Category: Women’s Empowerment

GFB at Fermilab!

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Being from Chicago, I have a always been in awe of Fermilab, America’s premier particle physics laboratory, and it was wonderful to have had the opportunity to share our Girls Fight Back program with Fermilab’s female employees. We had a fantastic turnout and these ladies are seriously dangerous! Although women are continuously making huge strides in the scientific community internationally, they are still outnumbered by men in certain fields and this gender disparity can be found even at top laboratories, including Fermilab. The statistics can often be discouraging, but it was truly inspiring to work directly with the strong community of women at Fermilab who support one another professionally and also provide empowering and critical programs. I’d like to thank Chris, our most entertaining not-so-scary-scary-bad-guy, and Jeanne!

-GFB Morgan

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:

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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.

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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.

 

Kutztown is killin it!

Last week Girls Fight Back moseyed on over to the quaint Kutztown University. Though a smaller university, these gals packed a punch. We threw down and learned some stellar moves together, but I actually was most excited for the small post-chat following the seminar. Sure, anyone can come sit through a 75 minute presentation and take away some badass skills. But a majority of the women at Kutztown wanted to take it one step further, investing their own time to share their stories, learn more about specific situations and take away some one-on-one tips and advice on how they can live a more fearless life.

Kutztown

Um, hell yeah Kutztown. You killin’ in. Thank you so much for welcoming me on your beautiful campus and making your personal and community safety such a priority. It was truly a privilege, and hella good time.

Love and Light,

GFB Bree

P.S. Special shout out to Petritsa, Asst Director of Student Involvement, for her incredible hospitality and putting me up in the cutest bed and breakfast (my first!). Your vivacious energy and kindness made my trip a memorable experience!

Let the SUNYshine in! SUNY Potsdam – Loving Life!

SUNY Potsdam 9.25.14“I love this job!” Those were the words I exclaimed out loud to myself (yes I talk to myself) while leaving SUNY – Potsdam after an amazing turnout for Girls Fight Back! Man, we had so much fun! Of course we got our intuition on, kicked some ass and had real talk. But we did it all while having a hella good time. That’s why I think GFB rocks so much… you can learn to be your own best protector and empower one another while still loving life. And it’s pretty amazeballs to do both.

Thank you SUNY – Potsdam for the incredible energy and life you brought.. You let the SUNYshine in. (Mmmm that’s cheesy!)

Truly, I was honored to be a part of your vivacious community!SUNY Potsdam 9.25.14 Pic 2
Love and Light,

GFB Bree

Holler for Harcum!

Harcum 9.19.14 croppedStudents Fight Back rolled on over to Harcum College this week and I had the privilege of getting down with these kids. About fifty percent of the crowd were student athletes. And they were ballas (see what I did there?).

And a majority of these ballas were men supporting their fellow strong ladies, and learning as well. I was excited to see the male crowd involved and asking excellent questions. One of the questions posed was “what do you do if someone attacks you from the back and just punches you in the back of the head and knocks you out?” Ah. Excellent question. I agreed that “Stop. Leave Me Alone. I don’t want any problems” is not so helpful once returning to consciousness after being sucker punched from the back. As badass of a team that we have at Students Fight Back, even with the extensive training we have all been through, we are not trained to cheat death. However, if you are trusting your intuition and actively choosing awareness in this wonderful life of yours, it’s very unlikely you’ll find yourself in a situation where someone has sucker punched you from behind.

Life is happening whether you are ready or not. We just want to give you the tools to live your life to the fullest. Being brave. Fearless. Courageous. And not just to have that badass mindset, but to physically empower you by teaching the basics of the best self-protection skill set, like trusting your intuition, setting strong boundaries and, of course,  a good ole’ palm strike.

Thank you so much Harcum College for welcoming into your incredible community. You are rockstars. This is my shout out (or holler!) to you.  Until next time..

Love and light,

GFB Bree

Morningside College Friday – Fierce, Fun and on Fire!

Morningside College 2

What can I possibly say about Morningside College?  These kids were fierce, fun, and on fire to make their campus a safer place.  From the moment I arrived on campus to the moment the program was over we were laughing like old friends.  The turnout was awesome (and on a FRIDAY night!) and everyone was 100% into it.  I got some great questions after the program too.

Then something else magical happened.  The awesome student team that coordinated the event took me out to eat at a Mexican place that evidently has a pretty big following, La Juanita’s (La Jua for short).  No joke, my chimichanga was so good, I’m tearing up right now just thinking about it.  And we were seated right next to this epic mural that I insisted we must take a picture in front of.  #diva

Morningside Cropped

I’ve had lots of awesome meals with amazing students in my almost 6 years with GFB, but let me tell you, Morningside College knew the way to my heart. Teaching students how to become their own best protectors AND eating cheesy tortilla wrapped saucy goodness?  Life just doesn’t get any better than that, friends.

-GFB Heather

Stay Dangerous UW-La Crosse!

University of Wisconsin

The ladies of UW-LaCrosse came to this Girls Fight Back event fearless and ready to take on any Creeper McCreeperson that crossed their double boundary. It was incredible to see so many students come together to support one another and learn how to be their own best protectors. We at GFB stress that our events are just introductions to self-defense, so it was wonderful that so many organizations from on and off campus providing some kickass resources for the students to take their self-defense education to the next level. I want to give a special thanks to Drea, Jessica, the Campus Activities Board and WSSA for putting on such a great event! Also, a special shout out to our not-so-scary SBG, Tom, for volunteering!

 

Stay Dangerous UW – La Crosse!

 

GFB Morgan

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.

Lauren Taylor and Empowerment Based Self-Defense

Lauren Taylor has it just right when she addresses EMPOWERMENT based Self-Defense. “Empowerment self-defense does more than help individual women fight off rape attempts: It changes the world, individually and collectively – and ultimately, systemically. Women who have taken empowerment self-defense interact differently with the men in their lives. They take more healthy risks. They live more authentically. They raise their children differently. And on and on. Person by person, they are changing the world and ending rape culture. They’re part of the revolution that is feminism. Which we think is something we all can agree is not victim-blaming – and is a good thing.”

 

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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

A Girl’s First Life of Defense . . . Her Intuition

intuition
What if I told you that there is a completely free tool available to you that could keep you safe from danger, help you pick the right answer on a multiple choice exam, or guide you towards making the right decision when buying a car or picking a school? You’d be all over that, right? What if I told you that you already own it?…

My sophomore year of college, I attended a party at a fraternity house dressed to impress. I had just gotten out of a relationship and I was ready to flirt and mingle. When I walked through the door of the house and noticed a few appreciative glances, my confidence soared and I was ready for a fun night. Just then I happened to make eye contact with this one guy and all the warning bells and whistles in my body went off. I didn’t know what it was, but I felt totally creeped out. There was something going on and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I ignored the feeling, but also avoided any contact with this guy as best I could.

As the DSS (Designated Sober Sister), I found myself hitting the practically abandoned soda table at one point during the evening. When I turned over my shoulder to exit the room, there he was….Creepy McCreeperson. I felt myself completely freeze up as he approached me. It felt like there was a lock in the center of my stomach just under my ribs and someone had forced in the key and bolted it. As he spoke to me, he started running his hand across my collarbone and my mind raced as I looked for a socially acceptable way to get away from him. At that moment, one of my sorority sisters came through the door looking for me. Now, she was never one to care much about being “socially acceptable” and with the added bonus of having had a couple of drinks, she had no problem telling him to get his hands off me and pulling me safely out of the room.

Later that night, I thought “What was that? Why had that guy given me such an intense feeling? And what had that feeling meant?”
We’ve probably all had a similar experience. Something isn’t right in our environment. We know something isn’t right, but we aren’t sure what or why or how. That’s our intuition and if we learn to listen to it without judgment and respond accordingly, that is the tool that can protect us in a variety of circumstances.

Violence prevention expert, Gavin de Becker defines intuition as ‘knowing something without knowing why’. Now that’s a pretty cool concept! You can know something, but not necessarily be consciously aware of why you know it. And the coolness of that is magnified when you consider this little known fact about intuition: it’s always going to take you to a safer place. It’s never going to put you in more danger to trust and act on your intuition. The trick is that we have to accept these feelings on face value and resist the urge to overanalyze. Because while we’re stroking the old proverbial beard asking ourselves “Is my intuition reliable?,” we could find that our opportunity to act has passed us by and we are now in a pickle.

Recently, I had the experience of locking eyes with a guy and this time all the right bells and whistles went off. I knew I’d found someone special. I didn’t know yet why or how, but I knew he was going to be important to me. And because I had taken the time to explore my intuition and how it communicates with me, I knew I could trust that feeling, turn off my very human desire to over think things, and enjoy the wonderful feeling of getting to know someone who excites me. Thanks, intuition!

GFB – Heather

Girls Fight Back Responds to the UCSB Murders

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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

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!

Third Annual DePauw “Throw Down”

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DePauw and I go waaaaay back. Well, three years. This crew knows how to kick it. And seeing as how this was my third time speaking at DePauw, thanks to Delta Sigma Theta, we had a lot of up close, personal and REAL talk. These ladies are all about fun, spirit and WOMEN empowerment. Heck, a few of the guys showed up solely out of support. It doesn’t get better than that. DePauw, thank you so much for having me back and I’m looking forward to round 4.

Love and Hugs,
GFB Bree

St. Francis = Bomb.com

 

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Can I tell you how much I love these ladies at St. Francis? Good, cus I’m gonna. I mean these girls made my month. The energy in the room was insane. We were vibin. Crowd participation? Please. These students were ready to jump up on stage and teach the badass ballet themselves they were so pumped. The epitome of being your own best protector. But I think the highlight of the day was when one of the students approached me (who was probably 90 pounds soaking wet, mind you) and exclaimed “I feel SO empowered!” Friends, this is the equivalent to finding $20 in your jeans from last year. Times a million. I can’t tell you what a gratifying feeling it is knowing the skills a student learned at a Students Fight Back seminar has affected her outlook in such a positive way. It gives me goosebumps. And based on the feedback, I’d say she wasn’t the only one who walked away feeling a little taller that night. Hell yeah St. Francis. That’s what kickin’ ass is all about. Thank you to the stellar Student Government team at St. Francis for putting on such an awesome and memorable event. I hope to catch you all on the flip side (aka next year!:) Peace and love sistas!

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GFB Bree

Roanoke College Knew We Were Coming and They Baked a Cake!

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What can I possibly say about Roanoke College? After a back injury earlier in the week left me wincing in pain with every step, this program had every reason to go down in history as one my most difficult ever. But an amazing staff, dedicated students, and a Super Scary Bad Guy (SSBG) made it one of my favorites of all time. First of all, the campus is beautiful with views of the mountains everywhere. My coordinator, Stephanie, had every thing set and ready to go, so all I had to do was plug in my computer. Then I was whisked away to a lovely pre-show dinner with representatives from their Panhellenic council, the student health services, the counseling center, and HEAT, their peer education group. The program itself was fabulous! My SSBG, Cody, was hilarious. The audience was completely engaged. I barely even noticed my back pain. And to top it all off, they had a cake! A cake, y’all! Definitely one of my favorite campuses of all time. Thanks for everything, RC!

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-GFB Heather

Virginia Tech – Samanata’s Legacy

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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

Davidson County Community College – Sassy!

Nothing kicks off a busy week quite like spending your Monday morning with some smart, sassy gals that live life large and in charge! Thanks to Davidson County Community College for getting my week off to a great start. I’ll be at Virginia Tech tomorrow night and Roanoke College Thursday. Then it is spring break, peeps! Holla!

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-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