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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