Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD) Instructor Lisa Klenk asked:
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.
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.
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.