3.28.17 – Youngstown State University – Housing & Greek Life team up!

What do you get when Housing & Residence Life and Greek Life team up to empower their campus community with awesome life skills to be fearless anywhere they go? You guessed it… a Students Fight Back event!

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I was so humbled to learn their Director of Housing & Residence Life remembered us when she hosted our program years ago at another campus…and that’s why she brought us to her new campus. That means the world to us and it is awesome when we hear that our program and message have an impact on people…that’s the whole reason we do this work!

We had an almost even 50/50 mix of men and women in the audience which is always great to see at an SFB event. People of all genders have to work together to end violence in the world and be allies for each other. That’s how we make a safer world for everyone.    IMG_7191 IMG_7182

My 2 demo assistants were fabulous! They helped me illustrate for the audience how hot spots, areas on that body that cause pain and disability, are not gender specific. And the parts of our bodies that we can use to defend ourselves are not gender specific either! That means the techniques we teach can be used by and work on ANYONE! That’s what we call empowerment! The students in the audience were energetic and interacted with me throughout the program which was a blast! We had some great laughs and learned why the pinky finger is probably not the ideal hot spot to aim for.

Thank you so much, YSU, for inviting me to your campus, for welcoming me so graciously and for being so passionate about being your own best protectors! You are all amazing!

Cheers,

GFB Nicole

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St. Mary’s University – Together we will end violence!

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A mere 4 hour drive from Beaumont, TX lies the idyllic campus of St. Mary’s University right in the heart of San Antonio. This was the final stop on my Texas tour and in fact 3 campus organizations combined forces to host us: Student Government, Interfraternity Council and Collegiate Panhellenic Council. Thank you all so much for bringing Students Fight Back to your campus!

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I learned from the sponsors in advance of this presentation that due to a more supportive reporting climate at St. Mary’s recently that there have been an increase in sexual assault reports.   Students were on edge and concerned that this was because there were more assaults happening so we discussed this today. We explained that more reports usually means that survivors are feeling more comfortable, supported and confident to report their assaults which explains the uptick in the reporting numbers.   It can seem counterintuitive however; this phenomenon is seen in the sexual assault prevention community quite often so I think we were able to set the students’ minds at ease. We always encourage survivors to report, but that choice lies solely with the survivor and the important thing is to support them no matter what they decide to do.

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Another topic we discussed in depth was the importance of being an ally and active bystander. It is easier than you think and one of our favorite techniques here at SFB is non-complementary behavior. That means responding to the person in a way that is opposite how they’re acting. You can switch the energy around by using humor or asking a completely unrelated question. This is a tactic we can all use and of course, if a situation is violent we recommend calling 911.

During Q&A some great questions came up like “What if a man is being attacked by a woman…do they respond the same way we just learned?” The answer is Yes! If you feel like your life is in danger you are absolutely allowed to defend yourself regardless of your gender identity. Plus the methods we teach can be used on attackers of any gender…all humans have the same ‘hot spots’. We do want to point out that although attacks on men by women do happen, the vast majority of attacks on both men and women are perpetrated by other men. The best advice we can offer is that you have to use your own intuition and awareness to make decisions for yourself in situations that arise in your life.   Bottom line is that you are worth fighting for!

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Thank you again for having me and for being such awesome participants! You are your own best protector now go out and live your life fearlessly!

Cheers,

GFB Nicole

Lamar University—Ready and Rearin’ for Spring Break!

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Just a short 30minute drive from my morning presentation at another college in Orange, TX is the beautiful campus of Lamar University. Their students were heading off for Spring Break in a week and they were in need of some awesome Spring Break and Travel survival tips. Don’t worry…we’ve got you covered!

We tackled the basics about leaving the country (or the state), arriving at your hotel, and getting a taxi. Then we dove into some deeper discussions about how to party safe if you’re drinking and remembering that date rape drugs can be slipped into ANY drink…even apple juice. But it’s even more important to note that alcohol itself is the most common date rape drug. Does that mean you can’t go out and have a great time? Not at all! It just means that we need to look out for each other, use our awareness and trust our intuition. Even if someone isn’t in your group and they look like they need help, we need to step up and be there for them and get them to a safe place if necessary.

Last but not least we learned how to physically defend ourselves. We always teach this part last because we want the best fight to be the one you never have to fight. We layer the techniques throughout the program because we want fighting to be the last resort. But if it ever comes down to defending yourself, you are worth fighting for you and we want you to know how to kick some serious booty to get away! These students at Lamar certainly proved that they are forces to be reckoned with!IMG_6689

Go forth and party like Rockstars…Safe Rockstars!

Cheers,

GFB Nicole

Lamar State College, Orange: Full House for SFB!

Howdy Texas! Lamar State College-Orange was the first college on my college tour of Texas this week. Texas always has a special place in our hearts here at SFB because this is where our boss lady Gina is from!

 

As the students started filing into the Student Center for the presentation we quickly found that we were going to need more chairs to accommodate the crowd. Bring it on! Sure, some of these folks were getting class credit for being here (nothing wrong with that!) but I know that by the end of the seminar these students not only learned a great deal, but were glad they came!

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The volunteers for the verbal & fight demos were phenomenal: animated, fun and relatable to the audience. We showed how to use deflection as a tool to get away from a potential creeper and that it’s ok to lie to a stranger…no need to give up your personal information! We talked about how body language is key to your awareness and that if your intuition cues you into a problem that you should absolutely listen to it.

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These students were a tremendous pleasure to meet and I think they took home the most important fact…They are worth fighting for!

 

Cheers,

GFB Nicole

TCU is Ready for Spring Break!

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Texas Christian University is a beautiful campus in Forth Worth with staff, faculty and employees that care deeply for their students. They invited me out to present the Fight Back on Spring Break! program to empower their campus to party, travel and live safe lives no matter where they are in the world! Before the event the sponsors invited me to dinner at Uncle Julio’s where I had the BEST Mexican food I have ever had…and I live in California! Thank you both so much for treating me to a Fort Worth staple so start the evening!IMG_6651

When the program was set to start, I was met with a crowd of enthusiastic students who were ready to learn tips on setting boundaries, using their intuition and the basics of safe travel and partying. I asked the audience where they were going for Spring Break and I heard answers like Thailand, Germany, Costa Rica and Mexico. That is so amazing that these folks are having the opportunity to travel the world at a young age and experience different cultures!   Learning to defend ourselves and be our own best protectors is even more important when we are out of our element and in a new environment where we may be tempted to be less aware.

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We covered ways to be an active bystander using non-complementary behavior and that looking out for the effects of predatory drugs is a great way to be an ally for your friends…or anyone you notice who may be in trouble. We learned how to use verbal skills to set boundaries and we finished things off by learning how to physically defend ourselves with the Bad Ass Ballet. These students were fearless, vocal and their enthusiasm couldn’t be contained when it came time to practice the steps. It helped that my 2 volunteers, Kevin and Paulie, were fabulous!

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I am so happy I was able to meet such an incredible group of students who were fired up to learn and were excited to discover just how powerful they really are at being their own personal badasses. I hope you all have a fantastic and safe Spring Break!

Cheers,

GFB Nicole

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Ohio Wesleyan University’s Greek Life is on Fire!

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The Panhellenic Council joined forces with the Woman’s Resource Center to bring the Students Fight Back message of self-empowerment and badassery to Ohio Wesleyan University. The sororities and fraternities at OWU each have the option of making 1 or 2 of their planned school events to be mandatory for the other. Lucky for the men, this was one of those events!

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With a room full of 200 students reppin’ all gender identities, sexual orientations and life experiences we got started breaking down myths about sexual assault including why victim blaming is wrong and why fighting back is a choice, NOT a reason to blame a survivor. We discussed the fact that EVERYONE has the right to set a boundary about their body and expect that boundary to be respected. Mic drop!img_4924-2

I had so much fun with this group! The energy in the room was palpable… they were snapping & clapping throughout and we were laughing together through most of the event. I even had a group of men in the front who were super engaged and would shout out answers to me! I love it when audiences get involved! I had 2 volunteers this time: Dr. Dwayne Todd who is not only a professor but also the Title IX Coordinator and Phoebe who was one of the sorority members putting on the event. They did an awesome job of helping me demonstrate verbal strategies, vulnerable hot spots and finally the some basic physical self-defense skills.  img_4925-2

Thank you so much for having me OWU! You were incredible and I hope to see you all again soon. Keep on being badasses and don’t let anyone keep you from living the life that you choose!

Cheers,

GFB Nicole

Texas Tech-We ARE our own best protectors!

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One of the great things about being a GFB/SFB Speaker is that we get to empower people across the nation! I received a warm welcome at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX and we got down with a Students Fight Back event sponsored by the awesome folks of RISE.

The Risk Intervention & Safety Education (RISE) program is a prevention and wellness initiative established for the students at Texas Tech. They are extremely passionate about the health and well being of their Red Raiders and I felt incredibly honored to be able to speak to this group about personal safety and self-defense.

We had an intimate group that was engaged throughout the entire program. We laughed together when talking about an animal’s intuition vs. us humans. Why is it that us humans act like we’re the most intelligent animal on earth and yet we ignore the very instinctual survival method we’re all born with because we think we know better? Um…no. Let’s start listening to that voice so it can help to protect us! We are our own best protectors and when we realize that we become so powerful!

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After the presentation I watched as several folks practiced their new lines with each other (“No. Back up. I don’t want any problems”) and talk about how they’re going to use that the next time they meet a creeper. That was so awesome to see and that is what this program is all about. Empowerment! Education! Taking control of your life! And having fun while doing it!

Texas Tech, thank you so much for having me and for showing me how excited you all were to learn something new. And RISE, thank you for all you do…and for my awesome T-shirt!

Cheers,

GFB Nicole

University of Illinois-Springfield, You are Worth Fighting For!

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Springfield, IL is the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, the capital of the great state of Illinois and home to the University of Illinois-Springfield. It was here at UIS that I was invited to spread the Students Fight Back message of being a badass of your own life!

We had a small but mighty group gathered who were eager to get their knowledge on and we dove right into the basics of trusting your intuition and choosing to be actively aware. My amazing assistant did a great job helping me demonstrate strategies for avoiding a creeper using your verbal skills and then we transitioned into the physical fight segment. Because even when we do a great job of being aware, keeping an eye out for those who would try to manipulate us, and using our voice to avoid a confrontation sometimes we may have to physically defend ourselves. We pointed out all the hotspots that people of any gender identity have such as the eyes, throat, stomach, knees and groin. Each time we discussed a strike or practiced the bad ass ballet steps, my assistant would confirm to me that yes, this was something that would really hurt! I asked if he had been in a lot of fights and he said, no, he played football! Yup, he had first hand knowledge of how all those places were extremely sensitive!

The most important concept that resonated with this highly participatory group was the knowledge that they are worth fighting for. By knowing that, embracing it and not being dissuaded from believing it in all aspects of our lives, we become our own best protectors.

Thank you University of Illinois-Springfield and Student Life for bringing me to your campus to educate, empower and entertain your students! Go forward peacefully!

Cheers,

GFB Nicole

University Of Mass Lowell – Good Vibration

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

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

 

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Hollaback!

One of my favorite organizations is at a pivotal moment in its growth today and I wanted to share something about them here. The group is called Hollaback and it has chapters all over the country.

I first became a fan at the age of 19 when on my first ever trip to NYC I was verbally harassed on the street outside Grand Central Station by a couple of guys. They whistled at me to get my attention and then one of them told me that he would “sure like to tap that.” As they started walking towards me, I froze. Being young and out of my element, I had no idea what to do. A woman in her late twenties walked up beside me and snapped a picture of the two men with her camera before telling them to back off in a loud clear voice. They called her a bitch and walked away.

I turned to thank her. She handed me a piece of paper with a web address on it and said, “no problem, check out the site.” What I found was an online community where women posted photos of street harassers and spoke out about their feelings after being catcalled. I checked the site a week later and sure enough, there was the photo of the two men who had harrassed me. The site has since grown into a nationwide movement.

Today, Hollaback is on the verge of getting an iPhone app, but they need money to get it. They have 1 day and about $1700 left to raise. If you are able, consider donating to them here: www.ihollaback.org

And if you want to learn more, check out this link for an interview with the amazing Miss DC, Jen Corey. You can watch a video of her on NBC discussing her experiences with street harassment.

Portland Actress Shares Success Story

Alana and GFB Speaker Jaime Out On The TownThe best fight is the fight never fought. If you have ever been to a Girls Fight Back seminar, you have undoubtedly heard one of our speakers tell you this. You have also heard that setting boundaries with both your words your body are truly fantastic tools that we can all use to avoid violence in our lives. A good friend of mine and wonderful actress, Alana, told me a story this week that makes me believe in boundaries and preparation with even more conviction.  This is Alana’s story.

Alana went to France over Thanksgiving. First, I think we should all take a moment to be jealous of Alana’s holiday plans that were probably much cooler than our own. OK, now that is out of the way and I will continue with her story. When Alana was in France, she was sight-seeing and doing other cool things and came upon a marketplace of sorts and various people were trying to sell all sorts of things. One person stuck out for all the wrong reasons. Alana had a weird feeling about him because he was trying to get people to come over to him but did not appear to be selling anything. The man addressed Alana, she told him she wasn’t interested, and turned to walk away. He grabbed her arm. Let’s all take a moment and realize how inappropriate it was to grab her.  Alana whirled around and said, “Don’t touch me.” Oh, by the way, she said it in French! How cool is that?!?  The man did not let go and Alana prepped for a knee drive, which made him think twice and release her arm.  

 Alana went to one of the GFB seminars I put on in Portland last summer and said the seminar helped her know how to handle the situation, so this story made me incredibly happy. Let’s break Alana’s story down a little bit. First, Alana had a weird feeling about someone but, at first, was not sure why. This was her intuition. To directly rip off the words of Gavin DeBecker, your intuition is knowing something without knowing why. Later, Alana realized this man felt out of place because he was calling attention to himself in a marketplace but was not actually selling anything. That is also a great example of being aware of your surroundings. Second, Alana set a very clear verbal boundary when she told him she wasn’t interested in talking to him. Third, Alana set a very firm, final, unmistakably clear physical and verbal boundary by turning to the man and saying “Don’t touch me!” When that did not work, Alana was prepared to defend herself and fight back if necessary.

 This is a total success story that should be celebrated.  Alana fought the best fight ever . . . The one that is never fought! Alana trusted her intuition,  being a bad victim, and was completely prepared to defend herself. While, I am so thankful she didn’t actually have to fight, I am equally thankful that my friend Alana knows that she is worth fighting for and had confidence and presence of mind in a scary situation. Success stories like this are more common than some might think.  They just are not talked about enough. Be on the lookout for the success stories in your own lives and remember to celebrate them.

Not just another day on the bus…

We hear about situations all the time, where disturbed people get on to buses and passengers must decide what actions to take to remedy dangerous or uncomfortable situations. Yesterday was one such day.

After a long day of work, I got on my bus to head home. As I stepped off the first bus to transfer to another, a young man in his twenties followed close behind me, lighting a cigarette. As I waited for the light to change to green, I looked over to see him staring at me. He was taller than I, wearing a dress suit and black dress shoes. He held his black jacket in his left hand, loosely away from his body. His white with red pinstripe shirt, hanging out of his pants. He looked like a normal guy coming home from work.  However, there was something not quite right about him, though I couldn’t say exactly what it was.

As we crossed the street he followed close beside me. As he continued to smoke his cigarette, he proceeded to pull a faceless balaclava over his neck as he sat next to me on the bus bench. It was then that I knew for certain that something was off. There were several other people at the bus stop and my false sense of security convinced me to stay seated beside him. I was tired and I resented having to move from the only available space at the stop, in an effort to avoid this guy.

A minute later, my bus pulled up and I got on. As usual, there was only a few seats available so I took the first available seat before others got on. As I sat down, creepy guy sat down beside me. I opened my book in an effort to avoid any communication from him. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed his hand fall to the side of the seat that was shared between us. He slowly inched his way towards my thigh. He then took his other hand and went to pull something our of his pocket. I swiftly moved my hand to a ready position in anticipation of having to fight. When nothing happened, I left doubt to convince me that “I” may just be exaggerating the situation, I walked to the front of the bus to ask the bus driver which direction this bus took. This being my bus, I knew the answer but wanted a polite excuse to leave my seat. As I walked back to another seat directly across from this man, I noticed his hand was not in his pocket as I had first thought. He not pulling out a weapon, but he did indeed pull out something, covering himself with his jacket. I couldn’t believe what was happening on the bus, right in front of me, in front of everyone in broad daylight. I became enraged.

A man who was sitting beside this guy saw what was happening, became embarrassed and walked to the back of the bus. I looked over to a woman across from him and made eye contact with her. It was like I was looking for confirmation of what was happening. She looked back at me and we both knew what the other was thinking. Silence.

Something inside of me snapped and looked over at this man and said “Seriously! Are you kidding me with this?” No response. No one else said a word. I realized in a moment, from the way that he looked at me that he was psychotic. His direct stare and smirk sent a chill up my spine. My instinct told me that no verbal boundary setting would make a difference and that it was best to avoid him completely. As we came to the next stop, a little girl got on the bus with her mother busily attending the another child. As the little girl went to sit beside him, I heard the words come out of my mouth “No!” her mother looking at me, I repeated , “No. Not this bus.” Without question, she and her little girl got off. I walked to the front of the bus, told the bus driver what was happening and got off.

I pulled out my phone, dialed 911 and called the police. I gave them a complete description of this guy, including the bus number on the back of the bus. What happened next, I can’t know for sure.

Some people may experience a situation like this and shake it off as a creepy one. I however, chose to look back at the events and see what I could have done differently, what I did and what I won’t do again.

As people, as women, we tend to make excuses for our first reactions. We need to let our instincts guide us and not allow logic to blind us from potential danger. When I got off my first bus, I saw someone and instinctively knew something was wrong. I was uncomfortable that he sat beside me, but instead of moving I stayed seated. I allowed this man to sit beside me on the bus. I didn’t want to create a scene. Instead of telling him to move his hand, letting him know that he was in my space, I ignored my discomfort and made excuses to move. I looked to others for acknowledgment of something I knew myself.

All of the training in the world is not useful unless it’s practiced, acted upon in the real world. We have to be comfortable using our voices, trusting our instincts and putting them into action. One could argue that I made the right choices, as I really didn’t know this man’s full intent. He could have indeed become physically dangerous. Personally, as  a self-defense instructor, the physical defense aspect is less scary to me than the verbal boundary setting. I think that this is common to many women. It was a situation that was in many ways passive aggressive and a grey area of what should have been said or done. At the end of the day, despite questioning my actions, I made choices that kept me safe. I was able to stay calm and act in ways that didn’t escalate the situation. This allowed me to deal with potential danger and notify those around me of a threat.  I got the woman and girl off the bus, I told the bus driver what was happening and I then got myself to safety and called the police. Perhaps, that’s exactly what I was supposed to do; to be here to tell you about it.