Category: Current Events

Small but Mighty Crew from LCCC

The small but mighty crew from Lehigh Carbon Community College were so engaged and eager to learn when I visited Thursday night, we had a heck of time throwing down. And quite a diverse group attended Students Fight Back!, hosted by the wonderful Student Life. I always love seeing both men and women, especially when they are not required to be there, coming together to be a part of the solution in the battle against violence. Such a supportive and connected energy flowed with this group of future leaders, taking a stand to look out for each other and deciding that the rape and violence culture is not something to be ignored, but stood up against, united. Deciding to be their own best protectors in any situation. Deciding enough is enough. So proud to be a part of Lehigh Carbon CC for a night. Thank you so much for letting me be a part of your rockstar community . Until next time…
Love and Light,
GFB Bree

 

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University Of Mass Lowell – Good Vibration

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This gang is my jam. My posse. My people. Though it was my second time on campus and there were familiar faces in the crowd, I fell in love with this crew all over again. We had so much fun while learning and empowering each other to live badass, fearless lives. And the energy. Talk about good vibration. Like woah. They were snappin’..  literally snapping their fingers as if it were a spoken word jam (I couldn’t get over this, like geeking out hardcore)… laughing, clapping, hugging, air-punching, getting so physically into it I couldn’t have been smiling bigger.

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This is the spirit of Girls Fight Back! When you get snaps and claps to ideas like “I’m worth fighting for. No is a complete sentence. If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no. Start trusting your intuition on every level that it comes….” and so much more, I’m reminded of why the GFB message is so freaking crucial. Thank you UMass Lowell for allowing me to be a part of the social change you are creating on your campus and the empowering message you are sending round the world. You are rockstars. You are future leaders. You are game changers. Can. Not. Wait. To see you all again! Till next time…
Love and light,
GFB Bree

 

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Happy International Women’s Day from Eastern Illinois University!

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Yesterday was International Women’s Day and I don’t think I could have concocted a better way to celebrate if I tried. I traveled to Eastern Illinois University to speak to a badass group of women at an incredible event hosted by their Student Government. This was a particularly special gig for me as it was the first time in my 5 years of speaking that I got to throw down with the alma mater of both our founder, Erin Weed, and, of course, the inspiration for Girls Fight Back, the beloved Shannon McNamara. It was an incredible group with great energy from start to finish. And Erin and Shannon’s Greek family, Alpha Phi, were out in full force… Sharing their love and energy, honoring their beautiful sister who fought fiercely against her attacker, but was taken too soon almost 15 years ago.

However, it’s more apparent than ever that Shannon’s spirit inspires women and men alike to be their own best protector everyday. Her sorority sisters approached me afterwards sharing how Shannon’s story not only moved them to lead safer, badass lives, but brought them closer together as a community. In our presentation, we share with students that the most important thing to bring into a self-defense scenario is the unwavering knowledge that you are worth fighting for and this will not be the end of your story. Shannon fought with all her heart and her story is so big, it continues to live on and inspire millions across the globe. I’m truly honored to share Shannon and Erin’s story, along with the rest of the GFB team, so we can all live in a more peaceful and empowered world as women. Happy International Women’s Day to all the brave women out there, and especially to one of the most badass women to walk this earth, Shannon. Your fight lives on.

Thank you Eastern Illinois, the Student Government and It’s On Us campaign for having me on campus … It was truly memorable and I can’t wait to see you all again. Till next time…

Love and Light,

GFB Bree

Stephen F. Austin FIGHTS BACK!

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Stephen F. Austin State University is such a cool crew, with contagious energy and that serious FIGHT BACK! spirit. I got to see this not only during our seminar, but in on-campus events surrounding my presentation.

As we point out in our program, no matter how safe a school, neighborhood or city might be, violence is unfortunately something that touches all of us. SFA saw this first hand, with an attack on campus several days before our seminar and one literally the same night I was speaking on their campus. The students told me all about it, and how in both cases they believed the attacker was not a student. Scary stuff. But the INCREDIBLE news is that in both instances, the women fought off the attacker and were able to get away.

Hell. Yeah.

See what I mean about that fight back spirit? The truth is this can happen on any campus, and I’d like to give Stephen F. Austin a standing ovation for taking the initiative to make their campus a safer place by educating students with programs like Students Fight Back! Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your brave community and most importantly, for fighting back.

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And a special shout out to Student Activities Association, one of the hardest working campus organizations I’ve seen! They did such a stellar job planning the event, getting badasses in seats and getting the community hyped up about making the campus safer. You all are making a difference, truly. Can’t wait to come visit you all again reeeeeeeeal soon!

Love and Light,

GFB Bree

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

SUNY Potsdam – Supporting Each Other and Fighting Back!

SUNY Potsdam September 2015

It was really exciting to bring our badass Students Fight Back event to SUNY-Potsdam! These students really came together to support one another all while learning how to be their own best protectors. At the top of our SFB program, we share our story and emphasize that because violence touches each and every one of us, violence is truly an epidemic. The reason why we at SFB & GFB feel that it is so important to talk about the reality of violence in our everyday lives is that we know the more we talk about it, the more we will be able to realize we are not alone. When we realize that the experiences we ourselves have lived through or the experiences of close friends or family members are not isolated events, we allow ourselves to build greater connections within our own communities.

A week before the SFB event in Potsdam, a tragic event struck a nearby campus. What I admire about the students of Potsdam and the students in the surrounding area, is that they were able to come together after this tragedy. It was wonderful to have students familiar with our GFB program show up as well as a few first-timers! We were very lucky to have Bradon, a senior at SUNY-Potsdam, return for a second year as our not-so-scary Creeper McCreeperson volunteer. I want to add a special shout out to Jackie and Ruth for putting together and running a truly special SFB event.

Thank you & go forward peacefully!
-SFB Morgan

North Idaho College and SFB – Strong, Confident, POWERFUL!

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Students Fight Back took a little jaunt up to the beautiful city of Coeur d’Alene this past week and I met the awesome students of North Idaho College!  The ASNIC Student Events team greeted me with boundless energy and their enthusiasm about educating their fellow students on self-defense strategies was contagious.  There was even a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man at the entrance to the venue to announce the program!

With counselors and the Student Response Officer (a real armed police officer) in the audience, we tackled why victim blaming is wrong and why we don’t go for the groin first in a self-defense scenario!  I’ll be honest, I got a little nervous when I noticed Gus (the SRO) jotting things down in his phone and then after the presentation he got up to say a few words to the audience and validated everything we went over!  It’s so incredible to hear directly from law enforcement how spot on our program is at tackling issues of violence prevention and empowering students to fight back!

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During the Q&A I was asked a great question:

If predators are motivated by power and control, wouldn’t they choose a victim who was standing up for themselves so they can have more power and control?

The badass answer?

Predators typically choose people who they perceive to be VULNERABLE!  They most often want easy targets, someone who they can dominate easily.  So by standing your ground, setting a strong boundary and having the skillset in your back pocket to fight back if you have to/choose to, you are less likely to become a target of a violent attack!  There is a wealth of research backs this up too!  So don’t be afraid to be strong, be confident and be POWERFUL.

Mic drop!   It was incredibly awesome to see everyone so engaged and ready to take that next step to be their own best protector!  I love creating allies as we travel the country spreading empowerment and dropping knowledge bombs!

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Thank you so much to all the wonderful people at ASNIC that sponsored this event and were so gracious, friendly and all kinds of awesome including: Heather, Quinne, Mallory, Nicole, and Mitchell!  It was a huge pleasure meeting you all and I hope your community learned the most important lesson…that they are WORTH FIGHTING FOR!

Cheers!
GFB Nicole

 

We’re Back! with Morehead State

Morehead State students standingWe are back! On Saturday morning at 9:30AM (my earliest Fight Back gig to date) at Morehead State.. I threw down with 900 freshman, Students Fight Back style, for our first seminar of the fall semester. That’s right. We were kickin’ booty before you had your Wheaties.

Why, you might ask, were we up so early throwing some serious eye-strikes? Students Fight Back was  part of the Freshman orientation week, which can be the highest week of crime out of the entire school year. Props to Morehead State for taking preventative steps to give the students the skills they need to succeed from day one in college.

But as I’m sure you can imagine, some freshman were less than thrilled to be dragged out of bed for a Saturday morning seminar. I even walked by one student who said “It looks boring, I think I’m gonna leave.” I love hearing these comments, truly. Mainly because I get it. I like my sleep as much as a newborn babe. And let’s be honest, who wants to spend their Saturday morning talking about ‘not getting attacked’? But I laugh to myself when I hear these kinds of comments because by the end, they’re pretty stoked to know how to palm strike to the face, and then some. Wait. Hold up. Enjoy a seminar that was put on by your college? No way.

Way! In fact, I had two students approach me after: ‘I thought this was going to be another boring rape prevention program. Like “don’t rape people.” Yeah, we get it.’

But they continue. ‘This was kick ass. Where can I take a full-contact self defense class?” Boo-yah. Not only did they dig it, but they wanted more.

Oh the sweet sound of success. Teaching our future generation how to be their own best protectors while looking out for each other…all while making it badass. This is what makes Girls Fight Back and Students Fight Back so awesome. These are skills they will use for the rest of their lives so why not make it fun, memorable, and leave them wanting more? I can’t think of a better way to kick off the school year.

Thank you MoreState for letting me throw down with your bright, fresh blood and for being leaders in prevention and awareness on campus. You all are rockstars. Till next time…

Love and Light,
GFB Bree

The Booming Market of Sexual Assault Prevention on Campuses

For years, we at Girls Fight Back and Students Fight Back have promoted training that teaches women to trust their instincts and be their own best protectors.  Studies show that this is still the most effective method of preventing sexual assault.

We are happy that in the years since our inception, awareness has grown and programs have been put in place to encourage bystander intervention and help us all to look out for each other.  The programs, apps and products mentioned in the article below are all utilized to assist in preventing sexual assault, and that is a very good thing!  Go public awareness!  We love it!

Ultimately, while we definitely think there is room for ALL OF THESE APPROACHES, the problem of sexual assault on college campuses exists NOW and in addition to these other approaches, we have to teach women how to take care of themselves.  It isn’t victim blaming, it is just practical.

Here’s the NPR article I mentioned, check it out!

-GFB Kat

Mandatory Fun at Andrew College

Andrew College June 2015

At Students Fight Back, some of the programs are mandatory attendance for certain organizations or classes. You can always tell at the beginning of a program.. Because let’s be honest, who is just jonesing to give up their free night to learn about self-defense? Not you average college student. However, since we aren’t your typical self protection seminar, about 15 minutes into the program, most of the students are on board and ready to kick some booty.

At Andrew College way down south, I spoke to the entire student body. Yep. All of them. And it was mandatory. Uh-oh.

The program started with our handouts being made into paper airplanes. Awesome. But if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right?
I told them we needed to work on their airplane-making skills… ‘cus some of these were just sad. Yeah I called them out on their game and had a little fun. That’s right friends… we can learn about self defense AND have fun. Oh yes we did.

The further we got into the program, the more cats got on board. People were hollering and killing the badass ballet moves, while also hitting the pause button to realize we have a serious problem on our hands as a society and we must take the steps to be ready if we ever find ourselves in a sketchy situation. It was definiely a success, especially starting off with a room full of about 300 students who were less than pumped about self-defense.
At the end of the program I had two sassy ladies approach me and give it to me straight: “You know, I didn’t want to be here at all tonight. But, I actually ended up having a lot of fun. Thanks for coming.” Awwwww Yeah! Thank YOU! This, my friends, is the best feedback I can receive. Moments like these make me puff my chest proud to be a part of such a unique organization that can connect with students on their level. Because at the end of the day, its ALL about the students, our future leaders.

Thank you Andrew College for rocking out with me for the night.. it was my pleasure and I hope we can do it again soon. Till next time..

Love and Light,
GFB Bree

Mount Saint Mary’s University – Fight Back on Spring Break!

MT St Mary'sMount Saint Mary’s University is on Spring Break this week. If you happen to bump into them while traveling the globe, beware. These students are FIERCE. Especially after we threw down last week for the first “Fight Back on Spring Break” of the season. We got down and dirty with the usual Terminator Tango, chatted about out psychic intution skills and how to be on the look out for our homies, keeping everyone safe. But we also threw around some solid safety spring break tips. And Mount Saint Mary’s kept it real: we talked about the basic safety tips, but focused on how to be safe when alcohol is around or being consumed. Cue: spring break time. I think it’s a good time of year to keep in mind that we need to be on the look out for predatory drugs being slipped in our drinks (regardless if you’re drinking apple juice or gin and juice), and remember alcohol itself is the number one date-rape drug. 89% of survivors reported drinking before their assaults. Yikes. Now please don’t let this stop you from cracking open a brewski, just make sure you’re drinking for you, at your own pace, on your own terms. This is the best way to keep it fun and safe, and from spending an entire day of your spring break hungover. Can I get a “no bueno”? Spring Break is about celebrating, Live it up friends! Enjoy your week off, and come back safely, ready to kill the rest of your school year!

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Thank you so much Mount Saint Mary’s for your time and spirit. You were fab. Now go enjoy that sunshine for me! (PS it’s snowing and below freezing tips in my hood. I’m only slightly jealous).

Love and Light,
GFB Bree

Putting a Face to the Issue of Intimate Partner Violence

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As published originally in Campus Activities Magazine – September 2014

Anyone in my close circle knows that Violence Against Women and Intimate Partner Violence are issues that ignite my passion. VAW and IPV have colored my life from day one as I was born into a home marked by domestic violence/IPV. My mother was a victim and my father, an abuser. I am happy to say that my mother and I eventually escaped that situation—she has been happily remarried for 33 years and I am a happy well-adjusted adult. I am not in a violent relationship—breaking the cycle. I am raising a teenage son who has been taught with love and guided by example what healthy relationships look like and how to treat others with respect and dignity. And, I am actively working to help others avoid VAW and IPV through my work with Kirkland Productions, Inc. and Girls Fight Back.

Most importantly, my mother and I are here to share our stories and that is the biggest success of all. The Bureau of Justice Statistics tells us that 2,340 people in the United States were victims of intimate partner homicide in 2007 and females made up to 70% of those victims killed, a proportion that has changed very little since 2007. To save you the time on the math, that is over 6 people a day murdered in the name of love. As a US resident, if you have been a victim of IPV and you live to talk about it . . . you are absolutely a success story. Though these statistics are shocking, they don’t even begin to fully show the impact on those victims who weren’t killed or never reported and whose lives and those of their family members, friends, and children will be forever altered. For those affected by this crime, this will always be a part of their story and a piece of their life experience, as it is a piece of me. I am happy to state, that in my case, I feel I can now say it has been a positive result. I truly hope that my first hand experience can help others.

  • SIDE NOTE: The issues of VAW, IPV, Domestic Violence/Dating Violence, Stalking, Sexual Assault, and Rape are thoroughly entwined, but are separately defined. For the case of this article, I am going to use the term IPV from here on out when stating from my perspective and I want to explain why to the reader. IPV is defined by the CDC as physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. This type of violence can occur among heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy. I think this is very important to note because when we use the term Domestic Violence we often get the picture in our minds of a man abusing his wife and that just isn’t a complete picture of abuse. This type of abuse does not discriminate. It affects people of all ages and ethnicities, all genders, all sexual orientations, and all marital statuses. It affects people in relationships and those who have left those relationships. It also is not narrowly defined by the tell-tale sign of a black eye that is often interpreted as the true sign of “domestic violence.” Many victims have no scars or physical injuries to show. The term IPV is inclusive and much more respectful to the victims who can include men (yes, men!), all of our LGBT community, and all of those romantic relationships that are not necessarily included in the formal guidelines of marriage. So, now that I have clarified, I want to tell you how I ended up in the jury box.

I got that dreaded letter in the mail recently—the jury summons. Seriously, who has time for this? I am a single parent, I run three companies, I travel extensively for work (and sometimes for fun), I am self-employed with a large number of people who depend on my work for their income, and I also have the audacity to have an active social life. My life is no more or less important than any other citizen who gets the same notification in the mail. I know that. I truly do, but I wouldn’t be a full-fledged American if I didn’t have just a tad of self-importance, right? So, yes, I am not excited as this really isn’t convenient, but I also have to recognize that it is my civic duty and I have never served on a jury. Many years ago I received a summons but was excused because of the birth of my son. A few years back I received a second and showed up to the courthouse but was never called to a court. Round three and the dates conflicted with planned travel so I deferred. And deferred again. And deferred yet again, before I realized I just had to take care of this responsibility.

After a jury orientation and a few hours of waiting around, my name was called and I was informed I had to drive quite a ways to yet another court to report there. Really????? They can do that???? Apparently, they can. Annoyed, I start navigating through more unfamiliar LA highways and get to the next courthouse to start the waiting around process again. After a few more hours, just when I think we are going to be sent home, we are called into the court and after being given a few preliminary bits of information. We are then told that since it was so late in the day, we would report back the next day to start jury selection.

On day two reporting to court, the judge explains to us how jury selection works. Initially we are provided with a lot of instructions, our civic duty is emphasized by the judge, the importance of honesty and our part in the judicial system is underscored with more than a few sighs of exasperation from the prospective jury pool, and we are introduced to the key players in the case, namely the prosecuting attorney, the defense attorney, the defendant, and, through name only, the witness list of both parties to ensure we do not personally know any of these people. No one does, so at this point the judge tells us that this case is one involving an accusation of domestic violence. It is at this point that I realize by putting two and two together that the defendant’s only witness is, most likely by the names, his wife. My first thought at this point is that as soon as they see what I do for a living (information I was required to provide up front), I am out of here! Then I slowly start to realize, that though I never had a chance to experience justice from our legal system for the wrongs that my family and I experienced, I might have a chance to participate in justice for someone else who might be in a similar situation. And, then, my final and very somber realization is that though I have been personally affected by these issues, I am here to be fair and to follow the law and I can’t let my feelings affect that process. Emotional overload!

After all of the preliminary information is out of the way, each of the 35 – 40 of us is lined up and seated in order in the jury chairs and given a piece of paper to fill out asking for our juror number, city of residence, our occupation, the occupation of everyone else in our household, and details of our previous jury experience. Then, one by one, the judge asked each of us for this info out loud in open court and asked clarifying questions where necessary. My profession was initially listed as “business owner/victim advocate” in the forms I filled out during the orientation on day one, so, though a full explanation of my profession is much more detailed than that, I repeated it on this form and to the judge out loud. There were definitely some “clarifying questions” asked by the judge. As a Victim Advocate (I am a certified VA with NOVA – The National Organization for Victim Assistance), what would I consider my specialty? I hesitated, knowing how this would be perceived, before I truthfully answered, “Violence Against Women.” . . . pause . . .

At this moment, the defendant and his attorney both turn their full attention to me. The defense attorney quickly returned his attention to the judge and his papers, but, though I initially thought it was my imagination and was later told by the other jurors that it definitely was not, I had the defendant’s full and undivided attention for the rest of my time in court. He continued to look directly at me with a blank and cold stare almost as if we were playing a game to see who would blink first—it wasn’t me, I assure you. I continued to meet his blank glare with the same right back as if I could silently tell him, “Those close to you might be afraid of you, but I KNOW that abusers are nothing but pathetic cowards and I invite you to try some of that shit on me anytime. PLEASE. BE. MY. GUEST. I would like nothing more than to return your bullshit with a quick groin strike. EYES! EYES! EYES!”

     In self-defense fight classes, we scream out body parts to the person engaged in the fight to indicate where she can strike next in defending herself against an attacker.

Yeah, I realize in thinking this that I am not impartial or unbiased. I am also not apologizing for it. As the judge stated many times during this process and I truly believe as part of my own personal mantra—not a single adult walking on this earth is unbiased or impartial. To be so, would be inhuman. We are each of us made up of a series of life experiences and interactions and those will always impact the way we view everyone and everything around us. There are times I wish this weren’t so, and I do think that, despite that, I am a very fair and just person in the way I genuinely try to view things from all sides before coming to my own conclusions. However, everyone knows, I don’t harbor a lot of love or patience for asshole abusers. There you go.

I also know and recognize that abusers have their own baggage. Many have experienced abuse themselves. Many could benefit from some serious therapy to work out their problems and deserve sympathy for the road they traveled that led to them being abusive in the first place. But, who couldn’t use a little therapy? There are plenty of people out there (I know quite a few personally) who have been through some seriously tough shit in their life and they don’t choose to work that out by beating, raping, battering, belittling, or in any way harming those around them . . . more importantly those who they claim to love. To do so, is the greatest cowardice of all, in my opinion, and to those many many people out there who have sought help to fix themselves rather than continue the cycle of abuse, I applaud you. THAT is true courage.

I digress. Whether the defendant was guilty or not of what he was accused, I don’t know. I don’t know the situation intimately and, in conjunction with what the law states we must do, I will do my best to view him as innocent until proven guilty. After a full afternoon of further questioning and many clarifications about whether I specifically, but also the other jurors, could follow the rule of law, could honor “innocent until proven guilty,” could not allow our personal feelings to dissuade us from following the terms of the law, we were finally released for the day. I left thinking that perhaps I would be selected for this jury and was already carrying on a full internal dialog reminding myself how important it was to follow my civic duty and be impartial.

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Justice and legal justice, in my eyes, are two very different things. We have the law and then we have justice and, sadly, the two do not always go hand in hand. I won’t insult your ability for basic social observation by giving you a long list of examples, but I will give you one example that involves someone close to me. I have a dear friend/speaking client named Stacey Lannert. You can read her full story in her book Redemption or watch her Oprah appearance on youtube. To make a long story short, this is a brief summary of Stacey’s story.

Stacey Lannert was released from prison where she served 18 years for fatally shooting the man who raped her from ages 8 through 18. That man was her father. The governor granted her clemency in 2009, and within 6 days, she walked out of the prison gates. When Stacey was tried for her crime, the court considered many facts of the case that included the fact that she fatally shot her father. The much longer story of her abuse at his hands was not included in those facts of consideration. That was legal justice as the law was written at that time, but, in my opinion, that was not justice. The truth is much more complicated than that for Stacey and for many other people in the justice system. In real justice there is very little black and white and a whole lot of gray area.

Bottom line, despite all of its faults and failings, I do believe in the American justice system. So does Stacey, for that matter. She is at the time of this writing beginning her first year of law school. It isn’t a perfect system, but I believe that the best way to achieve true justice is to honor the law and work to change the law when it fails us. On day three of jury selection, the defense attorney and prosecuting attorney began their questioning of the jury pool and the question of honoring the law was brought up time and time again. We were provided with hypotheticals, for example, if a man is being tried for the crime of sleeping on the sidewalk and the only witness testifies that the man was asleep is he guilty or not guilty? Correct answer: Not guilty. The only testimony we have is that he was asleep. There was no testimony as to if he was asleep on the sidewalk which was the question we were to answer. This went on and on.

On day three, I was singled out again, as I fully expected to be, for individual questions from both the defense attorney and the prosecuting attorney. The defense attorney was hammering me about my ability to be fair and just and to not jump to conclusions based on my experience or prior knowledge. I assured him repeatedly and in different ways that I prefer facts to assumptions, all the while, his client is still staring me down. The defense attorney used what occurred to me later was a clever tactic. It was obvious that both attorneys had typed “Girls Fight Back” in a search engine and I am sure found out quite a bit about me through that search. They knew what I do for a living, what I believe, and that I have received training on these issues. At one point the prosecutor asked another male juror how he would react if the victim testified for her abuser instead of against him and the man stated that he would be less likely to believe the abuse. Then he asked me the same question and I stated that there are many reasons that a victim might not want to testify including . . . “Objection.” I was cut off there and the defense attorney asked to speak to the judge. The attorneys and judge left the room for quite some time and when they returned, the question being directed to me was much softer, less pointed, and certainly did not give me a platform to say what I was about to say which is . . .

Here are just a few of the possible reasons that a victim of IPV might have when choosing not to testify against their abuser/what I would have said had I been given the opportunity:

  • Shame and humiliation about publicly acknowledging the abuse
  • Fear of retaliation
  • Fear of being murdered
  • Cultural norms mandating that marriage is forever
  • Cultural norms mandating that the man is the head of his household and prevails in all things
  • Disapproval from family/friends/children
  • Fear of not having financial support if separated from the abuser
  • Fear of losing custody of their children
  • Love for their partner despite the abuse
  • The belief that this time (as they have probably heard from their abuser) really is the last time and it will be better in the future
  • The underlying belief that they are not worthy of better than this relationship (an idea probably also reinforced by the abuser)
  • Fear of deportation
  • Fear of criminal prosecution for any related or unrelated crime they may have committed
  • Lack of emotional support in the decision to leave
  • Fear of losing their home
  • Language issues that prevent clear communication with law enforcement, medical staff, attorneys

I was annoyed that I wasn’t given a platform to say this in open court for all of the other potential jurors to hear because I know how hard it can be to understand the vast gray area in the intricacies of IPV.  Soon after this question, the attorneys were allowed to list their first choices to be removed from the jury panel and, no big shock, the defense attorney excused me. In light of all things, this was the right end result. I do think I can follow the rule of law as a juror despite my personal experience, my professional knowledge, and my strong feelings on the subject; but, I also know that if I were in a deliberation room and another juror made an uninformed comment such as that a victim who doesn’t testify against her abuser clearly was not abused, that deliberation room would become my classroom. Justice, . . . maybe? But, I can be fairly persuasive when I get on my soapbox and I am not sure that would have allowed for a balanced decision among all of the jurors which is why we have a jury system in the first place. In the end, the system of each attorney getting to remove a few jurors balances things out to allow the criminal justice system to play itself out. In that vein, the prosecutor as I was being dismissed took his chance to remove a juror who had admitted during questioning to being an abuser himself.

I won’t get to see this case to its conclusion. I don’t know if the defendant will be found guilty or not guilty. I do know in my heart, though, that despite the legal conclusion, the victim (if these allegations are true) is not going to find a solution to her problem in that courtroom. I in no way am discounting the hard work that law enforcement and the criminal justice system do to combat IPV, but I do know that it isn’t the answer. Guilty or not, the victim may return to the abuser. The cycle of violence may continue for her and for her children as the problem is too deeply rooted to be solved by a legal penalty. This has been made evident time and time again, most notably to Americans in the life story of Nicole Brown Simpson. Her story, familiar to most of us, was sad and tragic, but not at all unique.

My experience of (almost) sitting on a jury stirred up a lot of emotion and reflection for me. I believe at the core that we are all here on this earth to look out for one another. I believe in treating other women as my sisters and I know we can affect each other’s lives positively if we keep that in mind always first and foremost. I need to hold onto that, because if not, what’s the point? I also know that I will never look at a jury summons the same way again. It isn’t just a hassle. It isn’t just a disruption to our busy lives. It is an opportunity to come together as a community to work toward justice for all of our sisters and brothers and we are so very lucky to live in a country that allows us that opportunity. So, when that dreaded envelope shows up in your mail, I hope you can consider this as well. Speak with your voice and in your truth to do what’s right. It may seem small to you, but it isn’t. We don’t all have the time to volunteer, or be an activist, or the money to donate to causes we believe in, but we do have our voices and our truths. I truly believe that together we can make a difference and create positive change. I hope you do too.

For more information about booking Girls Fight Back, Stacey Lannert, or interACT to empower your campus to fight back against violence, you can reach us at: booking@kirklandproductions.com or 866-769-9037

About the author: Gina Kirkland opened Kirkland Productions, Inc, a college entertainment/speakers agency, in 2000. 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 Girls Fight Back. 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 IMPACT Los Angeles Board.

 

Book Review: The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes—And Why

The unthinkable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amanda Ripley’s book, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes—And Why ,focuses on how humans react in disasters or stressful situations and how those reactions can save us or doom us.  This intellectual approach to examining human response is both intriguing and enlightening into how you view the normal and the extreme risks that we are all exposed to in our day to day lives.  Ripley teaches readers about The Survival Arc which includes the stages of 1) Shock, 2) Deliberation, and 3) The Decisive Moment.  If you have ever wondered how you would react in a life or death situation, it is encouraging to know that, “Again and again, studies have shown that people perform better under stress if they think they can handle it.”  In other words, dress rehearsal can prepare you for the real thing, which is why, at Girls Fight Back, we advocate empowering self-defense.  In addition to muscle memory and critical knowledge, learning self-defense (both verbal and physical) helps women gain confidence.  That confidence alone, can one day save your life.  “The most important point is that everyone, regardless of IQ, can manufacture self-esteem through training and experience.  This is what soldiers and police officers will tell you; that confidence comes from doing.”  WE AGREE!

  • If you are interested in taking a full contact self-defense course in your area, please download our Sassy Self-Defense Guide for more information or drop us a line at gfb@girlsfightback.com.

The Safety Godmothers: The ABCs of Awareness, Boundaries and Confidence for Teens

We are so excited to introduce you to Ellen Snortland and Lisa Gaeta’s new book, The Safety Godmothers: The ABCs of Awareness, Boundaries and Confidence for Teens – released this week!

Ellen is the author of Beauty Bites Beast, a GFB fave read, and Lisa Gaeta is the founder and CEO of IMPACT Personal Safety of Southern California, which offers full contact adrenaline based self-defense courses that all of our Girls Fight Back presenters have taken (and kicked ass in)!  The book features 20 real life success stories in which teens employed the verbal and/or physical self-defense methods we talk about in our presentations and proved victorious in being their own best protectors!  Check it out here.

The Safety Godmothers book cover

Girls Fight Back Responds to the UCSB Murders

Candles

As the President of Girls Fight Back, my heart is full of sadness for the community of UCSB, where a young man killed six students on May 23rd before taking his own life. This disturbed murderer made clear in his videos and writings that his intention was to destroy that which he felt he could not have; and that “thing” he felt deprived of was attention, sex, and affection from women. After killing his roommates, he specifically targeted the Alpha Phi sorority house where he was, thankfully, unable to gain access. Though he did not get inside the house, six young people nevertheless lost their lives that day, all students of UCSB. In his video, he said of women, “If I can’t have you, I will destroy you.” It is haunting, it is tragic, and it has to change.

Every time one of these tragedies takes center stage in the national news, which is all too often, we renew the national dialog about prevention, gun control, and mental health; and, the news cycle goes on overdrive to instill fear that you could be the next victim of a crazed killer. Fear alone is not an option. To live in that fear is to succumb to the logic of a killer who feels that women should have sex with him because that is his entitlement as a man. We all know that we can’t walk through the world afraid to choose the relationships we want to be in, the people whom we share intimacy with, or even our prom date. Life would be much safer if we never left our house, but that isn’t living.

I spent some time over the past few days reading #yesallwomen. When I see page after page of tweets calling out the daily impact that fear can have on our lives, I am once again reminded of the importance of making our voices heard and learning to be our own best protectors. It is encouraging to see how many husbands, brothers, boyfriends, and dads are also tweeting to #yesallwomen that they get it, and it is a reminder of how far we have to go to see those who they clearly do not get what the big deal is. What we need is social change on a global level, and the world is full of good people, both women and men, who are ready to stand up against violence. And, until that happens, I want all women to have the confidence and security to live their best lives.

At Girls Fight Back, we believe that every individual is his or her own 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 while helping other people around them do the same.

In memory of Cheng Yuan Hong, 20, George Chen, 19, Weihan Wang, 20, Veronika Weiss, 19, Katie Cooper, 22, Christopher Michael-Martinez, 20, Maren Sanchez, 16, who was fatally stabbed after declining a prom invitation last month, and the estimated 7,500 others who will lose their lives to violence this year, we continue to speak out. Though the statistics are shocking, we are here to say that we will not conform to the violence. We will remain focused on our efforts to create social change, to protect ourselves, and to take care of one another.

-GFB Gina

Glenwood High School Fights Back!

Check out this article and this video in The State Journal-Register about the kickass group of students at Glenwood High School that participated in Morgan’s one day three school adventure!Capture

 

One Day – Three Schools – GFB Morgan!

GFB Morgan is so excited to be given the opportunity to work with high school students in Illinois next month!  It is so impactful to get the Girls Fight Back message across BEFORE college, as we have witnessed with the many 6-12th graders we have had the pleasure of working with this year!  Morgan will be teaching the terminator tango at three Illinois high schools in one day (Glenwood, Springfield and Township) – go Morgan!  The Chicago Tribune has written this article in praise of the program.  We have had a long history of teaching district 214 to fight like girls, this is our fourth time back in just two years!  Can’t wait!

Shout out to GFB from Ellen Snortland and Gavin de Becker!

Ellen Snortland author of Beauty Bites Beast and Gavin de Becker, author of The Gift of Fear recently mentioned Girls Fight Back and the importance of a self-defense education for college students in this article published by The Huffington Post.

Virginia Tech – Samanata’s Legacy

sFBVT

You know, we have a lot of fun here at Girls Fight Back, but ultimately our work is about healing. One of our core values revolves around resiliency and states: “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.”

Last night, I presented Students Fight Back at Virginia Tech, a campus very much in recovery. Of course we all remember the horrifying mass shooting that took place on April 16, 2007 and even more recently, a charismatic and well-loved VTech student named Samanata Shrestha was murdered. It was Samanata who was very much on my mind last night as I took the stage to present. I didn’t know her personally, but in conversations with students and faculty before the program, I really got a sense of her energy and the legacy she left behind. It is in memory of all those we have lost to pointless violence that we do this work. And I like to think that the laughs we have in our programs serve as reminders that we can triumph. Evil does not win. We can choose to take back our peace.

Many thanks to everyone who came out in the snow and cold. Your presence was a gift to me.

-GFB Heather

Bad Ass Ballet at Anna Maria College!

I had an absolutely amazing time doing the Bad Ass Ballet with the wonderful women of Anna Maria College! Thanks so much to Lisa Saverese for being such a terrific hostess, Theresa “Smalls” for the great intro and good laughs and to our awesome volunteer Franco for not only being my fight partner but also for helping with the song mix. 🙂

Wishing everyone at Anna Maria a safe and happy spring break. And best of luck to everyone with all the incredible summer internships I heard about! What a bunch of super women!

And thank you all ever so kindly for my awesome AMC shirt!

-GFB LeahAnna Maria 2