All posts in October 2015

A True Story of Fighting Back – Rachael Speaks

Our friend Rachael fought back this weekend and is sharing her story to instill some serious badassery in all of us. Rachael’s experience is one that no one should ever have to go through, but when she did suddenly find herself in a potentially life-threatening situation, she acted on her instincts and fought back with everything she had because Rachael knows that she is worth fighting for.

We are so happy to hear that your warrior spirit kept you safe, Rachael! Thank you for sharing your story (full story below).

“Last night at around 10pm I was assaulted in Logan Square, on a cute little side street off Milwaukee. I am telling Facebook about it because I think there are things to be learned from my experience, and I don’t know how else to tell a large number of people I care about. I don’t think this says anything bad about my neighborhood, I think this could have happened anywhere.

I was walking alone to a friend’s house, with headphones on. Someone grabbed me from behind, showed me his gun, and started walking me to his car, saying if I knew what was good for me that I would get in. Once I processed that I wasn’t just being mugged, I started to fight back. I screamed HELP I’M BEING ASSAULTED as loud as I possibly could. He started hitting me on the head with his gun and I fell to the ground. People started to yell back and ask if I was OK- the guy yelled “This is my girlfriend”- and I screamed “No I am not” (as if being his girlfriend would change this scenario?) The whole time I was thinking about what my friend Morgan had taught me just a few weeks earlier through a program she works for called Girls Fight Back—that these are crimes of opportunity and they aren’t expecting a fight. I screamed and struggled as he stood over me and continued to hit me and tried to silence me until I got a solid shot and kicked him in the balls with my 2″ stacked heel boots– which gave me a chance to get up and run across the street as he fell back. By that time enough neighbors had come out of their homes that he sped away with my purse.

Ladies- be alert and be fierce, you are stronger than you think you are. The police were adamant that you should never let someone relocate you, that it’s worth the fight.
Everyone else- if you hear something or see something that’s not right, don’t shy away. I am so grateful for those neighbors who came out of their homes and let me in.

Special shout out to Alanis Morissette—I truly believe that listening to “You Oughta Know” moments before this happened unleashed a special kind of femme rage in me that helped me fight back (despite the fact that headphones on probably made me a target—duly noted).” – Rachael

-GFB Morgan

Sacramento State- Using your Voice is POWERFUL

I had the pleasure of meeting the badass students and UNIQUE members at Sacramento State last week for Students Fight Back.  The event was hosted by UNIQUE, a super passionate group of student volunteers led by advisor Ajamu Lamumba that brings innovative entertainment to campus.  These folks organized the event down to the last detail including “Students Fight Back” credentials for all the volunteers… it was incredibly awesome!

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The students in this audience were super energetic and totally engaged in the program!  We talked about intuition and how being aware of your surroundings is not only simple, but really important from a personal safety and not-being-hit-by-a-door standpoint too. We practiced using our voices to set boundaries, which always seems to be the most uncomfortable thing for folks to get the hang  of.  We all struggle with this, and that is why we spend so much time practicing this super important skill in our seminars!

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When it came time to practice the Badass Ballet, you could feel the power in the room.  These men and women were standing up for themselves against their invisible creeper and the more we practiced with our voice, the more confident they became.  The Badass Ballet is an intro to physical self-defense skills and thanks to Jessica Heskin everyone learned that Sac State actually offers a full contact self-defense class on campus at The Well. How great is that?!

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The biggest take away for this group was the knowledge that it’s ok to make a scene and use your voice if you feel uncomfortable, unsafe or if your boundaries are being crossed. Using your voice is a great way to deter someone and also catches the attention of passers-by who can then step in as an active bystander.  So often in our life we are told not to make trouble, don’t be mean and just go with the flow.  Well, that doesn’t apply when it comes to your personal safety!  Use your voice…it’s the first tool of self-defense you have and it may be all you need to avoid a physical confrontation.  The best fight is the one never fought!

There were great questions asked during Q&A like, what to do if the attacker has a weapon and what if there are multiple attackers.  My favorite question was, “If someone says ‘hi’ to me, do I ignore them or do I say something?  What if I offend them?”  Well, it’s absolutely your choice and depends on the situation and how that ‘hi’ makes you feel.  If you feel uncomfortable or threatened, then you have the right to enforce your boundary and use your voice if you choose. The fear of offending someone should never be more important than the desire to be safe.  It’s ok if someone thinks you’re mean, or rude or a terrible person if the end result is that you are safe and alive. Who cares what creepy people who are trying to cross your boundaries think! I’d rather err on the side of being safe any day!  And remember, you aren’t obligated to engage in conversation with anyone and you can say NO at any time.  If someone disrespects your no or disregards your personal boundaries, you now have the skills to create a double boundary and know you’re worth fighting for if that person doesn’t back off.

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Thank you Sacramento State and UNIQUE for letting me rock out with all of you and share some knowledge that we are really passionate about.  I hope you are all feeling like the empowered badasses that you are!  Go forward peacefully!

Cheers,
GFB Nicole

 

University of Massachusetts – Lowell – A BIG Win!

Just 2 weeks into the SFB fall tour, I stopped by to see our new besties at University of Massachusetts  – Lowell. The team of badasses in Student Activities is killing it over there and had some 400 seats lined up, zip tied, a boss stage and serious sound system. They brought in the big guns.

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After sound check, start time slowly creeped. And let’s just say they didn’t quite fill the seats they had hoped to. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, self-defense is a tough sale.

But here is the incredibly awesome news: 1.) There were a solid number of dudes in the crowd. Like over half. 2.) we had FUN! Those who came were super into it. 3.) I had a very real, open conversation with a brilliant group of women who were uber pumped about the program and could hardly wait to share stories: One who, just in the last week, made moves to be an active bystander, looking out for a couple freshman girls who were being creeped on by a guy following them slowly in a car (she threatened to call the cops and he drove away). Another girl shared her “I never thought it could happen to me” story about getting mugged just a few weeks ago and how much she wished she had this course before that had happened. We talked for a quite a while after the program, laughing, chatting and sharing our fears… being vulnerable about a scary topic that can seem a lot less scary when you are in a safe place to talk about it and can learn very basic skills to deal with it.

So yeah, they didn’t get the masses they were looking for, but we did connect with some real leaders in the community who want to take more steps towards a safer program by bringing us back for more intense classes. These are also the people who will continue chatting about the program for a while, sparking important conversations with the peeps who couldn’t make it to the seminar.

And I most definitely chalk that up as a BIG win.

Thank you SO much University of Massachusetts – Lowell for letting me hang and putting on such an amazing program. You all are the bomb and I can’t wait to see you again soon! Till next time..

Love and Light,
GFB Bree

LIM College – Let’s Go Round 2!

This is my second round with the beautiful people of LIM College. This go, we spoke to the students that had just moved into their residence housing here in NYC. They were a fun group of girls who wanted to get their know-how on when it came to self defense.

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One of the hot topics that I think often gets brought up at the beginning to middle of the school year, when the parents send their young blossoming buds off, is setting them up with pepper spray. This was a must-know among the LIM College group so I thought I’d share with all y’all.

When I went to live in Nashville by myself, my aunt bought me a stun gun AND pepper spray (she was only mildly worried about my safety.) I think I was more scared of shocking myself with the stun gun (because the spark it gave off scared the crap out of me) than I was scared of being attacked. And I actually DID shoot myself in the stomach with my roommate’s pepperspray when I was tossing her keys around in my hands.. I didn’t know it was pepper spray, shot myself in the stomach and was choking and eyes watering for a good hour. Yeah, I am that cool.

I share this what-not-to-do story because it proves one of our main rules about using any kind of safety tool: Practice using it! So many people put all of their trust into these protective weapons and then either A. have no idea how to use or B. know how to use it but only in calm and collect situations, not when you’re all jazzed up on adrenaline and can hardly move your fingers, let alone take off the safety, aim and shoot precisely into someone’s eyes. (This brings me to the another side note: make sure if you’re going to carry pepper spray to have one that shoots a long and wide mist, not one of those that you can practically spit farther than and is a solid stream. In needs to have distance and depth. We sell an excellent model as well as a practice-can (A MUST) here on www.girsfightback.com)

If you know how to use your safety tool and have practice, this is the best way to prevent our second rule from happening: know that anything you use can be taken away from you and used on you. Unfortunately this does happen, but if you have taken the appropriate training and practiced using it, that’s unlikely to happen. It’s all about taking the preventative steps my friends.

A big shout out to LIM College for bringing this important topic to the forefront as it’s a widely uneducated topic. But since LIM’s crew is a bunch of badasses and their second round of SFB, I’m not surprised they are all over this. Thank you so much for having me LIM and I’m stoked to go round 3! Till next time..

Love and Light,
GFB Bree

Sunday Morning “Kicks” – Cal Poly San Luis Obispo!

What were you doing on Sunday morning? Sleeping? Reading the newspaper? Well if you were one of the more than 700 new sorority members at Cal Poly SLO, you were in the Chumash Auditorium eye striking and groin kicking your way to empowerment with Girls Fight Back!

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The New Member Education event started off with a presentation by SAFER, Cal Poly’s primary resource for addressing sexual violence, domestic violence and stalking.  They showed my favorite “Tea Consent” video and really set the crowd up for the Girls Fight Back material.  I love it when allies join together with us during events, because as a united voice we are so much louder at combatting violence and rape culture in our society.

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Taelor, the VP for the Panhellenic Association was a strong supporter of the GFB program and was supremely awesome before, during and after the event!  She even arranged to have a member of the IFC executive staff, Kevin, act as my demo “creeper”.  It was incredible to have a man that is so passionate about our cause be a part of the show and he did a great job!  Women and men have to work together to truly end violence in our world.

We practiced our verbal strategies and learned how to recognize when someone is disrespecting our no. We clarified that consent should be an enthusiastic HELL YES!  And of course, we practiced our badass ballet moves. Make no mistake, these ladies were supremely bad ass…their invisible creepers got their butts kicked!  And when I asked everyone to stand up for the last badassballet practice, I heard several women in the front row announce “oh hell yes!” and were the first to jump up into ready position.  You go girls, that enthusiasm is contagious!

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Thank you so much for inviting me to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and letting me be a part of your college experience while empowering your new Greek Members.  I hope you all know how incredible you are, how much power you have and how you all deserve to live an awesome life with NO APOLOGIES!  Remember to look out for each other and please go forward peacefully.

Cheers,
GFB Nicole

Thank you UW-Platteville!

The students at UW-Platteville are so POWERFUL! We had an awesome group of fierce students show up for our Students Fight Back event this past Sunday. It was an incredible experience not only because of the physical strength of so many participants, but also because of the power of their collective voices. Being a ‘united front’ can take shape in many different ways; sometimes a united front is a group of individuals making the conscious choice to become active bystanders (getting involved when seeing someone in a potentially dangerous situation), but it can also be individuals learning how to up our overall personal safety at an SFB event. Either way, in the end it is all about supporting our communities, our campuses, and our peers so we can all live our lives to the fullest!

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Jumping off of the topic of using our ‘collective voices’, I do have to admit that I got goosebumps more than once when we all practiced setting our double boundaries. As a reminder, yes, it would be totally amazing if we remembered to say “No. Back up. I don’t want any problems.” every time were were faced with a self-defense scenario, but what matters more than the words is how we say it. Each and every one of you are worth fighting for and I can assure you all that the students of Platteville know how to express themselves with some serious conviction! These are students that you do not want to mess with, not only because they continued to hone their badass ballet even after the night was over, but they really know how to utilize our SFB verbal strategies!

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I would like to thank Samantha from CPR for organizing and promoting this fantastic event, Family Advocate, Claire, Page and our not-so-creepy-creeper-McCreeperson, Justin!

Go forward peacefully.
-SFB Morgan

Western Oregon University – A Students Fight Back First!

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I watched through the window of my rehearsal room as hundreds of students began winding through campus en masse and excitedly filing into the gym.  These were brand new students- freshmen- gearing up for their first year at Western Oregon University. This was Student Orientation Week and Students Fight Back was invited by the Student Health & Counseling Center and Student Leadership & Activities to give these young folks some options and tools for their toolboxes for their exciting new college experience.  After everyone was seated (all 1100 of them) I felt the electricity in the air and knew we were going to have a great time together.

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The show opened with a presentation by Abby’s House, Women’s Center on campus.  We watched the hilariously awesome “Tea Consent” video.  If you haven’t seen this, watch it now! They announced Students Fight Back and I could see that this crowd was ready to bring the house down with their awesomeness!  I loved that there was such a wide demographic of students represented: athletes, women, men, LGBTQ, disabled…there was even a sign language interpreter!

We went over the importance of why fighting back is a personal choice and that victim blaming is always wrong and unacceptable. We clarified that a creeper can be ANYONE and is not necessarily a stranger.  Heck, most of the time (57% to be exact) assaults are committed by someone we know which is why it’s important to use our awareness to make decisions for ourselves. We watched the bystander video and everyone applauded the folks who stepped up in the clip.  Nothing like hearing 1100 people cheer and recognize when others are being true bystanders and making a difference!  Empowering!

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When it was time to practice our physical skills and I had the pleasure of both a male and female volunteer…a Students Fight Back first!  Let’s face it, women can be creepers too and it’s important to remember that all humans have the hotspots we discussed.  We practiced our verbal strategies and the thunder of hearing over a thousand voices scream out “NO. BACK UP, I DON’T WANT ANY PROBLEMS” gave me the chills.  Their voices echoed throughout the gym and I felt the power all the way to my bones.  Watching them practicing the badass ballet was a blast because everyone seemed to be having a super fun time kicking the crap out of their invisible creeper.  Way to go Western!

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I opened it up to Q&A and got such thoughtful, honest, probing questions.  It warmed my heart to see that everyone was really absorbing the information and figuring things out in their own minds. Here are some of the questions that stood out to me:

Q: What if you have disabilities…how do you fight?

A: Fighting is always a personal choice, and if you choose to fight you can modify the badass ballet depending on your situation ie: a heel palm to the groin instead of the face.

Q: I’ve heard that women should wear their hair back in a ponytail if they go out so that no one can grab their hair to abduct them.  What do you think?

A: We think you should wear your hair however you want! We will never teach you that you can’t go where you want, wear want you want or do what you want.  The skills we taught you today will enable you to live how you choose and have options should you ever need them.

Q: Can men take self-defense classes?

A: Absolutely!  There are co-ed classes and men can also choose to take a men’s only class if they’d prefer.

Q: What are your thoughts on how someone dresses in relation to rape?

A:  How someone dresses has absolutely NOTHING to do with rape or sexual assault.  Sexual assault is not about sex even though sexual organs are involved.  It is about a perpetrator having power, control and domination over someone else and objectifying and humiliating them. This is called power arousal and is very different from sexual arousal.  Sexual arousal is based on respect and mutual attraction.  Predators are looking for vulnerable targets they can have power over and are not concerned with how someone dresses or how they look.  That is why survivors of sexual assault range in age from infants to the elderly.  No one is EVER to blame for violence perpetrated against them.

We practiced the bad ass ballet one more time and I asked if they felt powerful.  I wasn’t surprised when I saw smiles and joy on the faces of the group when they answered back with a powerful YES!  Thank you Western, for being such an engaged, attentive audience.  I enjoyed our time together and I hope you learned some skills that will give you confidence in knowing that you have a choice if you ever need to fight back.  You are all badasses. Go forward peacefully!

Cheers,
GFB Nicole