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 


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.

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 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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Monday, September 2, 2019

Reflecting on Labor Day: Racial and Gender Harassment in the Workplace

Today is Labor Day, a public holiday celebrating the contributions of workers to the well-being of the United States (DOL).  While we celebrate those contributions, let's also  reflect on the well-being of workers.
            The majority of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, with racialized gender stereotypes contributing to a high incidence of sexual harassment of women of color (AWARE 2016; Hernandez 2000).  According to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC): “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

            Harassment is a type of employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA).  It is the responsibility of employers to prevent sexual harassment.  Employers need to monitor their workplaces and take all complaints seriously. 

Just like other forms of sexual abuse and assault:

  • The person targeted for harassment is not to blame
  • Aggressors will try to silence their targets and, when identified, try to shift blame to those they have targeted
  • While we are working collectively to change the culture and social structures that create and perpetuate racial and sexual abuse and assault, we also need to provide women and girls with tools to interrupt harassment in the workplace now.  Important individual tools to interrupt harassment: speaking up, keeping a journal, and getting support from co-workers and, if you have one, your union  (ITUC 2008).
So let’s celebrate Labor Day today but also work together to change the culture and structure of workplaces that perpetuate racial and sexual harassment to an environment that values the well-being of all its workers.
Martha Thompson, IMPACT Chicago Instructor      
AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research).  2016. Workplace Sexual Harassment.

Department of Labor, United States. Nd. History of Labor Day.

EEOC. Nd. Facts about sexual harassment.
Hernandez, Tanya Kateri. 2000. Sexual harassment and racial disparity: The mutual construction of gender and race.

ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation). 2008. Stopping sexual harassment at work.

First published Labor Day 2016