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

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