Alena Schaim is the Executive Director and Instructor with the Santa Fe, New Mexico chapter of Impact Personal Safety. In a recent newsletter, she offered her thoughts on violence and the value of Impact. You can check out Alena's chapter by clicking here.
Whenever there has been a high profile serial rapist in the news, inevitably someone says, "Don't you just wish he would pick you, so that you could kick his butt and teach him a lesson?"
I understand the motives behind the sentiment, but my answer is always a resounding "No."
I don't ever want to have to hurt another human being in that way. Don't get me wrong -- I will, if necessary. As a student at IMPACT, I worked hard to re-activate my fight-or-flight response after years of being socialized to freeze and do nothing. I realized I can be quite dangerous.
My resistance to violence in real life might seem confusing if you've seen me cheering women on when they deliver powerful knees to the groins of their would-be assailants. In truth, delivering a powerful strike feels pretty good once you get past how emotional it can be. Cheering others along can help students get through uncomfortable emotions and socialized responses that may be unproductive. And it feels good to be powerful and to own your own power. That is what I'm cheering for.
However, it would be irresponsible of me to not acknowledge the existence of the cycle of violence. The vast majority of assailants were victims themselves and now hurt others as a way of seeking to feel powerful. We must remember that it was violence that created the assailant’s actions. Beating these men up will not solve the issue of violence in our community.
In every class, even while talking about my work at dinner parties, I bear witness to the suffering that violence inflicts and the ripple effect that the trauma can create. I want no part in doing that to someone else.
Yet, I do believe there is a difference between “ordinary” violence and violence that is committed only as a last resort for self-defense. I believe with every ounce of my being that you and I both have every right to defend ourselves from an attacker just as an animal has every right to defend themselves against a predator. But do I want that to happen? Is that how I want to cast my vote for change in our community?
Not at all. My heart aches at the thought of it. But I do think the world is a better place when people learn they're worth defending and have skills to prevent violence, both physically and verbally. I am proud that IMPACT deals with different levels of violence prevention; I'm proud that we work with personal safety and community safety and cultural change. Clearly one single route to violence prevention is not enough.