Monday, September 16, 2019

#YesAnd Campaign to End Sexual Violence

"Yes, and" is a technique used in improvisational comedy and business to encourage the acceptance of another's reality and then expanding upon it. At its foundation, it is a commitment to collaboration, listening to others, and creating a big enough space for creative thinking and innovation. Let's bring that approach to ending sexual violence.

Self-defense training is often not included as a step to prevent sexual assault
On See Jane Fight Back, Self-Defense scholars Martha McCaughey and Jill Cermele recently published an Open Letter to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) in honor of RAINN’s 25th anniversary. McCaughey and Cermele were writing to RAINN because they were surprised to see that RAINN does not identify self-defense as one of the steps women and girls can take to prevent sexual assault. Amazingly, RAINN’s focus is only on bystander intervention! McCaughey and Cermele found this especially surprising because there is a growing body of scholarship documenting that empowerment self-defense training prevents sexual assault and, in contrast, nothing to support bystander intervention as more effective than self-defense. Think how powerful if we combine self-defense and bystander intervention. Instead of either/or, let's say "Yes, and."

Self-defense is not seen as a way to prevent sexual violence
In a recent Facebook post, the Chicago organization Resilience (formerly Rape Victim Advocates) states: “Self-defense is a tricky subject for us. We believe in empowerment, confidence, and building strength. We also know that to prevent sexual violence we need to stop rape culture at its roots.”
When folks talk about stopping rape culture at its roots, they generally mean our efforts should focus on educating men to stop committing sexual violence. This is a worthy goal!

In the meantime, while we are working to get men and boys to stop raping, let’s make sure that women and girls have the tools and confidence to stop men and boys who try to rape them. The evidence is clear that women and girls who have taken an empowerment self-defense program experience less unwanted contact, sexual coercion, attempted rape, and completed rape. Think how powerful if we work to get men and boys to stop raping others while we ALSO make sure that women and girls (cis and trans) and other communities vulnerable to gender-based violence have the tools and confidence to stop rape while men and boys work on learning to stop themselves. Instead of either/or, let's say "Yes, and."

Let’s reject either/or thinking as the way to stop sexual violence and start accepting and expecting #YesAnd thinking.

Ideas from RAINN, Resilience, Denim Days (Denim Days includes self-defense) to stop sexual violence:
  • bystander intervention
  • prevention education
  • believing and supporting survivors
  • recognizing that people do not ask for or deserve violence in any form
  • challenging victim blaming statements
  • consent
  • healthy and respectful relationships
  • lobbying for funding for anti-sexual assault programs
#YesAnd IMPACT, empowerment self-defense training, and resistance training and many other things that we haven’t yet thought about because we have been battling either/or thinking for so long.

So what can you do?
  • When you see or hear a suggestion for how to prevent sexual violence that is a good idea but excludes self-defense, add your voice:  #YesAnd  IMPACT, empowerment self-defense, and/or resistance education or other ideas that you have.
  • Use social media and other forums to promote #YesAnd thinking. 
  • To help create a big picture view of the new reality we are creating, share with others via your own platforms, others' social media, newsletters, and other public communications. Add #YesAnd so others can more easily find what you post.
  •  Please also consider sending via Facebook Messenger to IMPACT Chicago or via email. Send the link or copy of the source and your response. With your permission, we will share your submission on our Facebook page and in a periodic compilation on the IMPACT Chicago Blog.  

An example
IMPACT Chicago shared a Facebook post agreeing with all the points made about how to support transgender people and added: "We also support all the ways individuals engage in self-protection--for instance in this situation, awareness of the larger environment and a loud voice. #YesAnd"

We look forward to hearing from you!
Martha Thompson
IMPACT Chicago
Senior Instructor
Admin Team Co-Leader
Social Media Editor

Denim Days also includes self-defense

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