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

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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.


No More Week


Amy Kaufman Burk is a novelist and blogger, and an IMPACT grad. She graciously offered to let us repost her latest blog, which is about No More Week, raising awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence. It is also about one of the core principles of IMPACT self-defense: trauma happens in isolation, and healing happens in community. 


Today is the beginning of No More Week. The No More campaign is a strong voice against domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as support for victims.  Several celebrities have offered their names and faces to represent No More, and I wish I could personally thank each of them. The campaign encourages us to find a way to step in and help. One way to make a real difference is to be someone’s someone.

I remember a seminar I attended years ago, at a teaching hospital in San Francisco, when I was training to become a licensed psychologist. We all sat around a long table, and our teacher asked a question: “What’s most important to say to someone who calls in a panic?” This teacher was an experienced psychiatrist, and he knew his way around a panicked phone call. We began tossing out ideas.

“You’re bigger than your panic.” (In that moment, if this were true, the patient wouldn’t need to call.)

“Panic is just a state of mind.” (No kidding. It’s a beast of a state of mind.)

“It’s okay.” (Unhelpful. The person does not feel anything close to okay.)

Finally, our teacher smiled quietly: “The most powerful thing you can do is answer the phone and say hello.”

That stopped us in our tracks.

We’re only human, and we’ve all felt overwhelmed at times. Circumstances gang up on us, events build to a deafening roar, feelings run rampant. Of the many harsh experiences we have to face, domestic violence and sexual assault are as tough as it gets. Sexual assault and domestic violence should happen to nobody, but can happen to anybody. The experience can take many forms, and reactions can include a confusing avalanche of emotions. When someone we love is a victim, we can suffer as well.

The healing process can begin with simply knowing that someone is there for you, that someone will pick up the phone and say hello. Being there, being someone’s someone, is an honor. You don’t need to be brilliant. You certainly don’t need to minimize the person’s feelings, or tell her (or him – yes, boys and men are assaulted, too) that she (he) is not feeling what, in fact, she (he) feels in screaming technicolor. Saying hello offers the first step on the path to healing.  From that point, the person might choose to talk it through, figure it out, rally support, hold it quietly. Whatever he/she chooses, the path to healing can begin in that moment.

The No More campaign urges us to say “No to silence” and “No to violence”. The campaign also urges people to “get help now”. No More is about facing a terrible problem in our society, and also about hope and healing.

You can help in many ways. You can heal, raise your voice, learn self-defense, step in. You can pick up the phone and say hello, be someone’s someone.

I'll be standing right behind you.

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.

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On Campus: Arming or Harming?

The New York Times ran an article last week about 10 state legislatures that are proposing laws that would allow students to carry guns on campus. Michele Fiore, the author of the Nevada bill, said: “If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them. The sexual assaults that are occurring would go down once these sexual predators get a bullet in their head.” 

From the perspective of an organization that has been teaching effective self-defense for 30 years, the idea of arming students to stop sexual assault is infuriatingly misguided. 

The belief that arming woman will stop sexual assault relies on perpetuating the myth that rape is committed by strangers lurking in bushes and dark alleys. The vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows, and in most cases someone she will likely continue to have contact with in one way or another. On a college campus that might be a boyfriend, a professor or teaching assistant, or a friend.  

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Anti-Rape Gloves? Really?!

Anti-Rape Clothing Isn't the Answer


I recently ran across this set of instructions for making “anti-rape gloves.”

Go ahead and click through. It’s short, I’ll wait. 

Remind you of anything? Perhaps that “anti-rape underwear” Indiegogo campaign? Anti-rape gloves are another well-intentioned product based on the notion that women need things to defend themselves. That women and their bodies are inherently vulnerable.

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I Just Dropped My Freshman Off - Why College Impact Classes Matter

I've worked with Impact Bay Area for a while now. You might know me as an assistant, a volunteer, a classmate, or most recently as the newly named Program Director. Today I'm writing to you as a big sister who just dropped off her younger sister at Berkeley.

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Wear Your Empowerment on Your Sleeve

Wearing Your Confidence Proudly Makes a Big Impact!

Hello y'all!

We've heard so much interest from our grads and community about our T-Shirts, and we are thrilled to let you know that we're offering THREE new, limited edition T-Shirts. They're on sale to promote our Yes! Celebration - order yours today!

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Make Your Money Go Farther - Employer Donation Matches

Employer and Company Matching
How to Make Your Dollars Go Further for Empowerment

As a small, grassroots nonprofit, every dollar we receive is precious - it becomes one more scholarship, one more student, one more padded suit to keep our Suited Instructors safe - and we recognize that not everyone is able to donate as much as they wish they could for our cause. We understand, and are glad to be able to offer a resource for turning your dollar into 2, 3, even 4 more.

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Impact Staff Retreat 2014

Impact Instructors Talk Techniques at Staff Retreat

From our Executive Director, Lisa Scheff:

"Impact Bay Area classes are uniquely amazing experiences. And that experienceis largely because of our incredible team of instructors. Every Impact instructorbrings something special to this program, but because they are almost all teachingImpact as a second job, they are never all in the same place at the same time to sharetheir knowledge and skills with each other. Thanks to a generous grant from TheMorning Glory Family Foundation, on February 1-2, Impact Bay Area was able forthe first time to take the entire instructor team on a weekend-long retreat to talkabout the program and the curriculum, to workshop new physical techniques, andto discuss new teaching ideas.

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