteer to participate. 
  • Have resources for local sexual assault centers on hand. 
Magdalena Dircio Diaz
I work with survivors and usually am the first person to provide services after an assault. We always need to keep in mind that survivors will be attending ESD trainings. I have started to incorporate restorative justice practices (starting with a restorative, community building circle) into my ESD curriculum. I also am getting certified in trauma-informed care. I hope these tools will help me best address situations where someone is triggered since most of my ESD participants will be survivors. In the United States, you have to be certified to work directly with survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence victim advocacy. For those not in the US or not near a center that offers such trainings, NOVA (National Organization of Victim Assistance) has some online training for individuals working with survivors. There is also trauma-informed care training on line; for example, San Diego State University Department of Counseling and School Psychology offers a graduate certificate in trauma-informed care and mental health recovery.

Beth Bowman
I think it's an opportunity to do great work.  I've been in the mental health field for 30 years and I've always looked for ways to combine my martial arts knowledge with supporting those who have experienced trauma.  I believe we should work to be trauma-informed and as Clara Porter said, provide space and support for those affected. It is also important to understand the importance of grounding and know the limits of our expertise. There are some great resources out there on the subject as well (see below).  Providing local resources for those needing additional support or trusted referral sources outside of class is very important.

Amy Jones, Culture of Safety, Chicago IL
I highly recommend having an assistant or co-teacher so that you have someone who can attend to the needs of the class AND someone who can attend to someone in crisis.

Recommended Readings
Brecklin, Leanne R. 2011. The Benefits of Self-Defense Training for Sexual Assault Survivors. Pp.276-295 in Thema Bryant-Davis (Ed.) Surviving Sexual Violence: A Guide to Recovery and Empowerment.

Frankl, Viktor E. 2006 (originally 1946). Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston: Beacon.

Herman, Judith L. 2015. Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. New York: Basic Books.

Rosenblum, Gianine D. and Lynn S. Task. 2014. Self-Defense as Clinical Intervention for Survivors of Trauma. Violence Against Women 20 (3): 293-308.

Valdiserri, Anna. 2016. Trauma-Aware Self-Defense Instruction: How Instructors Can Help Maximize the Benefits. Amazon Digital Services.

van der Kolk, Bessel. 2015. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma. London: Penguin.

Compiled and edited by Martha Thompson, IMPACT Chicago. Original question and comments from  ESD Global Movement Facebook Page, shared with permission from Lisa Klenk, Clara Porter, Magdalena Dircio Diaz Beth Bowman, and Amy Jones.

Monday, December 2, 2019

We All Have the Right to Be Safe


Ruth George
Donald Thurman raped and murdered University of Illinois Chicago student Ruth George. The headlines for Fox News, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, USA Today, CNN, CBS, and NBC all shrieked that he killed her because she ignored his catcalls.

Street harassment is unwanted and unacceptable. Persisting when the person you are harassing communicates no interest in you amplifies the violence.  It is horrific what happened to Ruth George and also horrific that media headlines implicitly blame her for the violence she experienced. Imagine if she had not ignored him, then the headlines likely would have screamed: Student raped and murdered because she didn’t ignore his catcalls!

Street harassment is a major social problem. According to the 2019 Stop Street Harassment Survey, 81% of women and girls and 43% of men have experienced harassment. Over half of people identifying as transgender have experienced harassment. The experiences of people who identify as non-binary are under-researched so we don’t have those statistics. Holly Kearl, Stop Street Harassment founder, says: “we need to focus on ending the systems, attitudes, and culture that allow harassment and violence to occur in the first place. We need communities involved. We need to listen to the voices of those most affected, including girls and teenagers.”

YES, we must end the systems, attitudes, and culture that allow harassment and violence to occur AND we need to support individual choices about how to navigate the harassment and violence they encounter as we work to change the culture. There is no one-size fits all individual solution to dealing with street harassment and there are no guarantees for any solution. For instance, in “How to Handle Catcallers,” Plan International recommends “ignore it” as often the best response.  Kearl says: “…research suggests that a calm, short, assertive response may be the best strategy.” Whatever choices an individual makes when encountering street harassment is not the cause or reason for why they experience that harassment or subsequent violence. Ruth George ignoring Donald Thurman's verbal harassment in no way holds her responsible for his violent behavior.

IMPACT Chicago, like other empowerment self-defense organizations, holds people who  harass others responsible for that behavior AND we are also dedicated to providing opportunities for people to expand their options when faced with verbal and physical violence. While we support changing the culture at a macro level, we are also working to change the culture by providing people with tools to increase theirs and others’ safety and to prevent, interrupt, and stop violence. 

Our deepest sympathies to family and friends of Ruth George. We will continue to fight for the right of all to be safe.

Martha Thompson
IMPACT Chicago
Lead Instructor
Admin Team Co-Leader

Monday, November 25, 2019

It’s Never Easy to Say Goodbye

Nat Wilson, IMPACT Chicago Suited Instructor
Photo: Maple Joy
“Elbow”! “Knee”! “Kick”! These were the words Nat Wilson heard yelled from the line for the last time. For the past 13 years, Nat has helped women with physical and verbal techniques, along with playing the role of an assailant during Core, IMPACT for girls, workshops, and advanced
IMPACT programs. The goal is to leave women with the necessary tools to defend themselves during uncomfortable or dangerous situations. 

Nat began his IMPACT journey in 2006. When a Chicago serial rapist was running rampant years earlier, his sister and friends asked how they could protect themselves and it left Nat lost, without a good answer. 
A former colleague was an IMPACT board member and encouraged him to get involved. Nat contacted IMPACT and was invited to attend the final scenarios of an upcoming program to see if it was a good fit. 

“I couldn’t believe it,'' Nat said. “These women...were more equipped to defend themselves than people who had been taking traditional martial arts for like four years.”

From that point forward, Nat made it through the nearly two year training and interview process - never looking back, even when he moved seven hours away. 

About four years after becoming a suited instructor, Nat relocated to Northfield, MN for his full-time job. Despite the seven hour commute, Nat felt it was still worth traveling four to five times a year to train participants taking IMPACT programs. 

“[Driving] It’s a bit of a drag. To me, it’s so worth it. If it were just a job, job I couldn't do it and it wouldn’t even matter if it was a lot of money. It’s the fact that the results of the work are so rewarding again, again, again, and again,” Nat said. 

Over the years, Nat has seen so many powerful transformations. Women have shared countless personal stories that brought them to a seat on the mat in the IMPACT circle. 

“We try to tap into something that’s maybe already there, inside, maybe they weren’t aware of. But also just give them the license to explore. Maybe looking at things a different way or trying things they’ve never done before.”

Through all the wonderful memories, Nat has decided it’s time to throw in the towel - realizing he’s getting older, the commute has become a lot, and family work schedules have become more intense. 

Mixed with many emotions, Nat reflected on how he felt after his last class. “Now that it is over, I have a mix of melancholy that it is over but also pride in the quality of the work I was able to do with IMPACT,” Nat said. 

Nat hopes that other men will get involved with IMPACT. There are several roles men can take advantage of behind the scenes, instead of being a suited instructor. 

There are a bunch of things that go on behind the scenes at IMPACT that are essential to keeping our classes running and keeping the organization strong. We need people to help plan class logistics, write grants, do PR work, web development, photography, solicit donations – these are just a few,” Nat said. 

IMPACT Chicago thanks Nat Wilson for his many years of service.
There’s still time to sign-up for the Core Program held on December 6 - 8.

Maple Joy
IMPACT Chicago grad 
Blog Contributor

#IMPACTChicago #SayingGoodbye #ThankYou #SelfDefense
#WomanEmpowerment 


Monday, November 18, 2019

Everyone Has a Right to Feel Safe Within Their Own Body

December Core Lead Instructor Katie
Photo: Daniel Teafoe
The last IMPACT Chicago Core Program of this decade is December 6,7, & 8 at the Glenview Park Center, 2400 Chestnut Avenue, Glenview.  The course is open to women 16 years old and up (cis and trans).  According to Lead Instructor Katie (pictured to the left), “Everyone has a right to feel safe within their own bodyI look forward to helping women and girls learn to use their physical and spiritual power to defend themselves successfully.”

Katie will be leading a team of instructors to teach and practice self-defense in realistic simulated scenarios with one instructor playing the role of an aggressor and Katie in the role of a personal coach.  The program allows participants to gain a maximum of self-defense skills in a short amount of time. Training progresses from distinguishing harmless and dangerous situations to verbal boundary setting to physical responses appropriate in an assault. Women learn and drill effective awareness, verbal, and physical techniques and then practice using their voices, managing their adrenaline, making moment-by-moment decisions, and, as a last resort, delivering strikes and kicks with full-force, just as they would need to do in a real-life assault.

IMPACT Chicago grads say why they recommend taking the IMPACT Chicago Core Program.

AC: "You will surprise yourself."

Kandice: "To build your confidence!"

Lisa: "For me, it is wonderful to be in an empowering space where we learn tools, not rules. I'm tired of hearing how women need to be careful, to constrain our choices (e.g. are you sure you should be going to that alone?), and to walk through the world in fear."

Rose: "Self-esteem and confidence."






Monday, November 11, 2019

I Got Out of My Own Way

In my last blog post "Shedding Fear to Find My Unique Strong Voice," I addressed my fears and how self-defense training supported me in my healing journey and increased my sense of personal safety and confidence. And that now, instead of walking around with that old familiar feeling of fearfulness, I now feel more vibrant, alive, and confident. 


This week, I am sharing a link to a podcast “The Untold Story, Get Out of Your Own Way and NARM” that I did with Chicago Center for Integration and Healing (CCIH). In the podcast, I address:
  • My journey into developing more safety and enjoyment in my  body and working with anxieties and fears
  • Exploring trust and mistrust
  • The profound experience of realizing I was holding someone else’s fear
  • My personal journey into exploring the truth of the untold ancestral story as half German and half from the South
  • How to connect with our own desires as an empathic person
  • Personal agency and how we can get in our own way
  • What the body-centered and relational model of NARM (Neuro-Affective Relational Model) offers
  • When you feel you’ve had a set-back it could actually be the natural contraction that happens after expansion
Bianka Hardin, PsyD
Licensed Clinical Psychologist


Monday, November 4, 2019

Shedding Fear To Find My Unique, Strong Voice

As a woman, I am very aware of the dangers that exist in society.  I have been taught about these dangers since I was young and continue to hear about the dangers to women on a daily basis on the news.  Every day there is a reminder that the world is not safe for women. Because I didn’t feel safe, I looked for ways that I wasn’t safe and for the dangers around me.  I used hypervigilance and caution to protect me for many years. 

In the past few years, I began to integrate lessons from my work as a trauma therapist and wondered how they may help me in my own life.  The hypervigilance that was so familiar and protective to me did protect me but I also began to understand sustained hypervigilance negatively impacts my health and well-being. I began to recognize that the fear I was carrying was related to trauma that happened before I was born, it was intergenerational trauma, passed down from generations before me. In the blog post below and another one next week "I Got Out of My Own Way,"  I will share how self-defense training and somatic therapy supported me in my healing journey and increased my sense of personal safety and confidence  Instead of walking around with that old familiar feeling of fearfulness, I now feel more vibrant, alive, and confident. 

It’s not safe to walk alone at night. Don’t trust strangers. ALWAYS be on your guard. You could be kidnapped.  As far back as I can remember, I was told that I am not safe and the world is a dangerous place. 

Where did this fear come from? Why was I scared all the time?

Many of us are wired to be fearful because of our intergenerational trauma and societal imprinting. My mother and grandmother, of course, had good intentions and told me the same messages all women get because they cared for me and wanted me to be safe. Fear was transmitted as a result of their lived experiences and their own intergenerational trauma. 

At the same time, we absorb daily lessons from movies, music, and television that women are weak and need to be protected. Every time we turn on the news, we are bombarded with numerous stories about women being assaulted and victimized.    

My own personal wiring combined with the cumulative impact of society's consistent messaging resulted in me personally feeling weak, disempowered and afraid.  On the surface, you wouldn’t know how I felt.  But fear was lurking below the surface, interfering with my confidence and my voice.  Often, I looked calm on the outside, but inside, I was waiting for something bad to happen. If I didn’t know better, I could easily self-pathologize and call myself 'silly’ or 'paranoid.' As a professional now, in my many years of work with women and trauma survivors, I know I am not alone. Many of us live in fear.  

Doing instead of fearing
I pride myself on being a doer, an achiever.  If there is a solution, I will find it.  Well, I found it. Two years ago, I learned about the IMPACT Chicago Core Program Self-Defense Training for Women and immediately wanted to be a part of this training.  I completed a two-weekend IMPACT Core Program where I learned verbal and physical boundary setting techniques. I was amazed at how empowering the experience was for me. I felt strong, powerful, brave!  
Now I walk around with an attitude of “don’t mess with me, or else!” I also now know how to fight, how to defend myself, how to stand up for myself from the outset. Even better, I no longer need to buy into societal messaging that women are weak, or that I need to be nice because I am a female.  I know I have everything I need to defend myself. 
The confidence and empowerment I experience after completing this program has been invaluable to me and has helped me personally and professionally. I wish every woman and every girl could experience this! 

Bianka Hardin, PsyD
Licensed Clinical Psychologist


Monday, October 28, 2019

There ARE ways to Handle Multiple Assailants!


Defense Against Multiple Assailants (DAMA) is offered every other year. And this is THE Year: Saturday and Sunday, November 16 and 17, 11 am - 5 pm, 1650 W. Foster Avenue in Chicago. You can get more information or register HERE or contact Amy Info@IMPACTChicago.org. It is suited instructor Nat's last IMPACT class, so we hope you can be there!

Graduates say DO IT
Amy: "In terms of my size and shape, I'm a fairly small person-but I've pretty much always *felt* large. While I loved my Core experience, DAMA is the program that truly made me question, fight for, and own that feeling. I've rarely felt so very, very small as when I found myself facing 2-3 assailants. And I've rarely stood so securely in how very, very large I am as when I came out of top in our encounters. DAMA took my certainly from me...and I earned it back. So, highly recommended."

Emma: "This class builds on what you learn in the Core Program so effectively! A really valuable chance to keep leaning into your own bravery and power. And honestly, it's fun."

Julie: "I highly recommend it! It was intense and scary but I got so much out of the class. Everyone was so supportive!"

K. : "There's a special kind of energy in the room due to the class requiring so many teachers present as assailants. You know that love and care you feel from being around people so committed to making a difference in yours and other people's lives during Core? There's a special kind of 'Wow, the crew's all here--this is really powerful--we ARE going to improve the world!' to being around so many teachers at once. That and you learn some really empowering 'Oh, wait, there IS a way to handle this' concepts, just like in Core. 'You can cry and fight at the same time' feeling--only applied to a new situation."

Lisa: "Fun, fun, fun, and valuable! I highly recommend this advanced program open to IMPACT grads."

Michelle: "DAMA was the best decision of my life. Going to therapy helped me get over the abuse, but there was still something very important missing, physical protection. Therapists cannot teach you how to physically protect yourself. IMPACT Chicago-Defense Against Multiple Assailants did just that, and more."

Rachel: "One of the scariest things I've done, but so worthwhile. Why yes, you can cry and fight at the same time and fight really well!"












Monday, October 21, 2019

The Power Within You

Many of us remember hearing about the brutal attack and rape of an 18-year-old West Town woman last summer. Although most attacks against women happen by someone they know, sometimes time and unforeseen occurrence happen to us all. In "Woman, 18, Visiting Chicago From Poland Had To Relearn How To Walk And Talk After Brutal West Town Rape, Prosecutors Say,Hannah Alani, a Block Club Chicago reporter shares a truly remarkable story of a brave young woman and the capture of her attacker. Chicago neighbors call her "Warrior Woman" in recognition of her fight for survival, and the GoFund me page has passed the $30,000 goal to help the woman and her family. 

Submitted by Maple Joy


#ImpactChicago #WomenEmpowerment #Courageous #Bold #StayStrong #NeverGiveUp

Monday, October 14, 2019

Who Should Violence Prevention Programs Target?


Criticisms of teaching women self-defense often center on the idea that instead of teaching women self-defense we should be teaching men not to rape. We asked IMPACT Chicago Facebook Friends on August 27 to let us know what they think: Men are the primary perpetrators of violence against women and girls--should men be the primary targets of funding and programming or should efforts focus on empowering women and girls? 

The overall message is that YES, men should have access to violence prevention programming but there was a concern that men would not take advantage of this programming. AND we also need to prioritize programming for self-defense and other empowerment training for targets of violence. These responses were part of the inspiration for the #YesAnd Campaign. See below for what people had to say and let us know what you think.

YES, MEN SHOULD BE THE PRIMARY TARGETS OF FUNDING AND PROGRAMMING
Tina, 2017 IMPACT grad 
"Men should be the primary targets. They are the problem."

NO, MEN WON'T GO
Clay, IMPACT Chicago Suited Instructor (Retired)
"Most men won't go to these classes. I may be wrong but from being a man that would be my guess."

Rose 2010 IMPACT grad 
"Focus on women and girls. Females seem to take self-help classes more than men from what I see and experience. I truly wish more men would take classes on self-improvement relating to women."

IT'S NOT EITHER/OR; IT IS YES AND
Amy, 2017 IMPACT grad 
 "In general I'm leery of making the primary target of funding and programming the aggressor. I feel it takes agency from the people who most deserve it (in this case folks who identify as/are perceived as women and girls) and hands the decision about whether or not to continue to perpetrate violence against them to the very group who has quite a long history of bad decisions on this subject.

100% yes to educating men. But I prioritize empowering women more. Not because violence against them is ever their fault - but because they deserve to walk through the world unafraid without waiting a second longer for "permission" to do so.

I'm speaking without nuance here, because social social media. I'd relish the chance to sit down with any of y'all and dig at the details." 

Chemely, 2012 IMPACT grad 
"I think that men should also be the focus of programs to end gender-based violence. Since men are mostly the perpetrators of violence directed toward women, they must be educated on equality, assertiveness, empathy, and on toxic masculinity/overall patriarchal rules that make them think they have to act certain ways, etc. I believe women should continue to receive self-defense training to help with our own sense of power."

Gianine, FB Friend
I think the men need to be educated along with the women. It's the only way real change can happen. They have to shed their brainwashed ideas of their roles and women's roles.

Michelle, 2016 IMPACT grad 
"Wow, that's such an important question. Women and girls have been subjected to all that comes with patriarchal power structure for so long that ESD is life-altering, and I think we/they deserve to have that programming as an option, that said, the men's incubators that are popping up are encouraging. Is there a way to create meetups like Men4Choice seems to be doing, and gather intel on how to hook into more interested individuals who might be willing to donate time to a mentoring program? Just thinking out loud here. "













Monday, October 7, 2019

Rosa Parks: Sexual Assault Investigator

Rosa Parks is known for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. That refusal was a spark for the civil rights movement in the US. 
Standing up for what was fair and just was not new to Parks. She joined the NAACP in 1943 and worked on criminal justice issues as a sexual assault investigator. She investigated claims of rape against black men by white women--working to protect black men from false accusations of rape. She was also committed to making sure that black people who were sexually assaulted by white people could seek justice.  The Rape of Recy Taylor is a film that chronicles one of the cases that Rosa Parks brought to national attention. 
For more about Rosa Parks' important work and her own experience with stopping sexual assault, check out "Before the Bus, Rosa Parks Was a Sexual Assault Investigator."


Monday, September 30, 2019

Self-Defense Can Be Healing

"Researchers who study self-defense for sexual assault note its similarities to exposure therapy, in which individuals in a safe environment are exposed to the things they fear and avoid. In the case of self-defense training, however, participants are not only exposed to simulated assaults, they also learn and practice proactive responses, including—but not limited to—self-defense maneuvers. Over time, these repeated simulations can massively transform old memories of assault into new memories of empowerment," Jim Hopper, Harvard Medical School.

Check out this article in the Atlantic "What Self-Defense Can Do for Mental Health"  by Gitit Ginit who explores what psychologists say about the role self-defense training can play in healing from sexual assault.

#ElHalev #Sexual Assault #Healing


Monday, September 23, 2019

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Most attacks happen by people that you may know, but sometimes there are uncommon scenarios such as Claire Quinn, a 6-0 boxing champion. While she was walking down the street one day in Bucktown last month, her instincts and training kicked in as she had to protect and fight for her life. 


Hannah Alani, a reporter at Block Club Chicago has the scoop...Golden Gloves Champ Scares Off Bucktown Mugger 

#IMPACTChicago
#ChicagoSelfDefense
#WomanEmpowerment
#FightBack
#ProtectYourself
#Bucktown

Submitted by Maple Joy

Monday, September 16, 2019

#YesAnd Campaign to End Sexual Violence

"Yes, and" is a technique used in improvisational comedy and business to encourage the acceptance of another's reality and then expanding upon it. At its foundation, it is a commitment to collaboration, listening to others, and creating a big enough space for creative thinking and innovation. Let's bring that approach to ending sexual violence.

WHAT IS THE CURRENT REALITY?
Self-defense training is often not included as a step to prevent sexual assault
On See Jane Fight Back, Self-Defense scholars Martha McCaughey and Jill Cermele recently published an Open Letter to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) in honor of RAINN’s 25th anniversary. McCaughey and Cermele were writing to RAINN because they were surprised to see that RAINN does not identify self-defense as one of the steps women and girls can take to prevent sexual assault. Amazingly, RAINN’s focus is only on bystander intervention! McCaughey and Cermele found this especially surprising because there is a growing body of scholarship documenting that empowerment self-defense training prevents sexual assault and, in contrast, nothing to support bystander intervention as more effective than self-defense. Think how powerful if we combine self-defense and bystander intervention. Instead of either/or, let's say "Yes, and."

Self-defense is not seen as a way to prevent sexual violence
In a recent Facebook post, the Chicago organization Resilience (formerly Rape Victim Advocates) states: “Self-defense is a tricky subject for us. We believe in empowerment, confidence, and building strength. We also know that to prevent sexual violence we need to stop rape culture at its roots.”
When folks talk about stopping rape culture at its roots, they generally mean our efforts should focus on educating men to stop committing sexual violence. This is a worthy goal!

In the meantime, while we are working to get men and boys to stop raping, let’s make sure that women and girls have the tools and confidence to stop men and boys who try to rape them. The evidence is clear that women and girls who have taken an empowerment self-defense program experience less unwanted contact, sexual coercion, attempted rape, and completed rape. Think how powerful if we work to get men and boys to stop raping others while we ALSO make sure that women and girls (cis and trans) and other communities vulnerable to gender-based violence have the tools and confidence to stop rape while men and boys work on learning to stop themselves. Instead of either/or, let's say "Yes, and."

LET’S CREATE A NEW REALITY: #YesAnd
Let’s reject either/or thinking as the way to stop sexual violence and start accepting and expecting #YesAnd thinking.

Ideas from RAINN, Resilience, Denim Days (Denim Days includes self-defense) to stop sexual violence:
  • bystander intervention
  • prevention education
  • believing and supporting survivors
  • recognizing that people do not ask for or deserve violence in any form
  • challenging victim blaming statements
  • consent
  • healthy and respectful relationships
  • lobbying for funding for anti-sexual assault programs
#YesAnd IMPACT, empowerment self-defense training, and resistance training and many other things that we haven’t yet thought about because we have been battling either/or thinking for so long.

So what can you do?
  • When you see or hear a suggestion for how to prevent sexual violence that is a good idea but excludes self-defense, add your voice:  #YesAnd  IMPACT, empowerment self-defense, and/or resistance education or other ideas that you have.
  • Use social media and other forums to promote #YesAnd thinking. 
  • To help create a big picture view of the new reality we are creating, share with others via your own platforms, others' social media, newsletters, and other public communications. Add #YesAnd so others can more easily find what you post.
  •  Please also consider sending via Facebook Messenger to IMPACT Chicago or via email. Send the link or copy of the source and your response. With your permission, we will share your submission on our Facebook page and in a periodic compilation on the IMPACT Chicago Blog.  

An example
IMPACT Chicago shared a Facebook post agreeing with all the points made about how to support transgender people and added: "We also support all the ways individuals engage in self-protection--for instance in this situation, awareness of the larger environment and a loud voice. #YesAnd"

We look forward to hearing from you!
Martha Thompson
IMPACT Chicago
Senior Instructor
Admin Team Co-Leader
Social Media Editor







Denim Days also includes self-defense




Monday, September 9, 2019

Behavior to Character: A Transformation


Joanne Factor, Strategic Living
Several years ago a student in a six-week course expressed her discomfort with our discussion of recognizing "red flags" and connecting them to abusive behavior.  In our classes, a "red flag" is some sort of behavior that gets your attention because it pushes against one of your boundaries.  It could be a small boundary, it could be a micro-aggression, it could be significant.  Regardless, you experience discomfort (some instructors refer to this as "intuition" or "gut feeling") because it is a boundary violation.

"But what about character?" she asked, "doesn't the quality of one's character come into play?"  

I thought back to this conversation after hearing a recent story on NPR.  Last year a high school counselor in New Hampshire, Kristie Torbick,  pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 14-year old student.  She was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison.  The prosecutors had asked for 5-10 years.  The defense asked for leniency, and presented two dozen letters of support of the defendant's character.  In addition, twenty-five of the defendant's supporters came to the sentencing.  Some were family and friends and neighbors.  Some were colleagues.  The collective message was "she's not a predator, she just made a poor decision."

And it turned into a big deal.  Not the guilt of Torbick, but of the ethics and judgment of her supporters.  Remember, some of Torbick's supporters were colleagues who also work in schools with children.  Other community members, including parents, questioned how those professionals could defend a child sex offender and still be entrusted to work with children.

Let's pause and think of your position from these perspectives:
  • You're a parent and find out the counselor who works in your child's school has publicly supported another counselor who was convicted of child sexual assault.  How much confidence or trust would you have in that counselor?  
  • You're a school counselor, and another counselor you've known for a long time and held in high esteem is convicted of child sexual assault.  She's always been exceptionally helpful and generous to you as a colleague.  Do you feel she made a mistake, but isn't really a bad person?  Do you publicly support her?  How?
  • You're a school administrator and parents are coming to you about that school counselor who's testified in support of that other counselor who is now a convicted sex offender.  They no longer trust her around their children and want her gone.
Some of the professionals who did publicly support Torbick lost their jobs.  Several of those have brought lawsuits against the schools that fired them, claiming they were supporting Torbick's character and not her crime, and their free speech rights had been violated.

Which brings us to a sticky intersection of support and consequences.  Yes, Torbick was sentenced, she will be a registered sex offender the rest of her life, and I'm sure she lost her license and career after she's released from prison.  But what about the judgment of her supporters, their rights and responsibilities, and social consequences of speech?

(I'm sure some of you are flashing back to the trial of Dr. Larry Nassar.  He had a LOT of supporters.  Supervisors, college presidents, colleagues, friends.  That's how he got away with abusing his patients for a quarter-century.)

What did some of Torbick's supporters actually say?
  • Former colleague Shelley Philbrick:  "In all the years that I've known Kristie, both professionally and personally, she has always presented as a person who was engaged in helping to make the lives of others better."*  So far so good.  In my opinion, she could have added, "I am very disappointed in her recent actions.  After she pays her debt to society, I hope she finds a way to use her skills and talents to continue to make the lives of others better."  But she advocated for lenient sentencing, saying "to incarcerate Mrs. Torbick as part of any plea bargain would be a sad injustice to her own three children, one of which is only 3 years of age."**  Uhhh . . . I agree it's sad, and should there not be consequences for her actions?  
  • Therapist working with the incarcerated Torbick, Dr. Nancy Strapko:  "I don't think I've ever, ever actually uttered the words I seek mercy for this client. I do today. That's how sure I am that she's deserving."*  And "Kristie [Torbick] takes full responsibility for her actions with her 'victim.'  I put this in [quotes] because I am aware that her 'victim' was truly the pursuer in this case."**  So the therapist was blaming the 14 year old student for an adult professional's collapse of boundaries?
I would have hoped that these professionals could have supported Torbick while condemning her behavior and recognizing that justice needs to be served.  Any of us could be in a comparable situation, so I think it would benefit us all to consider what you want to be remembered as expressing in public.

Returning to the conversation with a student about behavior vs character.  I asked her, "How would I know someone's character if not through their behavior?"  What is character if not the cumulative effect of our experience of someone's behavior over time?  And when someone violates a huge boundary, breaches a code of ethics, crosses a unmistakable line in the sand -- knowledge of that has to add to and refine our assessment of their character, and not be disregarded because it contradicts everything we've previously seen.
Joanne Factor
First appeared in the August 2019 Strategic Living News and Views
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