Monday, June 29, 2020

Student Philanthropy Initiative Funds IMPACT Chicago Project

The Student Philanthropy Initiative (SPI) at Latin School has awarded IMPACT Chicago a grant to collaborate with existing organizations to bring our programs to people in Uptown who are moving from one life circumstance to another. Our priorities are people who identify as women or girls and are moving into middle school, high school, college, or the workforce; people who identify as women or girls and have experienced violence and human rights violations; and people of all genders with intellectual/developmental disabilities who are moving into independent living and/or the workforce. 

Once we are again offering unrestricted in-person programs, a staff member or client/participant from an Uptown Center organization will take the Core Program or IMPACT for Girls and then assist with on-site workshops we will offer to staff, clients, and volunteers. In the meantime, we are developing a plan for alternative ways to offer programs before we return to unrestricted in-person programs. 

Thank you, Student Philanthropy Initiative!


Monday, June 22, 2020

Get to Safety: Alternatives to 911

IMPACT Chicago teaches a verbal shorthand to defenders as a way to navigate the moments after the mock aggressor is knocked out but before leaving the situation.


In the early days of IMPACT Chicago, we encouraged defenders to check out the larger environment ("Look"), make sure the aggressor remained knocked out ("Assess"), shake off adrenaline with a loud "NO," and then get to safety and get support ("911"). 


One way in which IMPACT Chicago has since examined our biases and revised our approach is changing the way we handle getting to safety after an attack.  Yelling "911" was based on good intentions but didn't reflect the experiences of people of color, people with disabilities, transgender, and gender non-conforming people with the police. In particular, the guiding principles of Black Lives Matter, Mariame Kaba No Selves to Defend, and a multitude of deaths and injuries of Black people in police custody underscored the necessity of revising our shorthand.  As a result, several years ago we changed “911” to "Get to Safety" or "Walk to Safety."


The change to "Get to Safety" is consistent with our commitment to expanding people's choices and not offering a formulaic approach to self-defense.  Everyone has benefited from this change because it places the emphasis on defenders making choices based on their assessment of themselves, their relationship with the person(s) targeting them, and their knowledge of the situation they are in – and not on assumptions about what safety is for all.

The decision chart "Steps to Ask Yourself Before Calling the Police" is a helpful guide for questions to ask to assess what is best for yours and others' safety.

Martha Thompson
IMPACT Chicago
Lead Instructor
Admin Team Co-Chair

Monday, June 15, 2020

What Is Self-Defense in a Racist World?

In "Self-Defense in a Racist World," IMPACT Bay Area Executive Director Linda Leu addresses how without a commitment to anti-racism, defenders can twist self-defense tools into weapons that support white supremacy. She focuses on strategies to keep ourselves safer and to challenge racism. For important details, please read her full blog post. Here are some topics:
  • Distinguish intuition and implicit bias
  • Learn adrenaline management
  • Practice awareness and threat assessment
  • Commit to unlearning implicit bias
Thank you, Linda!

Monday, June 8, 2020

Empowerment Self-Defense Training is Sexual Assault Prevention

Much of the research published on Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD) has focused on young people in college or younger. In "Empowerment Self-Defense Training in a Community Population" Psychology of Women, Jocelyn Hollander and Jeanine Cunningham compared women who took an Empowerment Self-Defense course with a comparable group of women who did not take the course. The participants ranged in age from 18-77.  

In comparison to women who did not take an ESD course, those who did reported: 
  • less sexual assault, including unwanted sexual intercourse, one year later
  • greater self-defense efficacy
  • more accurate knowledge about sexual assault and the possibility of resistance
  • less self-silencing than those who did not take the course
Hollander and Cunningham make the case for Empowerment Self-Defense programs to be part of  comprehensive community efforts to  prevent violence against women. They make it clear that even though ESD training reduces women's risks of sexual assault, it does not mean that women are in anyway responsible for stopping or preventing violence. 

Hollander,  Jocelyn A. and Jeanine Cunningham. 2020. Empowerment self-defense training in a community population. Psychology of Women 1-16.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Respecting Boundaries: I Can Do Anti-Racist Work Anywhere

A white friend told me about an experience he had last week when he asked a white neighbor to maintain social distancing because his family is at high risk. The neighbor sarcastically said he had forgotten his tape measure and not to worry because he would stay away from my friend and his family.

One of the things I know from years of teaching Empowerment Self-Defense is that there is a wide range of responses when people set boundaries. Much of the time, people respect the boundaries others set but sometimes people push back or respond in a hostile way like the neighbor above did. 

The person responding, not a boundary-setter, is responsible for whether or not they honor a boundary; however, when people responding to boundary-setting act as if their social prestige, privilege, or power gives them the right to ignore, threaten or abuse boundary-setters, the community also has a responsibility. The rest of us have to make it clear that having prestige, privilege, or power does not let anyone off the hook for their behavior. Unfortunately, there is no lack of examples, but two specific situations have been highlighted in the news this week where individuals have responded to boundary-setting with verbal or physical violence, consciously or unconsciously assuming their power and privilege allowed them to disregard the safety of another human being.

“I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.” White woman Amy Cooper said, threatening to call the police when Christian Cooper asked her to leash her dog in accordance with the rules of the Ramble in Central Park.

“I can’t breathe” said George Floyd, an African American man, who was killed by Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, by kneeling on his neck for over 8 minutes. Floyd clearly stated and repeated his need for air which was ignored not only by Derek Chauvin who killed him but by three other police officers.

George Floyd was described by his brother Philonise Floyd as “a gentle giant.” Philonise Floyd also said “to know my brother is to love my brother.”  Christian Cooper is aware not only of the rules of the Ramble but also aware and appreciative of the beauty and song of the birds he comes to watch so asking someone to leash their dog is not only following the rules of the Ramble but caring for the larger environment.

As a white person, I have the privilege to distance myself from Amy Cooper and Derek Chauvin; I have the privilege to focus on their individual decisions to disrespect the boundaries set by Christian Cooper and George Floyd and not on the ways that my own unearned privileges contributed to their perceived social license to respond with hostility. But, as Chicago Tribune columnist Dahleen Glanton said in White America, if you want to know who’s responsible for racism, look in the mirror: “regardless of how much you say you detest racism, you are the sole reason it has flourished for centuries. And you are the only ones who can stop it.” So distancing from Amy Cooper and Derek Chauvin or holding them solely responsible does not stop racism.

Removing the racism woven into the fabric of our society for centuries is huge and can seem daunting; but because racism is everywhere, I can do anti-racist work anywhere. I draw inspiration from IMPACT and Empowerment Self-Defense to:

  • evaluate safety on the basis of others' behavior, not their presumed social position or appearance. To focus on behavior and to recognize and move beyond deeply embedded racism doesn't just happen; it means to engage in conscious self-examination, which may be very uncomfortable and unsettling.
  • regard respecting boundaries set by people of color as highly as setting my own boundaries. Pat Parker in her poem "For the White Person Who Wants to Know How to Be My Friend," offers the dual consciousness to cultivate: "The first thing you do is to forget that i'm Black. Second, you must never forget that i'm Black." 
  • be an active and engaged bystander and take action when other white people use white privilege to dismiss, undermine, threaten or abuse boundaries set by people of color. 
Martha Thompson
IMPACT Chicago
Admin Team Co-Leader