Monday, August 25, 2014

Self-Defense Training for Survivors of Trauma

Researchers are learning that movement can be a more effective way of treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) than traditional talk therapy since individuals who have PTSD may struggle to express themselves verbally. This is due to being “in a state of perpetual hyperarousal and hypervigilance (pg 294)”. This state often impacts the centers of the brain responsible for language. Therefore, being able to process their emotions and experiences with words becomes more difficult. Learning how to deal with stressful situations while staying present in the moment can help a person to take action if necessary.

Therapists are utilizing movement, such as yoga, drama, and self-defense training (SDT) in their treatment of people with PTSD. SDT utilizes role-play, exposing participants to threatening scenarios that allow them to develop ways to deal with the typical responses of fight, flight, or freeze in traumatic situations. SDT can support therapeutic interventions focused on improving coping skills and reducing shame and self-blame. IMPACT™ International developed a comprehensive curriculum, Impact™ Basics, that outlines training in personal safety and self-defense skills. In 1999, Rosenblum and Taska began working with Prepare, Inc, the New York City chapter of IMPACT™ International, to adapt the curriculum to be used with trauma survivors. The results of their work are reported in their article “Self-Defense Training as Clinical Intervention for Survivors of Trauma” in Violence Against Women Special Issue: Self-Defense Against Sexual Assault 2014 20: 293-308.
Rosenblum and Taska found that participants taking the adapted Impact™ Basics course were able to practice and master self-defense skills by watching demonstrations, learning how to perform physical tools by breaking down the necessary components of each skill, and then practicing those skills on padded instructors who were playing the role of assailant. Through realistic verbal and physical assault scenarios, “students achieve mastery of skills including environmental awareness and situation assessment, appropriate body language, modulation of tone of voice, choice of language to address assailants, and finally, full force physical techniques (pg 296).”

IMPACT instructors support and coach participants to deal and cope with increasingly difficult and emotional scenarios. This helps the participants to widen their individual “window of tolerance”. When this window of tolerance is expanded, participants are helped to reconnect and ground themselves in order to return to a less emotionally vulnerable place. By mastering the skills necessary to respond to stressful and potentially dangerous situations, participants experienced positive outcomes, including reductions in their PTSD symptoms as well as decreased feelings of shame, self-blame, anxiety, and fear Participants experienced increased feelings of empowerment, control, and assertiveness after completing self-defense training. Rosenblum and Taska’s preliminary data suggest that SDT is a supportive intervention in the treatment of trauma.

Naomi Love, Workshop Leader, IMPACT Chicago

Monday, August 18, 2014

Is there a better choice you can be making here?

“In a Way Back from That Hurt,” Roxanne Gay reflects on NFL player Ray Rice’s contention that he knocked his fiancé Janay Palmer unconscious in self-defense and sports personality Stephen A. Smith’s comments about women needing to avoid provoking men into violence.

She comments on:

· the harm of the belief that it is women’s responsibility to make sure that men do not hurt them

· the unacceptableness of Rice beating his fiancé to unconsciousness

· the necessity of considering a range of options in response to negative situations--the source of the title of this blog: Is there a better choice you could be making here?

· how rigid standards of beauty override women’s accomplishments

For more, read her full essay.

Monday, August 11, 2014

IMPACT is International

IMPACT Chicago is part of IMPACT International, an international affiliation of independent chapters. Each IMPACT chapter has its own organizational structure and programmatic focus but all chapters share characteristics, such as teaching through realistic scenarios, teaching verbal skills and the use of the voice, teaching full-force physical techniques, creating a supportive environment, sensitivity to trauma.

IMPACT International meets annually. Martha Thompson, Instructor and Director Emeritus is the IMPACT Chicago representative to IMPACT International. This year the meeting will be in August in Boston. On this year’s agenda: an update on the IMPACT trademark, a local panel of advocates for people who have experienced domestic violence and sexual assault, self-defense research, media content and empowerment messages, new chapter development, talking points about IMPACT, and the IMPACT International Board Meeting. Prior to the three-day meeting, IMPACT International representatives will have the opportunity to attend IMPACT: Ability, an empowerment program for people with disabilities.

For more information about IMPACT International and IMPACT:Ability.

Monday, August 4, 2014

An Empowerment Approach to Media

Next time you see something in the media that bothers you about how violence and self-defense are portrayed, ask yourself these questions to help you pinpoint what the problems are.

Social Context
___Does the text and/or subtext communicate the social context of violence and/or self-defense?For example:
        The reality of violence—who, what, where, when, why?
        The reality of inequalities (e.g. gender, class, disability, race, sexual orientation) in experiences of  violence?                
        Violence as socially-produced rather than natural and inevitable

Accountability of Perpetrators
___Does the text and/or subtext communicate that perpetrators, not victims, are responsible for violence? For example does the text make it clear that:
        Victims of violence do not ask for, cause, invite, or deserve to be assaulted?
        Attackers’ use of grooming, manipulation, intimidation, or force is their responsibility?
        Victims’ words and behavior are not being judged?
         Learning new skills or regretting one’s own actions does not mean responsibility for violence?

Embodiment of power and competence
____Does the text and/or subtext communicate that embodiment is foundational to women’s empowerment? For example:
        The worth of people’s bodies, regardless of gender, disability, race, social class, sexual orientation, etc.
        The importance of bodily integrity and people’s right to make decisions about how their own bodies are treated
        Developing respect for and loving one’s own body
        Self-defense is reclaiming one own’s body
        Finding the power and competence in one’s own body
        Physical self-defense is stance, breath, body language, escaping, strikes, kicks

Comprehensive Self-Defense Toolbox
___Does the text and/or subtext communicate that self-defense is a range of tools. For example,
        Knowledge of risks of violence
        Recognizing danger signals
        A continuum of verbal skills, including de-escalation, assertiveness, confrontation
        Projecting consistency in body language and verbal content
        Leaving unsafe situations
        Speaking out against violence
        Strikes and kicks are tools of last resort

Checklist from  Martha Thompson, IMPACT Chicago, and Alena Schaim, IMPACT Personal Safety New Mexico, "Media Portrayals of Violence and Implications for Self-Defense," National Women's Martial Arts Federation Self-Defense Instruction Conference