Monday, December 30, 2019

Their Wits About Them

Over 30 years ago, Denise Caignon and Gail Grove published Her Wits About Her: Self-Defense Success Stories By Women. The book is a compilation of different ways that women have defended themselves against attack, using the tools they had available to them.

IMPACT Chicago shares blogs and Facebook posts of local, national, and international self-defense stories.  Below are some stories that we have shared recently on the IMPACT Chicago blog or on Facebook.  None of the targets of violence were responsible for the violence they experienced. They used their wits, voices, and physical tools to prevent, interrupt, stop, report, or name violence.

Awareness, Assessment, Voice 
  • Meredith Gordon's daughter, a first grader, told her mom that she had learned about consent in school that day. Sometime later when her pediatrician put his hands on her cheeks, she said: "You need to ask permission before you touch me.” He responded: "You are right. You are the boss of your own body."
Yelling, Strikes, and/or Kicks
  • A man pushed a University of Chicago student to the ground & tried to put his hand up her skirt. She bit his arm & he ran off. 
  • Some boys at a high school who saw a transgender boy's selfie taken in the boys' bathroom were angry and decided they would walk into the girls’ bathroom to take their own selfie “as a form of protest." The first boy to enter the girls’ room was met by a girl ― who kneed him in the groin. With that, the “protest” was over.

Monday, December 23, 2019

What Do We Owe Our Youth?

One in four girls is sexually abused before age 18; one in four boys before age 18. These statistics assume that that children are cisgender. The 2019 U.S. Transgender Survey reports that 13% of transgender youth (both girls and boys) have been assaulted while in school and other research finds that harassment and bullying of trans and nonbinary youth is increasing (Menvielle 2012; 2019 U.S.Transgender Survey ).This means that youth regardless of their gender identity are at risk of abuse, with some more at risk that others.

So let’s ask ourselves: What do we owe our youth?
We can provide youth with concrete tools to protect themselves while we also work to build a safer world, society, communities, and families. IMPACT Chicago currently offers IMPACT for Girls, a program for cis and trans girls 12-15 years old. If you have a non-binary teen interested in our program, please reach out to determine if this program would be a good fit.

In this 8-hour two-day program, participants learn how to handle common safety concerns of parents and youth. Participants practice projecting confidence, recognizing unsafe situations, speaking up, and taking action when they are feeling uncomfortable. They also have the chance to participate in frank, direct discussions about common situations and to practice verbal and physical skills to expand their range of choices—not only in threatening situations, but in everyday life.i

The next IMPACT for Girls program is
January 11 and 12, 2020
Glenview Park Center
2400 Chestnut Avenue

While teaching youth self-defense skills, we can also create a safer environment for young people, for example:
  • press for laws that will increase resources for those who have been victimized, such as, the 2019 Violence Against Women Act, which has new provisions for targets of violence who are transgender.
  • support organizations trying to change how gender is portrayed in the media, such as Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, working with the entertainment industry to reduce stereotypes and expanding portrayals of female characters targeting children 11 years old and under.  
  • join efforts to increase awareness about street harassment and how to create safer communities, such as Hollaback which raises public awareness and offers strategies to increase safety in public spaces. 
  • support children making their own decisions about with whom to be physically affectionate, such as the Girl Scouts' reminder to family members to tell children that they do not owe anyone a hug—not even during the holidays.
So, what do we owe our youth? We owe them support on both fronts: the opportunity to learn and practice tools to protect themselves while we also owe them our efforts to create a safer world, society, communities, and families.
Martha Thompson
Lead Instructor
Admin Team Co-Chair
IMPACT Chicago

Thank you to Amy, Brett, Brooke, Lisa, Maple, and Rachel for their comments on an earlier version of this post.

Monday, December 16, 2019

IMPACT Chicago Board Meetings: Building Community

In the potluck line at the
December 2019 board meeting
At the December 2019 Board Meeting, Janette Scott, outgoing IMPACT Chicago board chair, thanked everyone for coming, made some final remarks and then turned to the person sitting next to her, offering her hand to start the closing circle. As each person spoke, some smiled, others chuckled, and a few shed some tears.  IMPACT board meetings have always been this way--board members doing the work of the organization while also expressing their passion about ending violence, working for empowerment for all, and appreciating the contributions of each person sitting in the circle and all those who are not present but who are also dedicated to the IMPACT Chicago mission
Janette Scott, Outgoing Board Chair

Until December 2019, IMPACT Chicago Board meetings have been attended only by board members, with an occasional volunteer visiting to share or gather information for a project. Admin Team Co-Leader Lisa Amoroso came up with an idea for a new board format which board members enthusiastically embraced: invite other members of the IMPACT community--graduates, supporters, instructors, class assistants and other volunteers--to a potluck dinner preceding the board meeting and to the board meeting itself. In addition to board business, Lisa also suggested that we add an educational component to our meeting. At the last board meeting, newly elected board member Tara Brinkman did a short presentation on empowerment self-defense, created small groups for focused discussion, and then lead a whole group discussion. It was an engaging discussion (and the potluck was fantastic, too)! We have exciting ideas down the road: a discussion of bystander intervention, gender inclusiveness, and more. 

 Maple Joy and Martha Thompson

#IMPACTChicago #IMPACTBoardMeetings #IMPACTBoardMembers #IMPACTVolunteers #SelfDefense #IMPACTChicagoBoardMeetings #IMPACTChicagoBoardMembers #IMPACTChicagoVolunteers 

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.

Comments from Facebook
Carol Schaffer, ESD Instructor
What experiences of re-traumatization isn't for me quite the right question...more like, what experiences of big emotions, painful memories, and physiological distress arise as students rehears interrupting violence? It would be hard to be working on assault defense (sexual or otherwise) and have that not happen. True for survivors but also folks who are contemplating for the first time how awful such an experience might be. If in response to the threat, someone enacts protective behaviors (all or even part of a scenario or skill set), it's now potentially a healing experience or success moment (for nearly all). Re-traumatization would be more likely if students were exposed to these stressful situations and the aggression was completed. Triggering is not that common (panic attacks, reliving the experience as if it was real-vs remembering the experience) in classes, and all the emotional and physical responses are normalized and supported. So great to hear what others have shared as well.

Rose Baker, IMPACT Chicago graduate
With respect and dignity-I did not disclose my attack when I took the 2nd class (my attack happened back in 1979ish timeframe). But I felt safe and secure-my releasing of the feelings-that the attack was my fault-came out at the self-defense with more than one attacker class. I was allowed to cry and walk away without judgment and come back to class when I was ready-it took about 3 to 4 minutes and yes one can fight when crying. I totally recommend this class and/or additional cassles.

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