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.

Read more
1 reaction Share

Meet Our Suits in Training!

Last year, IMPACT Bay Area taught 226 teens, young adults, and adults full-force empowerment self-defense with only 3 suited instructors. Think about that for a minute.

On average, each instructor took hits from more than 75 students, and each student hits a suited instructor hundreds of times in each class. Only three instructors have been taking thousands of hits for the sake of empowering our students to be safe and live fuller lives.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Back Off, Fitbit

Fitbit is like that loud guy at the party who yells, “Women should be able to feel safe at all times!” and then puts his arm around your shoulder and tries to whisper something in your ear about how safe he can make you feel. 

It’s just creepy. Right message, wrong delivery. 

Take a look: 

Men: Chase after women! Strap on our device and run right behind her! Make her hear your footsteps dogging hers! Do the same thing the next day and the day after that, so that she knows she’s the one you’ve chosen, the one you’re targeting. She's special to you. Chase her till she admits you're pretty awesome, too. 
Women: We know you can kick his ass, because you’ve been running with our product longer. Flash him a darling smile and then pick up the pace, leaving him panting for more. 

 In reality, this goes like this: “Hello, 911? There’s a guy chasing me. I think he’s the one who’s been following me all week. No, he didn’t touch me. Did he have to? No, I already left him in the dust. No, I can’t really describe him because I WAS FLEEING HIM. Oh, fine. Okay. Yeah, I’ll just change my outfit and change my routine and go a different direction next time. Thanks, anyway.” 

It’s the right message. Yep, women are strong. Yes, we like fitness products. Flirting? Sure, if we’re in the mood to flirt. Running together? Why not? Signing up to have random men CHASE US? Wrong message, Fitbit. Super creepy. And I’ll only tell you this once, don’t put your arm around my shoulder without asking me again. 
Add your reaction Share

A Tiger Can't Change Its Stripes

Here we go again: yet another product aimed at women’s fears that may, but probably does not, provide them with an added degree of safety. TigerLady is sharp plastic “claws” attached to a pad that you hold in your hand. It is designed for runners. As I always do when these products appear I ask myself:


Read more
Add your reaction Share

Self-Defense and Family

Self-Defense and Family


Amy Kaufman Burk is a novelist and blogger, and an IMPACT grad. She graciously offered to guest write this post.

I had never kicked a man in the face, or kneed him in the groin. I had never even raised my voice in public. Until I was 32 years old.

I had given birth to my first child a month previously. He was slumbering in my arms  -- a swaddled bundle of peace and trust. I was in monumental need of a nap, with the desperate exhaustion of a new parent. But I loved cradling my baby, and wanted to hold him a bit longer. I’d been entirely oblivious to the world outside my newborn for four weeks, so I settled on the couch in our family room and reached for the TV remote.

As the screen came to life, I zapped to attention. The news anchor was describing a kidnapping. A mother was loading groceries into her car -- broad daylight, crowded parking lot, upscale neighborhood.  A man approached, showed his weapon, and took her baby. When my husband came home that evening, he found me hyper-alert, napless, clutching our firstborn. I told him I wanted to learn self-defense.

The class was hands-on, with a coach guiding us through every fight. Our “assailant” dressed head to toe in protective gear, so we could fight without injuring him. I learned to break an attacker’s hold, to shout to scare him off, to fight when needed, to knock him cold if necessary. But self-defense is about protecting from harm, not about causing mayhem. So I was also taught techniques to de-escalate a dangerous situation, to fight only as a last resort.  I learned to recognize the difference between an empty threat and an impending assault. If the assailant crossed that line, I was ready.  The empowerment that grew within me, the commitment to protecting my self, is about strength and safety. The experience was life-changing. 

Six years passed, and I was walking home in San Francisco after a day at work. Suddenly, a man grabbed my arm. In an instant, my self-defense class was at my fingertips.  I gauged his stance, his build, his level of aggression. I shrugged off my natural impulse to pull away, and instead stepped toward him. I hurled my briefcase to the ground, 100% ready to fight, and yelled in his face, “BACK OFF!” The entire street froze. The man let go, retreated several steps, shot me a terrified look, and ran away.   

I felt invincible for one stellar moment. Then I felt something even better – solid, down-to-earth empowerment. I picked up my briefcase and walked home. By then, my first born was an older brother, and I held my children.  Tender and strong.

Self-defense and family. That’s what it’s about.



Amy Kaufman Burk is a novelist and blogger. Her novels, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable and Tightwire both deal with issues of sexual assault and hurtful sexual experiences. Visit Amy Kaufman Burk's author page on Amazon.


Guest Post: My pro-consent guerrilla art on Stanford campus


My pro-consent guerrilla art on Stanford campus  

On Campus

This guest post was written and printed with permission by Eva Jordan. 

There’s a lot of discussion now on the Stanford campus about affirmative consent (“yes means yes”), which is terrific, but I’m not sure that people always know what that looks like or sounds like. It often evokes a man procuring permission from a woman for penetrative sex – a single exchange for a particular act, in a hetero context. That’s is a good starting point if you’re looking to prevent rape, but it’s pretty basic and omits so much about what it means to be a good, respectful, and enjoyable sexual partner, and what it means to communicate, which is the only way to ensure a truly consensual relationship.

I wanted to present an image of empowered, ongoing, active consent, in which the couple is communicating about their actions through questions, answers, and mutual sounds of pleasure. At a recent Take Back the Night event, a speaker said, “If it’s not a ‘F**K YES,’ it’s not a yes!” and I think young people need to really understand this. Sometimes sexual partners acquiesce because they feel pressured, but a reluctant or hesitant yes isn’t a true yes, and yes should be a fluid process (so to speak), not a lone phrase.

The piece is a 3’ x 6’ hand printed linoleum block print, which I put up all around campus. It’s an image of a half-clothed couple in a sexual embrace. The word bubbles that weave around them represent a dialogue of desire, flowing around the bodies the way information ought to flow between people who are having sex: playfully, respectfully, and, ideally, with input from all aspects of self and body (hence the words continue even down to their feet).

On kiosk I especially wanted to show the woman possessing agency and being an equal participant. One of the most striking features of my own experience of stranger rape was the echo in that act of all the times I had felt subtly coerced by sexual partners, and had lacked my own full voice. I had no prior history of sexual violence per se, yet I perceived rape to be the ultimate expression of a familiar dynamic, and that was a wake up call for me about the challenges women, in particular, still face.

Although children ought to be having age-appropriate conversations about sexuality and consent all along, college is a crucial time to educate on these issues and to support our youth with real skills and understanding. I live on the Stanford campus and am privy to the lives of undergrads, and despite our progress in many areas, the culture here is still shadowed by misogyny, body shaming, and an inherited, ill-conceived image of masculinity, all of which intersect with unexamined attitudes about race and class to create an atmosphere in which many people feel at times unheard or unsafe. While I want women to find their full voices, and that’s a huge part of the equation, I believe the onus is primarily on the men—young male students as well as their older mentors—to sensitize and re-train themselves to become people who would never perpetrate any of the many gradations of violence, or stand by while others do so.

The good news is, young folks have elastic, eager minds and a little bit of learning can go a long way! It’s been beautiful to see the activist culture bloom on campus this past year, as students (including many men) speak their truths and agitate for change around gender-based and relationship violence. I hope my own art-based activism will add to the sense that students are held up in their efforts by a larger community that cares and holds hope.

Eva Jordan is an artist and stay-at-home mother who has also worked in the fields of psychotherapy and garden design. She lives with her family next to a freshman dorm on the Stanford campus as a Resident Fellow, where she supports and helps shape the culture of the dorm. She is an IMPACT graduate.

 Get Consent

1 reaction Share

Impacting the Community

Impact Bay Area recently had the opportunity to partner with HealthRight 360 to offer a free introductory class for women trauma survivors. The class included self-defense techniques and gave the women a chance to practice against a mock assailant. In an article released by HealthRight 360, Joanna reported:

“It was wonderful to see our clients, many of whom are trauma survivors, taking up space, using their voices, practicing the techniques with power and confidence, and laughing in the process.” 

We are grateful for the opportunity to teach these amazing women and partner with HealthRight 360. To learn more about the class, check out this article!

2 reactions Share

You should always call the police . . . Except when you shouldn't

How to be a good bystander

You’re a good, responsible bystander. You know that if someone is getting harassed or attacked, you might be able to help.  You have 911 and all the appropriate emergency seven-digit numbers programmed in your cell phone so you can call the right agency, fast, in order to get police or medical help when you or someone else needs it. 

(If you don't, take a minute to find the direct lines for your local police department(s) and put them into your phone so they're handy when you need them.)

But did you know that calling 911 might not always be the most appropriate thing to do? There’s a possibility that the person you’re trying to help might not want to speak to law enforcement because of current fear or past experience. 

“46% of all transgender and gender non‐conforming people are 'uncomfortable' seeking police help.”* It’s a terrible fact, but both people of color and people in the queer and trans community are at higher risk of facing police harassment and arrest simply by being in public. 

How can you know what’s right to do in the heat of the moment? It’s simple. There are only two parts: 

  1. Ask: “Do you want me to call the police?” 
  2. Respect the answer you’re given. 

Maybe you wouldn’t make the same choice, if you were in the same situation. But as a bystander, that’s just the point. We’re not in the same situation. We’re noticing it, witnessing it. We're acting to help the best we safely can, and that includes respecting the wishes of the person we want to help. 

Guest blog post by Impact grad and internationally acclaimed author Rachael Herron. Learn more about Rachael and her writing at her website

1 reaction Share

Violence Against Women

Amy Kaufman Burk is a novelist and blogger, and an IMPACT grad. She graciously offered to let us repost her blog post.

Recently, a video went viral -- Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens assaulting a woman. The film has no finesse – no clever camera angles, no state-of-the-art lens, no background music.  Just raw, primal violence.  It’s hard to watch, and we all have to choose whether to look away.

As the video aired on national television, circulated in the tabloids, careened around the internet, I imagine The Ravens had several frantic “damage control” meetings. I’d guess that conference rooms were crowded with lawyers, publicists, investors, and accountants crunching the numbers. I hope at least some of the discussions focused on decency, but I’m doubtful. I imagine that the decision to cut Ray Rice had more to do with the economics of public image than a stand for women’s rights.

We live in a strange culture. We call ourselves The Free World.  We’re told we all have Inalienable Rights. We feel outrage when we hear about countries which block girls from an education, dictate dress codes for women, have different standards of sexual behavior for males and females. Yet, any woman (and sadly, at a certain point, any girl) can tell you that we have serious problems right here in our Land Of The Free And Home Of The Brave. 

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to a car dealership where we were greeted by a salesman at least 20 years our junior, who addressed my husband as “Mr. Burk”, and addressed me as “Honey” (that’s Dr. Honey, for the record).  Time Magazine recently ran a cover story including the statistic that one in five women will be raped during college. Salaries are unequal for women and men doing the same work.  A girl who sleeps with a lot of boys is a “slut”; a boy who sleeps with a lot of girls is a “player”. Ray Rice beat a woman unconscious. Violence against girls and women is a pervasive, prevalent problem – an issue that shows itself verbally and physically, in subtle and overt ways, which range from harmful to damaging to dangerous to deadly.

Each of us must choose whether or not we watch the video of Ray Rice assaulting a woman. Either decision – watching the tape or looking away -- is a valid choice. Looking away from the issue, however, is not an option.

Amy Kaufman Burk is a novelist and blogger. Her novels, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable and Tightwire both deal with issues of sexual assault and hurtful sexual experiences. Visit Amy Kaufman Burk's author page on Amazon.


Cut the Strings

Amy Kaufman Burk is a novelist and blogger, and an IMPACT grad. She graciously offered to let us repost her blog post.

I’m deeply disturbed by a television commercial I just saw. The spot opens with a man sitting on a double bed. He’s handsome, even features, a bit rugged, fully clothed. Enter his wife/girlfriend. She’s blonde, blue-eyed, wearing a robe.  She speaks in a voice simultaneously childlike and seductive, “Do you still think I’m pretty?” From a feminist perspective, not a good start. But more disturbing, in fact chilling: she’s a puppet manipulated by strings.

She sheds her robe, and underneath is red lingerie trimmed in black lace. She has a weirdly thin body, with absolutely no fat content. She asks for her man’s approval as she shows him several positions she can get into, by manipulation of the strings. She’s a sexual marionette.

And no, I was not watching a porn channel; I was with my 17-year-old daughter, lounging in our family room, watching the Food Network. And no, the commercial was not for edible underwear or lick-it-off-your-body chocolate sauce. It was for Direct TV.

A short while ago, Time Magazine’s cover story took on the issue of rape on college campuses. The article stated that 20% of female students are being sexually assaulted during their college years. Clearly, a problem of this magnitude does not begin on campus. The stage has been set, and a dangerous mindset is deeply engrained in our cultural values. If a commercial on a major network – viewed by children, adolescents and adults -- casually portrays a woman as a sexual puppet, the groundwork for rape is in place. 

Nobody, female or male, should be viewed as another person’s marionette. Nobody should be treated as a sexual toy.  As long as anyone can be viewed as a sexualized doll attached to strings, we are accepting a culturally endorsed value of sexual objectification. This is the foundation for sexual assault – one person in a position of power, forcing another person to be their sexual marionette.

It’s time to cut the strings.


Amy Kaufman Burk is a novelist and blogger. Her novels, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable and Tightwire both deal with issues of sexual assault and hurtful sexual experiences. Visit Amy Kaufman Burk's author page on Amazon.