Monday, April 28, 2014

Taking Back the Night in Chicago

In recognition of April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Huffington Post  published a blog by IMPACT Core Skills grad (WGS150) Nancy Matthews who is also Professor of Justice Studies and Women's and Gender's Studies at Northeastern Illinois University. In "Taking Back the Night in Chicago," Nancy opens with acknowledgment that violence in Chicago often makes the news but focuses on the constructive ways that students at Northeastern Illinois University are creating space to address and counter violence in the student-organized Take Back the Night program. Nancy mentions IMPACT Instructor Martha Thompson (also Professor Emeritus in Sociology and Women's and Gender Studies at Northeastern) and the self-defense program she did for Take Back the Night.

To read Nancy Matthews blog, go to

Monday, April 21, 2014

RVA Promotes Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. An organization that creates awareness and promotes prevention year-round is Rape Victims Advocates (RVA). In recent years, RVA has shifted from an anti-rape approach to a “pro-consent” approach.

RVA has been around 30+ years , setting the gold standard for rape survivors, their families, and loved ones. RVA supports work, legal and medical help, counseling, and perhaps most well-known, emergency room advocacy.

The ER advocates receive 56 hours of training to be a responder to survivors of sexual assault. Once trained, advocates are on call (on a rotating basis) for 24-hour periods, and are called/paged to respond to participating Chicago area hospitals when a rape survivor shows up in the emergency room.

For more information about RVA, check out

Rob Babcock, IMPACT Chicago Board Secretary and Suited Instructor

Monday, April 14, 2014

What is Trauma-Sensitive Prevention?

Susan Schorn, Austin TX (with many thanks to Lynne Marie Wanamaker, Northampton MA, for her input)

Remarks to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, March 2014

I'm a university administrator in Austin, Texas and I also teach empowerment-based self-defense for a local non-profit. I want to speak briefly on the neurobiology of trauma, a topic that I'm sure has come up already, but perhaps not in terms of prevention efforts. Researchers like Dr. Rebecca Campbell at the University of Michigan have made great strides in increasing awareness of the unique neurobiological effects of sexual assault, how the brain processes memories during and after an attack. We know that law enforcement officials need to be better educated about these effects in order to avoid re-traumatizing assault survivors during the reporting and investigation period. But we also need to take the neurobiological effects of trauma into account when we plan sexual assault prevention efforts. Here's why.

The CDC's National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey from 2010 found that 30% of rape victims are between the ages of 11-17. This means that a substantial number of incoming college students have already survived assaults. Thus anything that we call "prevention" must also be trauma sensitive, in order to avoid secondary victimization of assault survivors. In other words, there's really is no strictly "primary" prevention of sexual assault possible for adult populations, because so many of us are victimized as children or adolescents.

I spoke on an earlier listening session about how empowerment-based self-defense instruction furthers both the long- and short-term goals of this task force, by providing concrete tools for immediate disruption of assault, and by fostering cultural change. I want to point out that recent research also shows empowerment self-defense is especially effective in reducing RE-victimization, and it is affirmatively trauma-aware. We have assault survivors in our classes all the time, and our methods are designed to support and empower them. In the population we're talking about here, young people around the age of 17 and up, we know there will be a substantial number of survivors, and our prevention efforts need to reflect that fact. Empowerment self-defense reduces the risk of future assault while actually helping survivors process past trauma.

So again, this instructional approach, typified by the teaching of organizations like IMPACT and the National Women's Martial Arts Federation, reduces the harm of assault in multiple ways. It's a very efficient approach, and there is a good evidentiary base out there to support its use. I'd like to urge the Task Force to foreground empowerment self-defense instruction as a way to immediately reduce risk for students, change the campus culture surrounding assault, avoid re-traumatizing survivors, and provide affirmative, trauma-aware support. Thank you.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Everyone Has the Right to Be Safe

Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address, The White House, January 25, 2014
Hi, everybody. This week, I called members of my Cabinet to the White House to deal with a challenge that affects so many families and communities – the crime, the outrage, of sexual violence.

Sexual assault is an affront to our basic decency and humanity. And it’s about all of us – the safety of those we love most: our moms, our wives, our daughters and our sons.

Because when a child starts to question their self-worth after being abused, and maybe starts withdrawing… or a young woman drops out of school after being attacked… or a mother struggles to hold down a job and support her kids after an assault… it’s not just these individuals and their families who suffer. Our communities – our whole country – is held back.

Over the past five years, we’ve stepped up our efforts stop these crimes. And this week, we took another important step to protect young women at college. An estimated 1 in 5 women is sexually assaulted at college – and that’s totally unacceptable. So I’ve created the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. We’re going to help schools do a better job of preventing and responding to sexual assault on their campuses. Because college should be a place where our young people feel secure and confident, so they can go as far as their talents will take them.

And we’re going to keep working to stop sexual assaults wherever they occur. We’ll keep strengthening our criminal justice system, so police and prosecutors have the tools and training to prevent these crimes and bring perpetrators to justice. We’ll keep reaching out to survivors, to make sure they’re getting all the support they need to heal. We’re going to keep combating sexual assault in our armed forces, because when a member of our military is attacked by the very people he or she trusts and serves with, that’s an injustice that no one who volunteers to protect our nation should ever endure.

Some of this is a job for government. But really, it’s up to all of us. We’ve got to teach young people – men and women – to be brave enough to stand up and help put an end to these crimes. We’ve especially got to teach young men to show women the respect they deserve. I want every young man in America to know that real men don’t hurt women. And those of us who are fathers have a special obligation to make sure every young man out there understands that being a man means recognizing sexual violence and being outraged by it, and doing their part to stop it.

Perhaps most important, we need to keep saying to anyone out there who has ever been assaulted: you are not alone. We have your back. I’ve got your back.

I’m going to keep pushing for others to step up – across my administration, in Congress, in state capitals, college campuses and military bases all across our country. This is a priority for me, not only as President and Commander-in-Chief, but as a husband and a father of two extraordinary girls. And I hope it’s a priority for you. Because here in the United States of America, every man and woman, every girl and boy, has the right to be safe and protected and to pursue their own piece of the American dream.

Let’s all do our part to make it happen. Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Audio and video of the address are available online at