Category: Women’s Empowerment

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!

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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

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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

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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”

DePauw

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!

Roanoke College Cake1

 
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!

Roanoke Crop

-GFB Heather

Virginia Tech – Samanata’s Legacy

sFBVT

You know, we have a lot of fun here at Girls Fight Back, but ultimately our work is about healing. One of our core values revolves around resiliency and states: “Though the statistics are shocking, we are here to say that we will not conform to the violence. Our world and most of our individual lives have been wrongfully altered by violence. We believe in recovery on individual, societal, and world levels.”

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

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

-GFB Heather

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

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

Leah shares the GFB message with 12 – 19 year old girls at the Silk City School Based Youth Services Program

I had a great time in Paterson, NJ with the Girls Fight Back program for a night aptly titled “Be Your Own Superwoman.”  I had such an amazing evening with these fantastic young women teaching them how to do the Terminator Tango.  (The youth version of the Badass Ballet!)  Special thanks to sponsors Silk City School Based Youth Services Program and the Family Empowerment Program for having me and also for going all out with Superwoman t-shirts and a Girls Fight Back cake!   It is such a privilege to share this message with young women who need to know as they leave their teen years that they ARE WORTH FIGHTING FOR!

 

GFB Leah

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Silk City School 11.21.13b

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

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