Western Oregon University – A Students Fight Back First!


I watched through the window of my rehearsal room as hundreds of students began winding through campus en masse and excitedly filing into the gym.  These were brand new students- freshmen- gearing up for their first year at Western Oregon University. This was Student Orientation Week and Students Fight Back was invited by the Student Health & Counseling Center and Student Leadership & Activities to give these young folks some options and tools for their toolboxes for their exciting new college experience.  After everyone was seated (all 1100 of them) I felt the electricity in the air and knew we were going to have a great time together.


The show opened with a presentation by Abby’s House, Women’s Center on campus.  We watched the hilariously awesome “Tea Consent” video.  If you haven’t seen this, watch it now! They announced Students Fight Back and I could see that this crowd was ready to bring the house down with their awesomeness!  I loved that there was such a wide demographic of students represented: athletes, women, men, LGBTQ, disabled…there was even a sign language interpreter!

We went over the importance of why fighting back is a personal choice and that victim blaming is always wrong and unacceptable. We clarified that a creeper can be ANYONE and is not necessarily a stranger.  Heck, most of the time (57% to be exact) assaults are committed by someone we know which is why it’s important to use our awareness to make decisions for ourselves. We watched the bystander video and everyone applauded the folks who stepped up in the clip.  Nothing like hearing 1100 people cheer and recognize when others are being true bystanders and making a difference!  Empowering!


When it was time to practice our physical skills and I had the pleasure of both a male and female volunteer…a Students Fight Back first!  Let’s face it, women can be creepers too and it’s important to remember that all humans have the hotspots we discussed.  We practiced our verbal strategies and the thunder of hearing over a thousand voices scream out “NO. BACK UP, I DON’T WANT ANY PROBLEMS” gave me the chills.  Their voices echoed throughout the gym and I felt the power all the way to my bones.  Watching them practicing the badass ballet was a blast because everyone seemed to be having a super fun time kicking the crap out of their invisible creeper.  Way to go Western!


I opened it up to Q&A and got such thoughtful, honest, probing questions.  It warmed my heart to see that everyone was really absorbing the information and figuring things out in their own minds. Here are some of the questions that stood out to me:

Q: What if you have disabilities…how do you fight?

A: Fighting is always a personal choice, and if you choose to fight you can modify the badass ballet depending on your situation ie: a heel palm to the groin instead of the face.

Q: I’ve heard that women should wear their hair back in a ponytail if they go out so that no one can grab their hair to abduct them.  What do you think?

A: We think you should wear your hair however you want! We will never teach you that you can’t go where you want, wear want you want or do what you want.  The skills we taught you today will enable you to live how you choose and have options should you ever need them.

Q: Can men take self-defense classes?

A: Absolutely!  There are co-ed classes and men can also choose to take a men’s only class if they’d prefer.

Q: What are your thoughts on how someone dresses in relation to rape?

A:  How someone dresses has absolutely NOTHING to do with rape or sexual assault.  Sexual assault is not about sex even though sexual organs are involved.  It is about a perpetrator having power, control and domination over someone else and objectifying and humiliating them. This is called power arousal and is very different from sexual arousal.  Sexual arousal is based on respect and mutual attraction.  Predators are looking for vulnerable targets they can have power over and are not concerned with how someone dresses or how they look.  That is why survivors of sexual assault range in age from infants to the elderly.  No one is EVER to blame for violence perpetrated against them.

We practiced the bad ass ballet one more time and I asked if they felt powerful.  I wasn’t surprised when I saw smiles and joy on the faces of the group when they answered back with a powerful YES!  Thank you Western, for being such an engaged, attentive audience.  I enjoyed our time together and I hope you learned some skills that will give you confidence in knowing that you have a choice if you ever need to fight back.  You are all badasses. Go forward peacefully!

GFB Nicole

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:


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.

ABC’s of Safety – “The Safety Godmothers”

One of the basics that all children learn when they go to school is the ABC’s. What they don’t usually learn, but all really need, is the ABC’s of safety. Ellen Snortland and Lisa Gaeta have stepped in to fill the void with their essential new book, “The Safety Godmothers: The ABC’s of Awareness, Boundaries, and Confidence for Teens.” Through the riveting true stories of 26 interviewees, they spell out the basics of what we all need to know to be safe and live with confidence. Topics covered include boundary setting, dating violence/domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, muggings, fear, verbal strategies to escape a bad situation, violence against the LGBT community, de-escalation, how to say no (the right way), and how to physically defend yourself if there is no other option. The book also includes three sections by the nation’s best known expert on the prediction and management of violence, Gavin de Becker and a thorough appendix with access to more in depth looks at some of the topics covered. This should be a must read for all teens. Girls Fight Back approved!

The Safety Godmothers book cover

Perhaps to some teaching “rape is wrong” seems silly—don’t we all know this already? The truth is we don’t

What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape 

Jessica Valenti on October 16, 2013 – 5:38 PM ET


The courthouse at Maryville, Missouri. (Flickr user : lhilyer_libr) 

Last year it was Steubenville, where two football players raped a girl while party-going bystanders looked on. Now it’s Maryville, a Missouri town where two girls—just 13 and 14 years old—were raped by older classmates who captured the attack on video. We know how this is going to play out: there will be outrage, there will be victim-blaming, there will be media attention and maybe even a court case. And then there will be another rape. There will always be another rape.

Because despite best intentions, too many people are making America a very comfortable place for rapists. The incredible work being done by feminists—work that’s made progress changing policy and shifting the culture—is consistently stymied by an ignorant, even if well-meaning, majority. If we want justice for sexual assault victims, Americans needs to get on board with feminists or move out of our way.

Though the statistics make it hard to be too optimistic—someone is assaulted every two minutesin the United States and one in ten young Americans has committed sexual violence—there is progress being made. The national conversation around rape is changing, in large part thanks to feminists online. They shone a light so bright on sexual assault that the mainstream media had to pay attention, and created a shared vocabulary ensuring that terms like ‘rape culture,’ ‘victim-blaming,’ and ‘slut-shaming’ have national resonance. This is no small thing; it is, undoubtedly, a culture shift. Ten years ago, for example, CNN bemoaning the Steubenville rapists’ lost “promising futures” would have gone largely unnoticed—last year there was a firestorm.

While feminist language and thinking on rape is becoming more mainstream, it’s not happening fast enough. And because rape culture is so strong, any time an institution, politician or media outlet veers into victim-blaming territory, it has the potential to set back the cause significantly.

Yesterday, it was Slate’s Emily Yoffe, who argues that if girls want to avoid rape they shouldn’t drink so much. (Yoffe seems to think this is a novel and brave position, despite it’s being the central message young American women receive around sexual assault.) I agree there should be a conversation about the relationship between rape and drinking: We need to discuss the way that rapists use alcohol as a weapon to attack, and then discredit, their victims. But focusing on rapists is not nearly as popular as scolding young women.

Refusing to emphasize rapists’ role in rape is telling. Yoffe writes of a girl who “ends up being raped”—as if she tripped and fell into it. (Even more illuminating is the lesson she wants to pass on to her son is not to be the boy “who finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate.”) It reminds me of a headline from years ago that read, “More Rapes Linked to Young Women on Drinking Binges.” Why not, “Rapists Attack Drunk Women”? This centering of women’s behavior is what allows rape culture to flourish.

When we make victims’ choices the focus of rape prevention, we make the world a safer place for rapists. It gives attackers what Thomas Macaulay Millar calls—in his excellent piece ‘Meet the Predators’—social licence to operate. You know why rapists attack rape women? Because they know the victim’s community and law enforcement will be less likely to believe them. When you tell a rape joke? A rapist thinks that you’re on their side! In ways big and small, we are making this easy on them.

I’ve written before that I think a huge part of rape culture is that we don’t have a widely accepted cultural definition of rape to guide these conversations. I still think this is true. Relatedly, there is no national standard for teaching young people—girls and boys—about sexual assault and rape culture. I theorized on Twitter last night that American girls learned more about rape culture on Tumblr than they ever did in school—the responses I got were amazing. (And distressing.)

“I’m 24 and went through the public education system. We never learned about rape, let alone rape culture. Instead we learned to dress modestly and that it’s the girl’s place to say no.”

“Rape wasn’t even mentioned in “sex ed” in high school. I found out through tumblr and other sites that it’s ok if I say “no” and that “no” should always be listened to.”

“I had extensive sex ed (which was heteronormative and cisnormative) between 5th and 9th grades. I never heard the term “rape culture” or any talk of consent at all really until I started reading (books and online.)”

We are counting on Tumblr and teenage girls to do the work that schools and mainstream culture should be doing. And as incredible as teenage feminists and online activists are, they cannot do it alone. How is it possible, that with a well-known epidemic of rape in this country, that we don’t demand rape culture be taught in every school? (Abstinence only education would need to be abolished, too.)

Perhaps to some teaching “rape is wrong” seems silly—don’t we all know this already? The truth is we don’t—as a country, we don’t really even understand what rape is. In Steubenville, a student who had learned that drunk driving was wrong—he took car keys away from an inebriated friend—looked on while an unconscious girl was penetrated because “it wasn’t violent…I thought [rape] was forcing yourself on someone.”

For every story of sexual assault that sparks a national outcry, there are thousands more that go unnoticed. Not because we don’t care, but because rape and victim-blaming is business as usual. Feminists are offering interventions to this sad reality, but if anything is going to change, we all need to listen up. And if you find yourself making arguments that feminists find abhorrent, consider that you just very well may be helping a rapist.

Aura Bogado celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day, not Columbus Day, this Monday.


What’s the Buzz? Todd Akin

Ok, I think by now most folks have heard about Congressman (and Republican Senate nominee in Missouri) Todd Akin’s comments when asked about the legality of abortion in cases of rape.  If you haven’t, here’s the quote:

Well you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things,  well how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical  question. First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare.  If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole  thing down.

But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not  attacking the child.

Now, if you are curious about the factually of Mr. Akin’s statement about the rareness of pregnancy resulting from rape, here are the results of a study from the Medical University of South Carolina:


We attempted to determine the national rape-related pregnancy rate and provide descriptive characteristics of pregnancies that result from rape.


A national probability sample of 4008 adult American women took part in a 3-year longitudinal survey that assessed the prevalence and incidence of rape and related physical and mental health outcomes.


The national rape-related pregnancy rate is 5.0% per rape among victims of reproductive age (aged 12 to 45); among adult women an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year. Among 34 cases of rape-related pregnancy, the majority occurred among adolescents and resulted from assault by a known, often related perpetrator. Only 11.7% of these victims received immediate medical attention after the assault, and 47.1% received no medical attention related to the rape. A total 32.4% of these victims did not discover they were pregnant until they had already entered the second trimester; 32.2% opted to keep the infant whereas 50% underwent abortion and 5.9% placed the infant for adoption; an additional 11.8% had spontaneous abortion.


Rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency. It is a cause of many unwanted pregnancies and is closely linked with family and domestic violence. As we address the epidemic of unintended pregnancies in the United States, greater attention and effort should be aimed at preventing and identifying unwanted pregnancies that result from sexual victimization.

Now, putting aside all feelings related to abortion, I just want to ask one thing.  Can we please, please, PLEASE stop putting modifiers on the word rape?  There is no such thing as “forcible rape” or “legitimate rape” or my personal favorite “rape rape” (thanks, Whoopi!).  Yes, I understand that we use terms like “date rape” and “statutory rape” to clarify the circumstances of an assault, but the bottom line is that a rape is a rape is a rape.  Can we stop making judgement calls related to the “legitimacy” of a rape?  Please?

Yoga saved my life

Lauren Jonik is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and photographer. She is currently at work on a memoir. Her landscape, cityscape and nature photography can be viewed on www.shootlikeagirlphotography.com.

“There’s someone I think you should be in touch with,” my friend Dina said after she had heard the news. Just days before on a steamy July afternoon in Brooklyn, all of my preconceived notions about when and where—and to whom—violent crimes occur were shattered. “Her name is Erin Weed and she runs an organization called Girls Fight Back,” Dina continued. My mind and body were still in a confusing state of disarray.
While cat-sitting for a friend, I entered her apartment building and got on a small elevator with a stranger in a bright red t-shirt. On that day, I simply planned to go to my friend’s Brooklyn apartment. He, on the other hand, demonstrated that he planned to rape and kill someone. But, the day did not go as expected for either of us.

As the elevator doors closed, he immediately pushed behind me, grabbing my neck with his thick, meaty arm. I tried to free myself, to jam my keys into his flesh, but he had every counter-move choreographed. After both of us fell to the floor, I tried to poke him in the eyes, I frantically tried to grab at his ears, but my attempts fell short each time. At last, I was able to get in to a position where I could kick him in the face. As the bottom of my sneaker connected with his nose, I was grateful for all of the hours I had spent in yoga classes gaining strength, flexibility and peace of mind. It was, in addition to the pure grace of God, my yoga training that helped to save me.

But, being in kicked in the face didn’t go over too well with The Monster and so he stood partly up and began to unbutton his pants with one hand while holding my throat with the other. I flailed wildly with all of the fading strength I could. His frustration increased, as did my determination. He then punched my face repeatedly as the elevator ascended to yet another floor—with no one on the other side of the doors. My pulse raced as thoughts flooded my mind, each bringing with it another dose of adrenaline. At last, with seconds to spare, I flailed my arm one last time and hit the buzzer on the side panel of the elevator. The noise startled him, the doors opened yet again and he ran out. I crawled into the hallway and gasped for help. The attack was over and my new life post-attack had just begun.

Connecting with Erin in those first fragile weeks was a pivotal element in initiating the healing process. I learned that I was far from alone in my experience and it was validating to be reminded that I had done all I could. Violent crimes can happen to anyone at any time—even in the middle of an afternoon in an affluent location. And, it wasn’t a weapon or physical strength that allowed me to save my life, but staying present in the moment—even a horrible one—to make it through to the other side.
Many thanks and happy 10th birthday, GFB!
Note from Erin: I met Lauren for the first time in person when I opened New Jersey’s only women’s self-defense studio back in 2006, and threw a ragin’ party at the space. If you own a copy of my book, I write about Lauren’s story in the epilogue. It was such a catharsis for me, to finish the book with her amazing story after spending so many years researching the most horrific endings to violence.  So rarely do we hear these success stories! Lauren’s story makes a case for having more inner peace as a self-defense technique. Calm down and breathe – it could save your life someday. Big thanks to Lauren for going down a not-so-pleasant memory lane to recollect this story for our e-party…I truly appreciate your ongoing bravery.


In the grand tradition of this wonderful holiday weekend I was spending some quality time recovering on my couch, next to the fire, sifting through decorations. I was hoping someone had started to air “A Christmas Story” and was flipping through the channels when I came across the show “I Survived”. The episode featured a young lawyer named Jennifer Morey.

Jennifer lived alone and chose her apartment complex, in part, because of the protection provided by on site security guards. She was just starting her career, working long and late hours and always felt safe knowing a guard was there.

That safety was tested on April 15, 1995 when she awoke to find a man on top of her. She realized she was going to be raped and began to fight her attacker, a man who used her first name, but whom she did not recognize. During the struggle her attacker cut her throat almost from ear to ear. He then pulled her off the bed and threw her in the bathroom. Likely believing she would bleed to death, he told her to stay in there. Even after putting up such a fight and losing blood quickly, Jennifer was still able to use her lower body strength to keep the door closed with her feet until she believed her attacker had left and would not come for her again. She then ran from the bathroom and called 911.

Richard Everett was the dispatcher who picked up the line and together they began to try to save Jennifer’s life. He told her to add pressure to the wound, that help was on the way and tried to keep her calm. During the call, Jennifer heard a knock at the door. The man identified himself as Bryan Gibson, the security guard on duty. Jennifer told Richard that it was security and asked if she should open the door. The advice he gave her at that moment, based on intuition, was likely the most crucial thing he did that saved her life that night…DO NOT open the door.

Fortunately, Jennifer did not have to wait too long as police and ambulance arrived shortly after. They were greeted by the on duty security guard Bryan Gibson, who told them that he too had fought off the attacker after he escaped from Jennifer’s apartment. After reviewing the crime scene and Gibson’s injuries it wasn’t long before police realized that it was Gibson who was the attacker. He had left behind some crucial items at the scene. It’s believed he went back to Jennifer’s apartment when he realized this. To this day, Jennifer believes she would have been killed had she opened that door.

This may not have been the wonderful holiday movie I was searching for, but this story really stuck with me. Richard Beckett had no reason to think that the man at the door, whose job it was to protect the complex, was there to cause any harm. His intuition and quick thinking kept Jennifer safe.

Jennifer survived and began to rebuild her life. She won a civil lawsuit against the security company Gibson, who had twice been re-assigned because of behavior issues, worked for. In fact, from 1991- 1995 this security firm employed 130 guards that had felony records ( I’ll spend a little time on that in a future post). She is now a successful lawyer with her own practice. She met and married the man of her dreams a few years after the attack.

 Richard Beckett was at her wedding and they remain close friends to this day…

A GFB Week in Review

One week ago, I was in sunny Orlando preparing to present Women Fight Back to a group of awesome gals at Siemens Energy. No surprise that they were full of energy and spunk. I loved the brief time I got to spend there and they seemed to love kicking butt! One of the comments I received on our feedback forms read, “OMG!!! This was the most amazing class – I Loved Her!! Thank You” and another said it was the best presentation they had ever had! So I felt pretty good. 🙂

I spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with incredible college peer educators at the Bacchus and GAMMA National Peer Education Conference. Bacchus and GAMMA is a non-profit which trains college students to educate their fellow students about various health issues from drugs and alcohol to STIs and HIV to good nutrition and overall wellness. It is a personal favorite of mine because I was a peer educator at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro every single semester and I attended four national conferences during my years there. It was at the B &G conference that I first saw Girls Fight Back! and that I first met Erin Weed. I met some really cool people from all over the country and saw some great programs. The theme this year was Super Heroes of Peer Education and although I had to leave before the themed costume contest on Saturday night, I am sure there were some pretty amazing costumes just because us peer educators are dedicated like that!

And that, my friends, wrapped up my portion of the fall tour! I was grateful to get back home and start resting up for our January training academy and, of course, our upcoming Spring tour. I didn’t think about all the things I had put off doing at home while I was jet-setting across the country teaching people to be their own best protectors. Not only are there piles of laundry and tons of holiday preparations to be done, but I also remembered that I signed up for a RAD class at my alma mater! Tuesday was my first class and it covered some basics about safety and awareness. We learned some of the primary moves (ready position, palm strikes, etc.), but the real meat of the program started last night when we learned tons of basic strikes and started practicing on the punching pads. Next Tuesday, we’ll be working on ground defense and next Thursday we’ll be doing simulations. I’m excited to learn about another system of self-defense and you can look out for a full review after our last class next week.

Wednesday was the highlight of my week because I got to have coffee with a dear friend of the GFB family, Andrea Cooper. She was speaking at Wake Forest University and I had the opportunity to chat with her and see her speak. Andrea travels the country telling the story of her beautiful daughter Kristin. Early in her sophomore year of college, Kristin was raped by a friend…someone she knew and trusted and on New Year’s Eve of that same year, Kristin killed herself in her parent’s home while they were out at a holiday party. Even typing that statement makes me tear up. The pain that Andrea has experienced following her daughter’s death is something I can hardly imagine and I admire her more that I can possibly express. Having just a simple cup of coffee with her was such a blessing and to see her presentation Wednesday night was so touching. I could tell from the way that students surrounded her following her talk that they were touched as well. Andrea also gave a blatant plug to GFB! She pulled me up out of the audience, introduced me, and said that they simply must book me at their school. Luckily, I had brought along some GFB materials because several groups from the school approached me afterwards for info! One good favor deserves another, so if you are interested in learning more about bringing Andrea Cooper to your school, check out www.kristinsstory.com. If your school has an Alpha Chi Omega chapter, partner with them! Kristin was an Alpha Chi and the national AChiO chapter offers grants to bring Andrea to your campus! Her program is a great way to break the ice about rape, depression, and suicide – issues that students on your campus unfortunately deal with every single day.

I heard that yesterday’s Dr. Phil had safety and self-defense tips for kids! Did anyone watch? What did you think?

15-Year-Old Gang Raped

Heather touched on this subject in her recent post, but I also felt compelled to add something. This week in California, a 15 year old girl was gang-raped outside of a Homecoming dance in Oakland. That statement alone made me sick to my stomach. When police said as many as 10 people were involved in the assault, while another 10 people watched without calling 911, that’s 10 human beings who did NOTHING as another was being so brutally assaulted!! That is…I just have no words for that.

It’s easy for us to explain away or perhaps deal with that one “monster” or that one loaner who did horrible things to another.  But here , where we’re dealing with 10-15 individuals (many of whom are not even of legal age to be tried as adults)all at once and all against one girl…you have to ask yourself, truly, where IS the humanity? This is something so much bigger than this incident, this is something inherently wrong with society.

I’m not going to write a long post about these individuals. This is not about them, they don’t deserve my energy right now.  

I’ve spent a lot of time the past few months talking to young women and teaching them to fight, hoping I’ve helped spread valuable messages about survival. Girls Fight Back does teach self- defense, but we know that this is only part of that survival.

Police said this attack lasted over 2 hours. For over 2 hours a 15 year old girl endured the most cruel, the most heinous, the most brutal attack I can possibly imagine. I don’t know where you have to go in your head and your heart and your soul to survive that…but somehow… she did.

So to her- I send my thoughts and prayers. I hope you know how many people are also thinking of you and wishing you well. I hope you know how strong you are and I hope you have people around you who remind you of that every day.

I hope the courage that was with you that night is with you always…

Hollywood’s Reaction to Polanski’s Apprehension

Hollywood’s Reaction to Polanski’s Apprehension

The apprehension of Roman Polanski has created a Hollywood and media frenzy. As I am sure we are all aware, Polanski is the director who, 20 years ago, plead guilty raping a 13-year-old girl and then fled to a country with which the United States does not have an extradition agreement. As both an actress and a self-defense instructor who teaches women and girls how to lead safer lives, I have to say I am saddened on so many levels by the reaction of some Hollywood heavyweights to Polanski’s apprehension. More than 100 Hollywood figures, including Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, and Mike Nichols have signed a petition calling on the Swiss government to free Polanski, claiming we should all let bygones be bygones. It seems there is an attitude that, while Polanski’s crime was bad at the time, in retrospect it really is not such a big deal.

Polanski’s victim, Samantha Geimer, has stated that she has moved on but I cannot help but wonder what the young girl, who has since grown into an adult, whom Polanski victimized is thinking and feeling. I cannot help but wonder if she feels she three times victimized. Once by Polanski, once by a system that allowed her attacker to live free for 20 years, and now finally by pop culture’s support of Polanski and the media frenzy that seems to never cease. I cannot help but wonder what she thought when she heard that Whoopi Goldberg, host of The View, did not believe that what happened to her was “rape rape.” Finally, I cannot help but wonder what it feels like to have a moment that could have the potential to bring her some sort of closure being trampled by an outcry of support for Polanski to the point that she asked for charges against Polanski to be dropped so she could stop reliving the details.

Polanski plead guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl and then fled the country. Worse, he has not even shown remorse. In a 1979 interview, Polanski told British journalist, Martin Amis, “If I had killed somebody, it wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But . . . [having sex], you see, and the young girls. Judges want to [have sex with] young girls. Juries want to [have sex with] young girls. Everyone wants to [have sex with] young girls!” I personally cannot see what about this man inspires anything but contempt, disgust, and regret. I definitely cannot see what about this man inspires support.

Now, while I am an actress, I am about as far from “Hollywood heavyweight status” as you can get. I work, in my humble opinion, in the single most fabulous regional market in all the land. Most people know it as Portland, Oregon. While this is in no way intended to be an indictment of all Hollywood actors and production professionals, I still feel grateful to look at this tightly knit Portland acting community and feel a stronger moral compass than I feel coming from Hollywood right now. It also makes me grateful for actresses like Gabrielle Union who speak out against violent crimes against women and lobby to support measures that aid victims and punish offenders.

I simply cannot agree that what happened to Polansnki’s 13-year-old victim is not “rape rape.” I also cannot agree with movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein, who is circulating the petition, that Polanski has “served his time.” I cannot connect in my mind how being free to live your life in France for 20 years equals paying for your crime. Finally, I cannot agree to let bygones be bygones. While the petition being circulated and signed saddens me, I still have hope. My hope is that Hollywood, who has come to the aid of victims of Katrina and 9/11, also comes to the aid of Geimer by stopping this nonsense and uses this incident as an opportunity to come to the aid of other victims of violent crimes and the organizations that support victims and punish offenders. Finally, I have hope that someday Geimer will be free to lead the life she so desperately wants, a life that does involve phone calls from reporters and reliving that tragic day. I have hope that the legal systems of the different countries involved will echo the sentiment Geimer conveyed in an interview with CBS years ago. “Justice is never too late.”