Monday, November 25, 2013

From the 1990 Archives: I Projected My Voice at the Moment I Needed It

I was leaving my job. I have always felt safe enough to park my car around the corner under the expressway. This day was like any other; at least I thought so as I walked to my car. I looked around and saw cars leaving their parking spaces from nearby factories. I didn’t think of much, but “Thank God it is time to go home.” I unlocked the passenger side door, placed my purse on the seat, locked the door, and then walked around to the driver’s side. A car drove by and a man got out and approached me. At first I thought he was lost. As he got closer I said “What do you want?” in an authoritative voice. He replied: “I want your purse.”

My adrenaline started pumping. I immediately centered my energy on the man and assessed the situation. As he started to reach for something in his jacket—God only knows what. I yelled louder: “Don’t give me no shit.” “I don’t need this.” “Get away from me.”

As I got louder, he looked around but before he could take out what was in his jacket, the driver of the car yelled, “Let’s go, Now!” I got in my car and locked the doors, watching the car drive away. I sat in the car a while, a bit shaken but fully aware that I had taken control of the situation. I made a police report as soon as I got home.

[Before taking the IMPACT Core Program], I never thought I could project at the moment it was needed. I was able to channel my fright into a fight response, and what’s even more exciting is that I feel empowered to freely pursue my life.


For more about the power of using our voice, check out the November 4 blog, “Verbal Boundaries are Tested Far More Than Physical Ones.”

Monday, November 18, 2013

What’s Sex Got to With Self-Defense? Yes is as Important as No

In “Emancipatory Sexuality Education and Sexual Assault Resistance: Does the Former Enhance the Latter?” Psychology of Women Quarterly, Charlene Senn, Stephanie Gee, and Jennifer Thake (2011) compared two programs, one a self-defense course and the other a self-defense course with an additional component of emancipatory sexuality education (exploration of women’s sexual values and desires). In follow-up, the researchers did not find any differences in women’s resistance to unwanted sexual advances, but found that women who had self-defense plus emancipatory sexuality education were more likely to report more assertiveness in initiating sexual activity.

On a Saturday afternoon in September, eleven self-defense instructors from around the country got together on a conference call sponsored by the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation Reading Group, organized and facilitated by Katy Mattingly, University of Michigan to discuss the above article. Instructors talked about many issues, including the language the researchers used, what is sex-positive self-defense education, the importance of self-defense for other anti-violence work, and the implications of the research for teaching self-defense. Instructors talked about the value of assertiveness being about “Yes” as well as about “No” and the need for self-defense instructors to expand the examples we provide of positive assertiveness.

Martha Thompson, IMPACT Chicago Instructor

Monday, November 11, 2013

Self-defense is About Creating Safety for All

A recent anti-violence promotion included the statement: “… if you're promoting changes to women’s behavior to ‘prevent’ rape, you’re really saying ‘make sure he rapes the other girl.’”

This chilling statement could be interpreted to mean self-defense training promotes a callous disregard for the safety of all women. Below IMPACT International Directors argue that self-defense is about creating safety for all women.

Richard Chipping of London Centre for Personal Safety said: “self-defense training is not at all about stopping one women being raped at the expense of another but about enabling women to prevent and stop sexual violence directed at themselves and others. Self-defense helps get offenders stopped and convicted which prevents an even greater number crimes and victims, it is a very powerful pro-social tool.”

Alena Schaim of IMPACT Personal Safety New Mexico says: “I completely agree that we're talking about personal safety & social justice. Ignoring someone calling me an offensive name, for example, is a strategy that many people are encouraged to use by their parents and teachers. However, while ignoring it keeps you temporarily safe (presumably), it may not change the larger culture. We do not always feel up to changing society at large or feel safe to do so, but it is important to acknowledge that these are two different points and which I'm choosing at what time.”

Lisa Scheff of IMPACT Bay Area says "’make sure he rapes the other girl’ is disconnected from reality or fact. To my knowledge no one ever, anywhere, certainly not in the self-defense community, has said ‘I hope someone else gets raped instead.’ That statement seems to come from a deep antipathy not for a culture of victim blaming but specifically for teaching women self-defense.

IMPACT Chicago will run two additional blogs highlighting key points made by IMPACT International Directors about self-defense: self-defense can stop violence for ourselves and others (December) and addressing our own language (January 2014). For an earlier blog quoting IMPACT International directors, see “If She Hadn’t Worn That: Saying No to Blaming Women for Rape,” see, October 21, 2013.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Verbal Boundaries are Tested Far More Than Physical Ones

IMPACT Chicago instructor Rob Babcock reflects on the importance of developing verbal boundary setting skills for safety and the importance of their practice in the IMPACT Chicago Core Program. Enhance your boundary setting skills in the November8, 9, & 10 Core Program at the Knapp Center, 3145 W. Pratt Blvd, Chicago IL. or

Out of context, boundary setting can sound like a mundane task for two low level bureaucrats to figure out exactly where a town line begins and ends. But in the IMPACT Chicago Core Program, it is an invaluable part of our curriculum. So many women in our society are not socialized to set clear boundaries; we often hear from students that it is easier to hit someone than to set a verbal boundary with an aggressor.

But here is a kicker (no pun intended): verbal boundary setting skills will get tested far more than any physical skills. Systematically robbing women and girls of their voice is often a first step for a predator to establish control. I think one of the primary reasons for this is that male predators are often portrayed as invincible so that they are able to get away with intimidating and controlling a woman through the use of their voice or other non-violent actions (e.g. refusing to cooperate, blocking an entrance/exit).

When women have the opportunity to learn and practice effective boundary setting with an aggressor, for instance, ”No, I am going out tonight with my friends,” or “Go away and leave me alone,” or “I am going to take the job that works best for me,” he is often rendered powerless. Not only they, but the women they intimidate realize that these aggressors get away with their control because they are propped up by unrealistic images of men and masculinity.

One of the best parts of boundary setting? When it is done publically, and people notice. When others see a woman effectively setting clear boundaries, they are that much stronger and emboldened to stand up for themselves.

Rob Babcock, IMPACT Chicago Instructor

For an example of verbal boundary setting, look for the November 25 blog, titled: “I Projected My Voice the Moment I Needed it"