I was born and raised in the McKinley Park neighborhood in Chicago. I attended public schools and went to both DePaul University and Columbia College. I worked and lived in many different neighborhoods. I didn’t buy my first car until I was in my late 30s, so I’ve always been very familiar with public transportation. If I wasn’t on the CTA, I was on my bike. I was never afraid, but I was always aware of my surroundings.
Despite Chicago’s reputation, I’ve always been comfortable walking the street no matter the location of the sun or moon. In my 20’s and 30’s, I owned this town! This was my city.
As a new mom, my confidence in my safety and city was waning. Was it typical mommy self-doubt? Mommy brain fog? Suddenly, pulling into the garage at night with my daughter became a bit frightening. I starting asking myself was it safe to play at Maggie Daley Park until closing? Getting on the Electric Line to go home? Being the last passenger on the platform as I attended to the stroller and my daughter? Was it even safe to walk home from the train station after dark?
I was also angry. Angry that I feared my city and parks at night. Angry at the mass scale of violence against women. Angry for messages that women are somehow responsible for the horrific violence perpetrated against them because of something as arbitrary as the time of day. Angry at all the fathers that do not teach their sons about consent. Angry at all the men who DO NOTHING to stop the rape culture in this country. (Have you ever heard a group of men discussing what they can do about the rape culture in this country?) Angry at the judges who set free sex offenders because the offender attended an Ivy League School. And so on, and on, and on.
My anxiety increased after the 2016 election.
I couldn’t continue living this way. I was inspired by a Facebook post to do something about my fears and anxiety. This past November, my nephew’s girlfriend mentioned taking a self-defense class. I started looking up classes. It was to sad to see how few classes were available. I did find IMPACT Chicago, a small non-for-profit founded in 1987. IMPACT has a sliding tuition schedule, making classes accessible to people of all economic and racial groups. More importantly, they firmly believe women of all ages and sizes have within them self-protection skills.
This past weekend I attended IMPACT’s Core Program – an intense two and a half day self-defense training class. WOW, just wow! I can’t even begin to describe the experience. One thing is sure, my inner-strength and confidence has been resurrected.
I am empowered with strength and knowledge. The class was taught through different scenarios where the assailant is either a complete stranger or someone known. I learned how to use my voice to de-escalation situations and set boundaries. I practiced physical techniques and strategies that will fend off an attacker. I was taught how to managed my adrenaline to allow me to make quick, deliberate decisions while delivery full-force strikes. Wow, just wow!
Even after a weekend of intensive physical fighting, (and cheering on fifteen other women doing the same), I am still angry that violence against women is so widespread. However, I am thankful that IMPACT-Chicago is helping women overcome their fears, and giving them hope for a safe environment where they live and work.