Girls Fight Back was born in direct response to the June 2001 murder of a dynamic, athletic, and loved college student named Shannon McNamara. After Shannon’s death, her friend and sorority sister, Erin Weed, realized the need for practical and empowering options for young women to learn violence prevention and self-defense. Inspired by the way Shannon fought her attacker, Erin immersed herself in training with the best violence prevention experts and self-defense trainers in the world and, from this, developed the GFB seminar. By combining core values, a fun and empowering attitude, and the best safety and self-defense methods available, Girls Fight Back was born. This sisterhood of the traveling bad asses continues to grow and strive to make preventing violence and fighting back an approachable topic for everyone with the addition of two other great programs, Students Fight Back (gender neutral and Title IX compliant) and Fight Back on Spring Break (gender neutral and specialized with Spring Break safety tips).
The program is 75 minutes + Q&A and includes these key components:
- Using your intuition
- Safety tips – awareness, eye contact, verbal boundaries
- How to be an active bystander and a good ally
- The definition of consent
- How to support a survivor
- How to set boundaries that work for you
- Verbal de-escalation skills
- The basics of self-defense in our Badass Ballet (or Terminator Tango)
- Plus a review of improvised weapons, ground fighting, and how to sign up for a full-contact adrenaline based self-defense course near you!
Students Fight Back offers the same basic skills in Girls Fight Back, because contrary to what society might tell us, men as well as women can sometimes use a helping hand when it comes to learning personal safety and self-defense. And, we can all come together to be active bystanders and create safer communities. This program has a little less girl power and a strong emphasis on how we can all partner together to put an end to violence. It is gender neutral and Title IX compliant. This program is also 75 mins + Q&A.
Fight Back on Spring Break is a specialized version of Students Fight Back. It is also gender neutral and puts special attention on how we can be safer and look out for each other more actively on Spring Break or any time we want to be social, have a good time, or travel away from home. This program is also 75 mins + Q&A.
The Facts about Violence:
- About 1/3 of female murder victims ages 12 or older are killed by an intimate partner.
- Every 2 minutes someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.
- It is estimated that 43% of lesbian and bisexual women and 30% of gay and bisexual men have experienced at least one form of sexual assault during their lifetimes.
- 1 in 5 young women will experience sexual assault in college.
- Approximately 57% of survivors know their assailants.
Statistics were sourced from:
Department of Justice 2007
U.S. Department of Justice, National Crime Victimization Survey 1993-2013
Rothman Boston University’s School of Public Health 2011
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2011
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2010
STRONG – We believe that every individual is his or her best protector. Our strength is not necessarily made up of mere physical muscle, but is built upon making a conscious choice to reclaim our sense of security in the world. We strive to empower individuals to be in control of their lives, to set boundaries that allow them to feel safe, to be wary of anyone who discounts their NO, and to learn how to live a safer life through their actions and help other people around them to do the same.
RESILIENT – Though the statistics are shocking, we are here to say that we will not conform to the violence. Our world and most of our individual lives have been wrongfully altered by violence. We believe in recovery on individual, societal, and world levels. Our message is presented without judgment to how anyone handled or felt about a past violent situation. These are very personal issues and there is no one right way to react or feel, but we can share the tools that empower people to fight back.
SPIRITED – Belief in oneself is essential. We believe that scare tactics do exactly as their name suggests—scare people. Instead, we strive to eliminate the taboo status of topics like violence prevention, self-defense, and personal security. Only by making these topics approachable and encouraging everyone to tell their stories we will begin to change the pattern of violence.
UNIFIED – Though each individual is her or her own best protector; we also believe that we are here on earth to look out for one another. Protecting yourself is a great first step, the next step is to educate and empower others. By working together we can spread the word about personal safety and self defense, while simultaneously working to tear down the violence. We want to re-enforce the truth that while most sexual assaults are committed by men, most men are not rapists. Though Girls Fight Back is not the answer to solving the problems of violence . . . we ARE one key part of the solution and we stand together with everyone who strives to combat violence in our world.
MEET THE GIRLS
BREE SWARTZ :: senior national speaker
Bree is a graduate of Purdue University, where she studied Mass Communication and Theatre, was an ambassador for the College of Liberal Arts and a Co-Captain for the Purdue Golduster Dance Team. Her self-defense training includes IMPACT Chicago, FAST Defense, adrenal stress confrontations and the GFB Speaker Academy. She is also a Certified Victim Advocate. Bree is an actress in NYC when not on the road with GFB, where she is an active member in The Community, a nonprofit theater group founded by fellow William Esper Studio graduates. Bree has coordinated and lead audition workshops for the organization to create a place for growing actors to work on their craft. During her time in Chicago, where she first became a GFB speaker, Bree mentored a young theater group in the suburbs of Chicago through classes and talks on the importance of being an artist. More recently, Bree helped coordinate an incredibly successful meditation workshop for the Clairvision School, which is a dynamic, interactive two-day workshop that unfolds a systematic method for achieving a state of inner stillness, focus and clarity of purpose. Although Bree is currently awaiting her approval for Big Sister, she finds time to work with local youth through her work with Puppetonia at Symposium Bookstore, an inner-active, educational children’s show. She gets her funny-on and hones her public speaking skills through improv comedy classes at Upright Citizen Brigade in NYC. Bree finds time to “play” by spending time with friends, family, seeing shows, writing, dancing, reading and taking classes at the nonprofit Yoga to the People.
MORGAN CROUCH :: junior speaker
Morgan Crouch graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she earned a B.A. in Art History with an emphasis in gender & critical race. Morgan studied improv and comedic writing at The Second City Training Center and iO Chicago. She is a graduate of the GFB Speaker Academy 2013, with training in FAST Defense.
NICOLE SNELL :: booking agent – junior speaker
Nicole received a full scholarship to Cal State Long Beach as a President’s Scholar, and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Speech Communication. She is a passionate advocate for social justice & gender equality. Her self-defense training includes IMPACT LA, FAST defense, the GFB Speaker Academy and local self-defense classes. In addition, she has completed 40 hours of Victim Advocacy Training. When not traveling with GFB, Nicole works as a lead facilitator with a social theater company that is contracted with the Department of Navy Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Office to provide bystander intervention training to service members at military installations worldwide. Nicole is also an active volunteer for Taking the Reins, an LA based non-profit organization that teaches leadership, responsibility and confidence to underserved middle- and high-school girls through horse care, riding & urban farming. In her spare time Nicole works as a freelance Line Producer & Media Consultant, rides horses, hikes, practices archery, scuba dives and loves to explore the world.
GINA KIRKLAND :: president + den mother
Gina Kirkland graduated from Amarillo College and West Texas A&M University with an A.A. and a B.A.. She worked as an educator and an event planner before opening Kirkland Productions, Inc., a college entertainment/speakers agency, in 2000. She served as a Facilitator for the AAG (Associate Advisory Group) for NACA (The National Association for Campus Activities) and was awarded Agent of the Year in 2014 by NACA South and in the past by both the NACA West and Central regions. In 2007, she opened her second company, KP Comedy, and, in 2013, she channeled her lifelong passion for Women’s Issues into the purchase of her third company, Girls Fight Back, bringing the message of living a fearless life and combating violence against women to millions of young women across the country. She runs the GFB Speaker Academy, is a NOVA certified Victim Advocate, works in partnership with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office of the Department of the Navy (DON SAPRO) on issues of sexual assault prevention and bystander behavior, is a graduate of the Gavin de Becker Advanced Threat Assessment and Management Academy, IMPACT Los Angeles, FAST Defense, and currently sits on the board of IMPACT Personal Safety. She currently resides in Los Angeles.
ERIN WEED :: founder
Erin founded GFB in 2001 at the age of 23 in response to the murder of Shannon, who was her close friend and sorority sister. Erin has won many awards for her work in women’s empowerment and social entrepreneurship. She was a columnist for CosmoGirl and is the author of Girls Fight Back! The College Girl’s Guide to Protecting Herself (now available in its 3rd edition). She is the creator of the GFB seminar seen by over a million women, and also the GFB Speaker Academy.
SHANNON MCNAMARA :: inspiration
Shannon was murdered on June 12, 2001 just a few days shy of her 22nd birthday. While the world lost an incredible human being that day, heaven gained one hell of an angel. Shannon’s story has inspired over one million women to become their own best defenders, and to live the badass life each of us were intended. And for that, we are so grateful.
BETH TOWNSEND-SMITH :: sister – friend of GFB
Beth studied Psychology with Certification in Child and Family Studies at Roosevelt University and is also a graduate of The Adler School of Professional Psychology’s Art Therapy program. She has worked with special needs children, at-risk teens, and parent education groups across the Chicago area. When not out promoting GFB, she also teaches art and science. Beth is a Graduate of the GFB Speaker Academy 2013, with training in FAST Defense.
LEAH BONNEMA :: sister – friend of GFB
Leah majored in Cultural Studies at McGill University and wrote her Honor’s Thesis in Film and Women’s Studies. Huffington Post named her one of their Favorite Female Comedians and College Candy listed in her as one of the Top Ten Female Comics. She is regular on VH1’s 100 Greatest Series and has toured for the troops in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. Leah is a graduate of the GFB Academy 2013, with training in FAST Defense.