Empowerment Self-Defense IS Social Justice

A guest post by Julie Harmon, Executive Director of IMPACT Safety in Columbus, Ohio

Empowerment self-defense is about adding more tools to our safety toolbox. More tools equals more choices.

"Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.

" ~ Cesar Chavez



More Choices = More Safety

IMPACT does not advocate “Do this” or “Don’t do that” safety messages. IMPACT students decide for themselves what strategy to use in any given moment. They learn to use their awareness of themselves, of the environment, of others, of the context when making choices to keep themselves safe.


We believe in helping our students learn many skills: from verbal strategies to physical tools. We believe in providing opportunities to practice those skills under simulated, nearly real conditions, so that these tools are available as a matter of conscious, embodied choice.


But They Want You to Stay Small

There are schools of thought that still blame individual women for being the victims of violence. These same ideas perpetuate patriarchal systems of oppression under the guise of personal safety.

  • “She shouldn’t have gone there.”
  • “She shouldn’t have dressed that way; she was asking for it.”
  • “She knows better than to have gone out alone.”

These kinds of messages do nothing to enlarge confidence, expand choice or make individuals’ worlds bigger and full of opportunity 


By contrast, IMPACT’s empowered self-defense model looks at violence in the context of our entire society.


Violence–the threat and fear of it—is a tool of oppression. Whoever controls the violence controls the power. Violence is rife in all systems of oppression: racism, classism, xenophobia, ableism, homophobia, trans-phobia, agesim and other -isms.


These (often subtle) beliefs and values place many in our community at greater risk. How? By treating a human beinga person—as “other” or “less than,” as a society we allow our sisters, mothers, and our children to be viewed as objects. Our boys and men are also targeted because of how they act, dress, or speak.Systemic oppression is violence perpetrated on individuals lacking privilege, power and voice.


That Is NOT Acceptable

IMPACT is proud to be part of a community that is working hard to change  how violence operates regardless of life circumstance, gender, race, and class. The intersections of race, class, gender, sexual preference,identity, and ability are the backdrops of empowerment self-defense.


At IMPACT, we work to provide strategies to both prevent violence in our communities and help survivors heal and feel safer in their daily lives and relationships. We teach that one's voice is one of the most effective strategies for addressing situations of violence- in all of its many forms.


Empowerment self-defense helps amplify individuals' voices. Voices that can choose to speak out and speak up, when injustice is prevalent. Voices that can band together to support both individual and community efforts to make the world a little more just.



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  • published this page in Full Force Blog 2015-08-04 10:21:25 -0700

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