Category: In the Media

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

Here’s What She’d Tell Bill Cosby Today – from a friend of GFB

This article, originally published on The Daily Beast, is from friend of GFB and speaker on the Kirkland Productions roster, Dean Obeidallah:

Capture

In an interview, one of the women who has accused Cosby of assault talks about what happened, what she’d tell him, and how she coped.

“I’d tell him that he’s pathetic,” she said, and then added: “And I’d tell him: You are powerless, and rape is about power, and now you don’t have that power.”

These were the poignant words of Kristina Ruehli, one of the women who has accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, as she explained to me what she would tell Cosby if she could speak to him today. I spoke to Ruehli on Sunday by phone and was amazed by her triumphant tone. This is not a woman who wants pity, nor does she want money, or even an apology from Cosby.

Rather, Ruehli wants two things: to prevent other women from being sexually assaulted and to see Cosby be brought to justice in some form. And it’s clear that she feels that there has been great progress on both fronts.

Ruehli, who is now 71 and lives with her husband in New Hampshire, is unique among the Cosby victims in that she is woman No. 1 in the chronology of when the alleged sexual assaults occurred. She claims that in 1965, while she was working as a secretary at a talent agency, Cosby invited her and an unnamed actress to his house for a party. A party for three that is, because when she arrived with the actress, no one else was at the party.

Cosby offered her a drink. The next thing she recalls was waking up in bed with Cosby, who she alleges was trying to force his penis into her mouth. She fought Cosby off, ran to the bathroom where she vomited, and then fled the house.

In our conversation, the terms “power” and “powerlessness” came up frequently. In Ruehli’s view, the person who commits the sexual assault has the power and the victims tend to feel powerless. As she explained, you feel alone and start to blame yourself. Why was I so stupid? Did I do something to lead him on?

Adding to the feeling of powerlessness for the woman is that Cosby is a beloved celebrity. Questions like “Will people even believe me?” start running through your head. And there is the additional fear in these types of cases that the public will vilify the victim, not a celebrity wrongdoer. As Ruehli noted, when a woman alleges rape charges against a celebrity, it isn’t “15 minutes of fame” but rather “15 minutes of shame.”

Ruehli added that Cosby’s silence in the face of these allegations has “ceded the power to the women.”
In Ruehli’s case, she was concerned that she would lose her job at the talent agency if she had gone public with the accusations, so she didn’t tell the authorities. It’s clearly understandable why, after the incident, Ruehli felt ashamed, alone, and powerless.

But those feelings are long gone. The fact that so many women have come forward to reveal allegations of sexual misconduct by Cosby has, in a sense, created a support network for these women. It’s no longer a story of victimhood, but one of empowerment. They are now in essence a sisterhood joined together by a vile incident.

I asked her if she thought Cosby would come forward at some point to address the allegations. Ruehli laughingly responded, “He doesn’t have the balls.” She added that Cosby’s silence in the face of these allegations has “ceded the power to the women.”

Ruehli, who is a law school graduate but not a practicing attorney, was one of the 13 “Jane Does” in the civil lawsuit filed by Andrea Constand in 2005 alleging that Cosby had sexually assaulted her. Ruehli explained to me that she read about the lawsuit in The New York Times and then reached out to Constand’s lawyer.

“It was like an epiphany—I realized I wasn’t alone,” she remarked. She felt compelled to come forward because the allegations in that case seem similar to her own regarding Cosby. She wanted to make sure that Constand knew that she wasn’t alone either.

While Ruehli is “thrilled” that on Friday the Los Angeles Police Department opened up an investigation into recent allegations by Judy Huth that Cosby forced her to perform oral sex on him when she was only 15, she understands that it’s unlikely that he will be prosecuted criminally at this time. But there’s a sense that these women coming forward have made a positive difference.

Ruehli believes the Constand lawsuit, which was covered at the time by the national media, may have saved many other women from a similar fate. As she noted, there have been no other known incidents of alleged sexual misconduct by Cosby that postdate the 2005 lawsuit. (Constant’s claim was settled in 2006, when Cosby paid Constand an undisclosed amount.)

But just preventing women from being assaulted is not enough. When I asked Ruehli what she hoped would happen to Cosby, she quoted these lines from a poem by Sir Walter Scott, that he “shall go down to the vile dust from whence he sprung, unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung.”

With Cosby’s loss of TV deals, the cancellation of comedy shows, and the destruction of his reputation, I’d say Cosby is almost there.

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.

ipv1

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.

 

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.

Book Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings Book Cover

Book Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

 

1865 – The 13th Amendment is ratified abolishing slavery

1870 – The 15th Amendment prohibits the denial of the vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude

. . . . . .

1920 – The 19th Amendment prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on sex

 

The Grimke Sisters (1792 – 1873 – Sarah & 1805 -1878 – Angelina) lived to see slavery abolished but not long enough to see women get the right to vote over 50 years later.  They are two of the earliest outspoken American feminists and two of the best known female abolitionists.  Both women were born in Charleston, South Carolina to a plantation owning and slave owning family.  Going against their family’s way of life and also against all standards for women of their time, they became leading abolitionists and later feminists by speaking in public, publishing pamphlets, and assisting with the education of many of the children of the abolition and feminist movements.  Their combination of these two passions was controversial in their adopted faith of Quakerism as many feared it would split the abolition movement into two groups—those who also felt that women and slaves deserved equality and those who were passionate about ending slavery, but still held fast to male superiority.  And, so it did.  At a time when women had no legal rights and were relegated to the roles of wives and mothers only, these two sisters dared to speak in public on political issues to both women and men.  Their published works include, “Letters on the Equality of the Sexes,” “Appeal to the Christian Women of the South,” and “An Appeal to the Women of the Nominally Free States.”

 

The strength and conviction that it takes to stand up for what one feels is right despite the views of those around you is awe inspiring, especially at a time in history when women had very few role models to look to when forging an unconventional path.  In Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Invention of Wings,” the story of the Grimke Sisters is beautifully told in the form of a novel.  Though some aspects of the narrative were created to fill in the gaps, many of the characters, facts, and historical events are true with quotes from the writings of both women included.  If your background in feminism doesn’t stretch much past the 1970’s, exploring the original works of the Grimke Sisters and the ground they gained for all of their sisters is a must.

 

Sue Monk Kidd’s novel is a story of courage that brings to life the ugly history of slavery in our country through the eyes of Sarah Grimke and a slave owned by her family, Hetty “Handful” Grimke.  The alternating narratives of the two main characters speaks volumes about civil rights and brings to mind the words of Emma Lazarus, author of “The New Colossus,”, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”  This applies to the dual struggle of Hetty, who was bound by the terrible shackles of slavery, and Sarah who was blessed to be free, yet still not truly free due to the limitations placed upon her sex; and it applies today to remind us to continue the fight to end oppression in whatever form it appears.

 

“The Invention of Wings” gets a GFB Thumbs Up.  — GFB Gina

 

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Whatever is morally right for a man to do, it is morally right for a woman to do. I recognize no rights but human rights—I know nothing of men’s rights and women’s rights; for in Christ Jesus, there is neither male nor female.”

― Angelina Grimke

 

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“Here now, the very being of a woman, like that of a slave, is absorbed in her master.  All contracts made with her, like those made with slaves by their owners, are a mere nullity.  Our kind defenders have legislated away almost all of our legal rights, and in the true spirit of such injustice and oppression, have kept us in ignorance of those very laws by which we are governed.”

― Sarah Grimke

 

To read the book: http://www.amazon.com/Invention-Wings-Sue-Monk-Kidd/dp/1472212746/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1390612592

Love or Control? – The Truth About Stalking

Stalking is probably most familiar to us from celebrity news stories—Rhianna and Ashley Tisdale have both been in the news recently getting protective orders issued against their stalkers.  The truth of the matter is that the most stalking cases (approximately 3/4) do not happen between strangers, but between two people who know each other, very commonly incidences in which the perpetrator and the victim have or (more importantly) had a personal or intimate relationship.  In these cases, the closeness of the relationship once in place between the victim and the perpetrator is part of what makes this crime so complex for women.

It is estimated that 6.6 million people are victims of stalking each year, and I am speaking out today as one of those victims.  This is a difficult subject to discuss and an experience that I have personally kept hidden for some time, but I am speaking out today in order to help others who may be in similar circumstances.

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1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men will be stalked in their lifetime, and many of these crimes go unreported and unprosecuted.  Though women can be stalked by men and women, and men can be stalked by women or men, for the purposes of this article, I will primarily refer to stalking in its most common form: women being stalked by men.  And though this can affect anyone, the most common victims of stalking are women between the ages of 18 and 24—college aged women.

The Supplemental Victimization Survey by the Department of Justice defines stalking as including some or all of these acts which may not be criminal individually, but that collectively and repetitively cause the victim fear

  • Making unwanted phone calls
  • Sending unsolicited or unwanted letters, e-mails, or other forms of electronic communication
    • These first two acts are the most commonly experienced by victims of stalking with 83% of stalking victims surveyed reporting that e-mail and text was used to harass them.
  • Following or spying on the victim
  • Showing up at places without a legitimate reason
  • Waiting at places for the victim
  • Leaving unwanted items, presents, or flowers
  • Posting information or spreading rumors about the victim on the internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth

When victims were asked what their perception was as to the reason the stalking or harassment began, these were the most common responses:

30% – Retaliation/anger/spite

25.2% – Control

16.7% – Mentally ill/emotionally unstable

13.7% – Liked me/found me attractive/had a crush

12.9% – To keep in the relationship

10.3% – Substance abuser

* Details sum to more than 100% because multiple responses were permitted.

President Obama issued a proclamation, naming January 2013 as National Stalking Awareness Month, stating that: “The perpetrator is usually someone the victim knows.  Stalking behavior may be innocuous to outside observers, but victims often endure intense physical and emotional distress that affects every aspect of their lives.  . . . Tragically, stalking tends to escalate over time, and it is sometimes followed by sexual assault or homicide.”

No two stalking situations are alike, and it is important to note that one of the frequent tactics of the stalker is to downplay his or her own behavior causing the victim to question the validity of his or her fears.  Implied threats of violence, such as “I won’t be at peace until you are dead” or veiled threats of suicide such as, “you won’t be happy until I put a gun in my mouth” can easily be dismissed by the perpetrator as “fiery e-mails” or “a few angry texts” when the intention of these communications is obvious and clear—to create fear in the victim.  Implied threats are no different in their intention than direct threats and should always be taken seriously.  The Stalking Resource Center points out that stalking “can have devastating and long-lasting physical, emotional, and psychological effects on victims.  The prevalence of anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression is much higher among stalking victims than in the general population.”

My personal experience happened twice as I made the mistake of succumbing to the behavior the first time and returned to the unhealthy relationship.  This led me to have to repeat the breakup process a second time; thereby retriggering the stalking.  I felt immense guilt and embarrassment that I made the same mistake twice; and, I allowed those feelings to negatively impact my ability to control my response and seek a swifter resolution.

The second stalking incident (after the second breakup) lasted well over a year, but I thought I could wait it out.  I had great hopes when my stalker entered a new relationship.  Maybe he will lose interest in me?  I thought it was necessary to reply to his contact by repeating over and over that I was no longer and would never be interested.  Granted, I had already trained my stalker that if he harassed me long enough, I would go back to the relationship rather than endure the stalking—a decision I later came to regret.

None of my efforts had any effect other than to fuel the behavior, and I began to allow myself to believe that the situation was my fault, just as he insisted it was.  My stalker made it clear that the only way to end the stalking was to go back to the relationship, telling me things like, “I will never love anyone but you,” “we were meant to be together forever,” “any woman who isn’t you is only a placeholder.”

Love or control?  The answer seems crystal clear in hindsight, but at the time, in the cloud of fear and anxiety (confusion of the abuse paired with a history of emotional connection), it was difficult to decipher.  For over a year, I was on edge.  I didn’t sleep.  I lost weight.  I tried to move on with the many positive aspects of my life and ignore the stalking.  I attempted to act like nothing was wrong in front of friends, co-workers, employees, my son, and my family.  There were many uncomfortable times when I would be out with someone while my phone was beeping incessantly with e-mails and texts and I made excuses for it, pretending everything was fine, only to learn after the fact that no one was buying it.  No matter how much I tried to deny it, I was completely stressed out and it showed.  At the time, I couldn’t admit to anyone that I had let another person so thoroughly control my life.  It was completely humiliating.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the media often romanticizes this crime.  I know that have you seen this portrayed on television or in movies—a man won’t give up on his quest for the woman of his dreams. She rebuffs him, and plays hard to get, but eventually she “sees the light” and he gets the girl.   This encourages the incorrect notion that stalking is about love and that women don’t have the right to choose who they want to be in a relationship with.

Stalking is NEVER about love.  It is only about power and persistence.  Gavin de Becker in The Gift of Fear states, “The fact that a romantic pursuer is relentless doesn’t mean you are special—it means he is troubled.”  Complicating matters further, it is often difficult for the victim to explain the unwanted contact, which is sometimes so bizarre and far-fetched that she might feel crazy even saying it out loud.  For this, among other reasons, the crime often goes unreported to police and also unreported to friends and loved ones.  That isolation works to the perpetrator’s advantage making it easier for him to hide this behavior to the outside world and to any shared associates.

One of the most insidious developments in stalking over the past 20 years is how easy it has become through technological advances.  When in the past a stalker had to leave his house and show up at your home or place of work, today many stalkers control their victims with unwanted e-mails, phone calls, texts, and even setting up false profiles on social media to monitor your activities all from the comfort of home.  This new wave of stalking, called cyberstalking, has become very common with 83% of stalking victims reporting some form of cyberstalking.  The good news, is that it is also makes the stalking easy to document with a long trail of evidence.  This can be very helpful to the police if and when you decide you need a court order of protection.  As painful as it can be, (and I personally know that it can be), you must keep a log of all contact.  Keep all e-mails, or as I did, forward them to someone else to keep on your behalf so you don’t have an opportunity to see them again.  Keep records of texts.  Record all calls with times, what was said, and any threats that were issued.  If you do decide that prosecution is necessary, those logs are essential to your case.

Some unwanted romantic relationships can be ended altogether before there is a major situation on your hands, if people know how to say NO properly.  It seems easy—a simple two letter word, but in our efforts to be kind, we often use it incorrectly.  This is one lesson I wish I had learned much earlier!  de Becker explains that, “stalking is how some men raise the stakes when women don’t play along.  . . . In fact, many cases of date stalking could be described as extended rapes; they take away the freedom, and they honor the desires of the man and disregard the wishes of the woman.”  So, if a person decides he or she does not want to be in a relationship with any given person, it is best to say NO one time and explicitly and then say nothing else.  Anything communicated after “no,” even if that communication is reiterating how much you want to end all communication, IS MORE COMMUNICATION.  If you resist communication 20 times and then cave in and reply to tell the stalker that you want to be left alone, your stalker doesn’t hear that you want to be left alone.  What he or she does hear is that it takes 20 attempts at contact before the stalker gets the desired result . . . your attention.

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However, not all cases are that simple.  Some require further efforts.  So, if you are in this situation or you know someone who is, how do you free yourself from a stalker?  Here are a few tips:

  • If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
  • DON’T COMMUNICATE with the stalker or respond to any attempts to contact you.  Block e-mails, block texts, make your online profiles private or take them down altogether.
  • Keep evidence of the stalking – all e-mails, text messages, phone messages, notes, or letters.  If the stalker shows up at your home or work or is following you, document the time, date, and place.  Ask witnesses to write down what they saw and keep photographic evidence of any damages or injuries the stalker causes.
  • Trust your instincts.  Don’t downplay the danger.  There is no such thing as “stalking light.”  If you feel unsafe, you probably are.
  • Take threats seriously.  Danger is typically higher when the stalker talks about suicide, or murder, or when the victim tries to leave or end the relationship.
  • Develop a safety plan, including things like changing your routine, arranging a place to stay, and having friends or relatives around you.  Tell people around you how they can help you and have a plan of what to do if your stalker does show up at your home, work, or school.
  • Contact a crisis hotline (contact information is included at the bottom of this article).  They can help you with your safety plan, tell you about local laws, and refer you to other services.
  • Contact the police.  Stalking is against the law in all 50 states, all US Territories, and Washington DC.  Note that laws vary from state to state and the legal definition varies regarding the element of fear and emotional distress as well as the intent of the stalker.
  • Consider getting a court order.  Keep in mind that this is not the best course of action in all cases.  In some cases it may be just the motivation needed to get your stalker to stop.  In other cases, it may fuel the anger and give the stalker the one thing he craves most – your attention and the knowledge that you are frightened.  If you aren’t sure on how to move forward with this, seek help and advice from some of the resources listed below.
  • Talk about it!  Tell family, friends, roommates, and co-workers whom you trust about the situation and seek support.  Have others help watch for your safety.
  • It also may be advisable to seek out professional counseling.  It is normal to feel vulnerable, unsafe, anxious, depressed, stressed, confused, frustrated, and isolated when you are the victim of stalking.  These are common reactions and ending the stalking may not relieve those feelings.

For additional resources:

www.stalkingawarenessmonth.org

http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/aboutstalking.htm

Crime Victims Hotline (stalking)
1-866-689-HELP (4357)

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

National Sexual Assault Hotline
To be connected to the rape crisis center nearest to you, dial
1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)
1-877-739-3895

All statistics come from these sources:

  • US Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women
  • Supplemental Victimization Survey by the Department of Justice
  • US Department of Justice Statistics Special Report
  • The Stalking Resource Center, The National Center for Victims of Crime

About the Author – Gina Kirkland, owner of Kirkland Productions and KP Comedy, channeled her lifelong passion for Women’s Issues into the purchase of her third company, Girls Fight Back, in 2013.  She is picking up the banner from the amazing Erin Weed to continue bringing the message of living a fearless life and combating violence against women to millions of young women across the country.  www.girlsfightback.com

This article can be found online as published in Campus Activities Magazine at: http://bit.ly/stalkingstory

UConn.. we applaud you.

Last night GFB Speaker, Bree and Speaker in Training, Leah dropped in at University of Connecticut – Storrs on the Be Your Own Badass Tour to bring Students Fight Back to the Huskies.  This event was hosted by the wonderful UConn Student Union Board. These badasses owned the night with energy, love, laughter, and some serious ass kicking . . . it was incredible.

Having gained quite a bit of national attention recently after some very controversial comments about sexual assault on campus, I would love to shine light on a very important fact: The UConn Student Union Board, lead by Kyle and Samantha, had invited Students Fight Back to campus months prior to these events and the media attention. These Huskies were leading the school long before the media attention to create a positive change in their student culture and to let their voice be heard that violence is unacceptable. The Board and students in attendance last night were not reacting to all the recent violence and media attention . . . they were taking the proactive, courageous steps to make personal safety a priority.  And THAT is the kind of action that deserves resounding cheer, applause, and media attention.

Thank you UConn Huskies . . . you are truly fighting back!  And for that, we applaud you.

Much love from the Students Fight Back and Girls Fight Back team.

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NPR Article: Many Teens Admit to Coercing Others Into Sex

Almost 1 in 10 high school and college-aged people have forced someone into sexual activity against his or her will, a study finds. The majority of those who have done it think that the victim is at least partly to blame.

The results come from a multiyear study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was designed to look for the roots of adult sexual violence. Most adult perpetrators say they first preyed on another while still in their teens.

In adulthood, more than 1 million people are the victims of rape or sexual assault each year, according to the National Institutes of Justice. Domestic violence affects more than 2 million adults a year.

A multiple-choice online survey conducted in 2010 and 2011 asked 1,058 teenagers and young adults, ages 14 to 21, whether they’d ever “kissed, touched, or done anything sexual with another person when that person did not want you to?”

Nine percent said yes. Eight percent had kissed or touched someone when they knew the other person did not want to. Three percent got someone to give in to unwilling sex. Three percent attempted to rape the person, and 2 percent completed a rape. (The numbers don’t add up because some perpetrators admitted to more than one behavior.)

This may be the first survey to ask questions like these, and the researchers caution that because of the relatively small number of youths involved, the results aren’t definitive. But they are certainly chilling.

“I don’t get creeped out very often,” says Michele Ybarra, lead researcher of the study, which was published online in JAMA Pediatrics. “But this was wow.”

When asked who was to blame, half of the perpetrators said the victim was completely responsible; one-third said it was their own fault. “If half of the perpetrators felt the victim was responsible for this, we need to do something,” Ybarra, who is president and research director of the Center for Innovative Public Health in San Clemente, Calif.

Sixteen seems to be the age when sexual coercion becomes a real possibility, at least for boys. Almost half of the study participants said they first forced someone to have sexual activity when they were 16. But by age 18, girls had become much more involved in preying on others, to the point where they were almost as likely to be perpetrators as were boys.

Three-quarters of the victims were in a romantic relationship with the perpetrator.

The coercion used was almost always psychological, not physical. The most common tactics for forcing or trying to force sex were guilt, deliberately getting the victim drunk or arguing with or pressuring the victim. Five percent threatened to use physical force, and 8 percent did. The survey used the federal Bureau of Justice definition of rape, which includes psychological coercion as well as physical force.

The survey also looked at media use and found that perpetrators of sexual violence were more likely to watch violent X-rated materials than were the others.

By now most parents reading this are probably ready to hide. But Ybarra tells Shots these numbers show that parents need to act and well before their children are 16.

“We absolutely need to have conversations with our kids about what healthy sex is and what unhealthy sex is,” she says. Parents could say, “‘If you have to convince your partner, maybe that’s not the right way to have sex.’ Even simple messages like that are important.”

Homestead Survival

We were honored to have Erin’s article “7 Self-Defense Tips for Women” published on Homestead Survival. It’s a really great blog that encourages self-reliance and country living.

Here’s the article.

 

Women in the World Conference

One of our GFB team members was featured at the Women in the World conference in New York this week. Khalida Brohi from Pakistan has been part of the GFB family since 2010, and is doing incredible work to empower women both in Pakistan and abroad.

She received a standing ovation at the conference, who also featured folks like Hillary Clinton, Oprah and Angelina Jolie (who asked to take a picture with Khalida!)  Umm, yes please.

We are so proud of Khalida, of all she has done, and all she will continue to do with her organization called Sughar. Above is video of Khalida speaking at TEDxMargalla so you can get a sense of how badass she is. We’ll update with the video from Women in the World as soon as it’s available.

The New Resolution

Well, here we go again…another new year, another fresh start, another resolution.  For as long as I can remember, my resolution was always to lose weight. Year after year, I would “change my life”, go on some fad diet or extreme measure to make that year “my year”. It was miserable. I didn’t look forward to it and I never reached the kind of Victoria’s Secret success I had hoped for. My goals were unreasonable and unattainable. The year would pass and no matter any success, I would be disappointed with myself for not becoming the perfect person the new year had envisioned. And IT. WAS. EXHAUSTING.

This year. I’m done. Not because I think I’m perfect and not because I couldn’t lose a pound or two, but because I’m better than that. Let’s be clear- I have no interest in being obese or unhealthy. I have every intention of spending more time running in the morning, cooking well-rounded meals for me and my family and maybe doing a little yoga every now and then. I’m also going to eat out with friends, make brownies and eat more than I should and buy gummy bears in bulk.

It just seems that somewhere along the way, I made peace with what I have and what I don’t. I stopped being afraid of double chins in photos and instead focus on the great memory.  I stopped focusing on the size zero I will never be and instead focus on the healthier version of the person I am.

It took a long time to get to this place and, in fairness I understand that there are people who for many reasons really do have to make drastic changes. For everyone else, I hope your resolutions this year are for you and you alone. Not for the guy or girl you’re trying to impress or the person you wished you looked like or anyone in any magazine ever! Those are not real people.

I’m not a hippie dippy, love yourself kinda person. But seriously, this year, give yourself a break.

Happy 2013!  This is totally your year.

P.S. If you ever need more of a pep talk on this topic. This might be my favorite thing ever.

Desperate Housewives Learn Self-Defense

OK, so I have been FORCING myself to watch the entire series of Desperate Housewives.  I can’t honestly tell you why other than to say that I am very goal driven and by God when I start something, I finish it.  I have suffered through murders, miscarriages, plane crashes, suicide attempts – all the gold standard events for a soap opera.  And last night I caught an episode where the ladies decide to take a self-defense class.

Ok, first can we agree that this may possibly be the worst format for a self-defense class ever?  The instructor makes like 30 seconds of intro and then tells the students to choke each other from behind while he just walks around watching.  Huh?

But the real thing that caught my attention on this episode was a quote from Susan “may be the worst mother/most annoying TV character ever” Mayer-Delfino’s daughter Julie.  In this episode, she is dealing with the emotions brought on by a recent attack in which a masked stranger attempted to strangle her.  As the women of Wisteria Lane determine that they are going to take a self-defense class, Julie says something along the lines of “I was taking out the trash when someone came out of no where and choked me from behind.  If someone wants to get you, they are going to get you.  No matter what you do.”

I had to think about this a lot because in a way, she is right. There are some situations where fighting back isn’t possible.  And we may never know exactly what percentage of attacks can be thwarted by self-protection and what percentage can’t.

But here’s the thing: Couldn’t we use that rationale for anything?  What about all the thousands of people who get CPR and first aid training each day?  Couldn’t we just say “well, if someone is going to die, they are going to die so why bother”?  Couldn’t we say that for ANY medical intervention?  Of course not.  Because we KNOW that those things save people’s lives.  We see and hear about it everyday.  We don’t hear about success stories in self-protection nearly as often, but they are out there.  At Girls Fight Back, we strive to share and celebrate those successes every time we hear about them.  If you see a story in the media or have a personal story you’d like to share, we’d love for you to e-mail us or share in the comments below.

In reality, I may never use the countless hours of training I’ve gone through.  If I’m lucky, I’ll never have to really physically defend myself.  But going through self-defense training is so much more for me than just knowing how to kick someone’s butt if needed.  It’s about carrying myself with confidence.  It’s about sleeping easier at night.  It’s about being my own badass so that I never have to rely on someone else to take care of me.  And it’s about never giving up hope because if something terrible were to happen to me, I would do everything in my power and might to protect myself and the people I love.

I close with my Personal Safety Tip of the Day: don’t live on Wisteria Lane.  That neighborhood has a disproportionately high amount of violent crime.  Like whoa.