All posts in August 2009

71-year-old helps capture her attacker!

It’s not uncommon for women to question their own ability when it comes to self defense. Especially, when they have never encountered a combat situation before. With that in mind, I wanted to post a reminder that when in doubt, act it out!

71-year-old, 3 time Olympic gold medalist, Dawn Fraser, fought off and helped capture a man who tried to rob her home north of Brisbane yesterday. When asked how she did it, Fraser replied “He threatened my life and I got really annoyed. This guy came out of the gate and grabbed me and I grabbed him by the ear and I kicked him in the groin.”

Hats off to Fraser, who is a shining example that you can open up a can o’ whoop ass, at any age!!

Watch the news clip here.

S.P.E.A.R System

This past weekend, I took a Level 1 training course offered by The Realistic Female Self Defense Company in Chapel Hill, NC.  The instructors at RFSDC are certified by Blauer Tactical Systems, Inc. and teach what is commonly called the S.P.E.A.R. System.The S.P.E.A.R System is based off a ton of scientific research conducted by Tony Blauer into the physiological stress responses of human beings.  It focuses primarily on the universal way that humans flinch.A group flinches from a baseball bat

I can’t begin to describe the physiological background of the system because it is very detailed and well researched.  And it is hard to compare the system to others I have been exposed to, so I decided the best way to evaluate the training I received on the S.P.E.A.R. System was with a list of pros and cons.  Please know that these are simply my thoughts and you can form your own opinions by checking out the links above and signing up for a class if you are interesting in learning more.  You can also read this interesting interview I found with Tony Blauer in Black Belt Magazine and look for videos on YouTube.

Pros –

Cons –

  • Seems to require more upper body strength and focus more on upper body techniques
  • Not much focus on verbal de-escalation techniques (how to get out of a fight without fighting)
  • Level 1 and 2 courses are difficult to locate through the primary website

If you are interested in finding a S.P.E.A.R System class near you, my advice would be to search S.P.E.A.R System Self Defense and your homestate on google or a similar search engine.  You can also contact the Realistic Female Self-Defense Company via their website as they travel and may be offering a class near you at some point.

All-in-all I met some great, passionate people and added another tool to my self-defense toolbelt.  Keep checking the Fight Back Productions blog for info about various self-defense systems that we train in.

13 year old fights back!

There is an interesting article in the NY Post about a 13 year old girl who used feigned compliance to get her attacker to relax his grip until she could run away and get help.  What is most interesting to me is the way that this attack has affected her.  I think some times in our society we think “well, this was only an attempted kidnapping or attempted rape, so she didn’t really get hurt.”  Even though this encounter only lasted a few minutes, it has still greatly changed the way this young child feels about and perceives the world.  We as a society need to remember to have compassion with all victims and survivors regardless of what they have endured.

I hope and pray that years from now, when she has regained her trust in humanity, she will remember this final statement she made in court:

“There is only one good thing that came out of this,” she said. “I showed other little kids that they can fight back. You can always fight back to the bad person that’s trying to hurt you.”

Fall Tour Kicks Off!

This past Monday was the official kick off of our Fall 2009 Tour! I had the pleasure of speaking at the College of Notre Dame at Maryland and man, were those girls awesome!

As I was traveling to the campus, I was enjoying the sights of beautiful downtown Baltimore when I suddenly came upon a huge mass of people crossing the road.  Now, I’m not a big sports fan, but I realized immediately from their matching purple garb that they must have all been going to a game.  Oh well, I thought, I’ve got plenty of time to get there and my trusty GPS to guide me.  As I kept driving the directions I was being given like a good girl, I realized that I was getting closer and closer to the action.  I was going to drive right by the stadium where the Jets and Ravens were playing a pre-season game (ended up being an intense one with a final score of 24-23, Ravens).  And that’s when my GPS instructed me to turn right into the preferred fans parking lot (which requires a parking pass).  I knew I was in trouble.  It wasn’t long before I was frantically asking passers-by for directions while my GPS beeped wildly at me for going off course.  I finally pulled off into a gas station parking lot, my GPS reconfigured my route, and before I could shout “Go Ravens” out of my car window, I was back on the road heading towards CNDM.

Once I arrived on campus, we had a few kinks to overcome including a missing lav mic and a relocated presentation that didn’t end until 30 minutes before I was supposed to start my program. But you know what? None of that mattered one bit! I was still ready to roll a good 10 minutes prior to our start time and the technology gods were smiling on us because my powerpoint and our awesome FBP promo video both ran smoothly (well, mostly smoothly).

This group of girls was funny and so on top of it.  One girl offered to let me use her pepper spray to demo and when I started answering questions, they fired off answers so quickly I couldn’t tell who was saying what.  By the end of the night, I’d decided the best word to describe them was spunky!

All-in-all I’d say it was a great experience for my first time out.  Everybody was super nice to me and the campus was gorgeous.  All my flights were on time, my hotel had a free happy hour (I didn’t partake because I had a gig to go to, but still that’s pretty cool!), and I felt great about starting our fall tour off right!

It isn’t too late to book a fall Fight Back Productions program on your campus or for your corporation.  Check out www.fightbackproductions.com for info and let us teach your staff or students how to kick some tail!

Job Hunting Safely

Nowadays, nearly every one I know and their mama is looking for a job. Job searching used to mean scanning the classifieds in your local paper, but these days your job search probably means a lot of time spent on the Internet.  And the Internet is a fabulous place to find the latest job listings from companies right next door or all the way around the world.

If a good portion of your day is spent refreshing the pages on Craigslist, you have probably seen some listings that seem too good to be true.  Maybe your intuition has told you to be wary, but with more and more Americans running out of their unemployment benefits, you may just feel desperate enough to lower your guard and take the risk.  Unfortunately, you don’t have to look too hard to find stories of crimes that began with contact through websites like Craigslist.

A visit to the Craigslist safety page gives you the following safety tips & information:

The overwhelming majority of craigslist users are trustworthy and well-intentioned.

With billions of human interactions facilitated through craigslist, the incidence of violent crime has been extremely low.

Nevertheless, it’s very important to take the same common sense precautions online as you would offline.

When meeting someone for the first time, please remember to:

  • Insist on a public meeting place like a cafe
  • Tell a friend or family member where you’re going
  • Take your cell phone along if you have one
  • Consider having a friend accompany you
  • Trust your instincts

Taking these simple precautions helps make craigslist safer for everyone.

For more information about personal safety online, check out these resources:

These are good tips, especially for meeting someone off the personal ads, but how can we apply this information to job searching?

Since your first contact with someone posting a job listing online is probably through email, consider opening a free email account solely for the purpose of job searching.  You can create a professional looking email without using your last name for example: heatherm@gmail.com.  This way if the listing is an email phishing scam, you won’t have your regular email pounded with spam.  Likewise, you can use an answering service so that you don’t have to give out your actual phone number and a PO Box for a mailing address.  Maybe you have a few friends that could benefit from this as well?  Split the costs!  For more information about cyber-safe resumes check out: Job Hunt.org.

By the time you agree to a face-to-face interview with someone, you should have learned the name of the company and hopefully received a job description.  Be sure to check the Better Business Bureau for details about the company.  You can confirm the legitimacy of the business and find out a lot about how they run their business by the number and type of complaints issued against them.  You’ll want to find out as much as you can about the company before heading to the interview not only to assure your safety, but also to give the best and most knowledgeable interview that you can.

When you arrive for your interview, make sure the business appears legitmate and play close attention to your intuition.  Certainly, tell friends and family where you are going and take your cell phone along.  Just don’t forget to silence it for your interview.  There is nothing wrong with having a friend go with you on an interview as long as they stay out of sight (maybe in the car or at a nearby coffee shop).  Hopefully, by this point, you have done your research on the company and are ready to get that job!

Self Defense for Everyone

This past Wednesday, I had the honor of giving my very first ever Girls Fight Back presentation at the Industries for the Blind here in my hometown.  I worried so much before I got there.  I worried about offending the girls I would be speaking to, I worried about not being able to present the information in a way that would be effective for them,  I just worried… A LOT!

I presented to a small group of girls with varying degrees of vision capabilities who were a part of the IFB’s Summer Camp Experience.  When I arrived, they were chowing down on pizza and laughing about their morning adventure visiting a local farm.  I got set-up and started talking to the girls about the program.

Within 10 minutes of starting the presentation, I stopped worrying.  I stopped because these girls had already interjected a dozen or more personal stories and asked what felt like a hundred questions.  I realized that the desire to learn and the yearning to tell our own stories transcends our differences.

The gig was a huge hit with the girls and their teacher even asked if I would be willing to come back and teach the staff at IFB!

On Saturday, I presented two programs back to back.  One for teens at a local teen club and one for mommies at a local church.  Doing two gigs in a row like that was tough!  But once I got started, I found all this energy rushing into me.  Both were a great success and I couldn’t believe the amazing response I got from all the participants.

You would think that I couldn’t find three groups with greater differences than these.  I mean, high school girls, mommies, and teenagers with varying degrees of blindness, what do they have in common?  But after each presentation, at least one audience member approached me to express their fears.  One young girl at IFB said that she lived in fear of being out after dark.  One teen told me there was a certain street near her house that she didn’t dare walk down alone.  A couple of mommies talked about spending thousands of dollars on high tech alarm systems, but still being overwhelmed by the fear that someone might snatch their children away from them at the mall, grocery store or local park.

As women, we all live with these fears.  Fears that were passed down to us by our mothers and their mothers before them.  This week, in a brilliant article in the Huffington Post, writer Ellen Snortland (author of Beauty Bites Beast) suggests that we put an end to this legacy of fear by creating instead a legacy of safety.  Along with some awesome safety tips and a sweet shout-out to Girls Fight Back, she argues that self-defense training should be a mandatory part of getting a driver’s license.  What do you think?  Check out the article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-snortland/license-to-live-time-to-m_b_253316.html  and leave us your thoughts in the comments!

Violence Today

I’m sure anyone who would turn on CNN and learn of a mass shooting in their hometown would lose their breath, as I did, when I learned what happened in Pittsburgh Tuesday night. I fell asleep watching the news, not having any specific details of the incident. I saw the phrase “random act of violence” flash on my screen as I turned off the lights…but I knew better.

I know that violence is almost never random.  I know that there are almost always warning signs. I know that people who commit mass shootings have likely planned it for a long time and often have told someone along the way.  I know that there will be at least one person in the aftermath saying “I knew this was going to happen”.  

The media had already proved most of the above to be true before I got to work the next morning. The gunman had published an online journal for nearly 10 months, detailing his troubles with women and his loneliness.  It outlined the women who had avoided him and some that he felt had taunted him. He also discussed the lack of a support system in family and friends. It’s hard to read, but important in learning. Even a lonely gunman can recognize that, as he mentions his “practice papers” and notes, giving permission to publish them as “some people like to study that stuff”.  

It’s actually in this continuous cycle of learning that I find I am most frustrated. With every shooting in a gym or a school or an office- we promise to learn more. With every attack or sexual assault on a college campus or in the community- we promise to learn more. With every new story of a husband who killed his wife after years of abuse- we promise to learn more.  We promise to learn more and are grateful for the solemn warnings. Personally, I don’t think I can bear anymore of these “warnings”.

At some point we need to stop learning and apply what we now know. We know that violence is a huge problem that is getting worse every day.  We’ve been warned. We need to attack it with such force that there should barely be time to sleep! We need to stop saying “I knew it” and start saying “I know it”.

Perhaps this is my sad rant at continuing to see Facebook updates of friends who were affected by the Bridgeville shooting. I can’t help that I’m frustrated hearing again and again, “I can’t believe this happened here, to us”. To be clear, I am speaking in general terms. I’m not proposing to know everything about this particular case, the people involved, or what anyone should or should not have done.  Instead, I’m proposing education. If for no other reason than to take the shock of violence out of the minds of people who will find themselves completely unprepared should they be faced with it.

For every act of violence there are people that have a plan. They want to talk to you about the warning signs of mental illness and depression, they want to teach your children how to survive a school shooting, educate you on sexual assaults, promote awareness of hate crimes or teach you how to fight back.  

I’m so proud to be a part of Fight Back Productions, spreading the message and the knowledge of being your own best protector. I’m hopeful that people will continue to be open to learning more from FBP and other organizations who are fighting everyday to make things better.

Rape victims charged

The official definition of the word victimization is: to make a victim of.  The definition of re-victimization is: again anew.  Often in the anti-violence community, re-victimization is the concept of a child who endures emotional abuse as a child, will then find themselves in emotionally abusive relationships as an adult.  That’s why so often, violence is referred to as a cycle, which goes round and round…

So when I read this article in the Huffington Post today, I couldn’t help but think the same theory applies here.  Take a victim of rape, who makes the brave decision to go to the hospital and have an exam performed to collect evidence in hopes of catching and prosecuting her attacker.  After being sexually violated in the most vile way, you can only imagine the trauma that an invasive vaginal exam can have on a woman.  And that’s not the re-victimization part yet…that’s just what she has to go through in order to get her second dose of hell.

No, the re-victimization I’m speaking of is being doled out by state governments in sending a bill to rape victims to actually pay for their exam!  Here is a segment from the article:

Congress created the Violence Against Women Act to protect victims and encourage them to report rapes. The law known as VAWA has forced many states to crack down on billing problems.  But ambiguities in the law still allow a remarkable disparity in the legal system: Some rape victims, unlike victims of other crimes, have to pay for basic evidence collection.  “We never ask a robbery victim to pay for the cost of fingerprints,” said Sarah Tofte, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, which has been tracking how states comply with VAWA.

“As a victim recovers from her assault, the last thing she needs is a bill for her exam,” said Katherine Hull, a spokeswoman for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.  “Rape is not something you can budget for.”

Overall, I believe this is a national disgrace and we need to do something about it.  Most of the work we do at Fight Back Productions is focused on the proactive or preventative measures a woman can take to avoid becoming a victim.  But we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that violence is happening NOW and we need to take care of people who have been affected by it NOW.

Take action!  Get familiar with the Violence Against Women Act by reading up at Wikipedia.

Or…

Visit the RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) website to learn more about getting involved in the role of DNA testing for victims of rape.