Takin’ Care of Business at Neosho CC

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Girls Fight Back! made a first-time visit to Neosho County Community College in Kansas last week. It was a great group, full of spunk and life… Ready to make their campus safer and lead badass lives!

Today I’d like to give a shout-out to the students of NCCC, but also the peeps behind the scene. A lot of schools that invite GFB are able to do so thanks to the hard work of Student Activities, Panhellenic or Student Senate. These organizations are often lead by a single group sponsor who’s expected to tackle any number of issues and take on multiple positions. At NCCC, Allison, the Director of Residence and Student Life, is wearing many hats. Along with the help of her team, she had to make sure the funding was available for the event, reserved the auditorium at an ideal time that didn’t conflict with a lot of other extracurricular activities, made sure I had all the tools and equipment I needed to present, secured two dependable student volunteers… The list goes on. Needless to say it takes a village to offer programs for students and these big-hearted souls don’t often get the love they deserve for their hard work … Not to mention making me feel so welcome. I had an exceptional week of speaking engagements and it simply would not have been possible if it weren’t for people like Alison and her team who are brilliant at their job. So thank you Allison, and all of the directors and leaders who go above & beyond to make sure your school is safer and your students come first. And thanks most of all for being such kick-ass hosts. It means more than you know.

Look forward to visiting you all at NCCC again soon! Til next time…

Love and Light,
GFB Bree

Queensborough CC Taking a Stance Against Violence

Yesterday I got to visit one of the largest community colleges I’ve ever been to– right in my own backyard. Queensborough Community College is doing it big, with a vibrant, diverse, active and engaging community!

We had a solid turn-out for our Girls Fight Back! program, and incredible support from the men on campus. I think for the first time in my 5 years of speaking I had more men than women line up to chat with me after the program. They weren’t just passively showing support, they were engaged and wanting to be a part of the solution. Hoo-rah!

Perhaps one of the reasons the gents were so present was for the reason that didn’t actually hit me until mid-seminar. We talk in our program how a lot of students on campus don’t think much about violence. You’ve heard it before: “Violence is something that will never happen to me. Our neighborhood is safe. Things like that don’t happen here.” This is often the mindset in small communities or rural areas, like my hometown. But here in NYC, I assure, violence is something that everyone is aware of all the time. Sadly, you are always on alert, even in broad day light in a “safe” neighborhood. The students I spoke to yesterday are unfortunately not strangers to violence in their neighborhood. But the great news is they are taking proactive steps to make their campus safer and learning to be their own best protectors in any situation. They want to make their neighborhoods safer today and safer for the future generations. Can I get a hell yes?!

Thank you Queensborough Community College and the Student Government for having me to your beautiful campus and for refusing to turn a blind eye to violence. I had a great time throwing down with you all and look forward to doing it again soon!

Until next time…
Light and Love,
GFB Bree

Kickin’ it with Centralia College

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I visited Centralia College last week to kick off my 2016 Fight Back! Season! Don’t let this small crowd fool ya…  They were a fierce and  rowdy crew over at Centralia, especially that baseball team 😉 Although Students Fight Back was required for student athletes, there were quite a few other students who came to show their support for a safer campus and learn a few skillz.

One of the new tidbits we are sharing in our 2016 program is that a lot of people get a little consumed by the idea that an attacker is always a stranger, whether a random person on the street or someone you barely know. However statistics prove that it’s much more likely to be an acquaintance.

Case in point, a faculty member at Centralia (who helped Student Activities and the Athletic Department throw a stellar show), shared with me he had a recent incident where a security guard tried to unjustifiably convince him to get in his car. Could this have ended in a no big deal situation? Perhaps. But thankfully we’ll never know, as the department member fully trusted his intuition, refused to get in the car and actually started to call the head of security before the guard trying to get him in the car left. So not only does this story drive home that a creeper can be anyone, including someone who should be “safe,” but also that anyone, regardless of gender, can be harassed and assaulted.

So glad this audience/staff member shared this inspiring story with me (we all need to be sharing our stories​)​ about steps he took to make the community a safer place, for himself and others. And a huge thank you to the Student Activities and Athletic Department for making it possible for me to visit the amazing community at Centralia College. And for sharing your energy and stories. Look forward to visiting you all again soon! Til next time…

Love and Light,

GFB Bree​

Keepin’ it Safe in the Backyard of The Big Apple

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Living in New York City, you think you know most of the major spots nearby. So it was a pleasant surprise to find the very quaint and beautiful Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, right across from my backyard. It’s a lovely campus with a spectacular view of The Big Apple, but even more impressive students!

Stevens Institute of Technology welcomed Students Fight Back! and made the statement that a safer campus is a priority. Being a male-dominated school, I applaud Stevens Institute for taking initiative. It speaks to the very loud voice of our young generation that both males and females want equality, and are on a mission to end violence for all. In this spirit, we talked about being an active bystander and looking out for each other, why assuming someone is a “creeper” based on stereotypes is actually putting yourself in a more harmful situation and of course, we kicked some serious ass. It was a stellar event from start to finish!

Thanks so much Stevens Institute of Technology for letting Students Fight Back! be a part of your community. Looking forward to visiting my neighbors again soon! Until next time….

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Light and Love,

GFB Bree

St. John’s Fisher College wraps up the 2015 Tour

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St. John’s Fisher College wrapped up the Girls Fight Back! and Students Fight Back! 2015 Tour… And man did we finish hella strong. We had over 70(!) students at a non-mandatory event (FYI that’s like winning the Super Bowl in student event planning when it comes to an “issues and ideas” event, in case you didn’t know). Yep, this crew was seriously SO much fun!

Sometimes a crowd can take a little time into the program to warm up… I get it, I mean, we are talking about some serious stuff here but in a totally different way. We make it REAL talk. Person to person. So there can be some resistance. Not this crew at St John’s. We were vibin’ right outta the gates!

I quite possibly laughed harder and had more fun than any other event this year! It was amazeballs working with students who were so eager to learn, excited about making their safe campus an even safer place and being their own best protectors in any situation! Before I left, they were already talking about ways to take “next steps” and bring on more intense seminars. This gang is the group of students you look at and feel hopeful & grateful for the future of our society. They truly blew me away!

And of course none of this would have been possible without Claire and the SJFC Feminist Caucus and sponsors going the extra mile to raise funds, planning their pants off and being the hostest with the mostest. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your hard work and heart-warming hospitality. I HAVE to come visit you all again… You made my season! Till next time…

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Love and Light,

GFB Bree

Central Community College

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I recently embarked on a road trip across Nebraska, hitting several community colleges along the way. One of my favorite schools on Tour de Nebraska was Central Community College. We had a packed room in the middle of the day right around lunch time… Not an easy thing to do. But that’s because Nicholas Freeland is a baller and was a big part getting the sister community colleges involved, as well as filling the room full of badass students.

Along with putting on an exceptional event, the students in attendance at CCC were excited, eager to learn and full of excellent questions. One of the questions brought forth was during our “Being an Active Bystander” section. The student was very concerned about stepping in to physically help another if a heated argument or bullying situation was on the brink of becoming physical. Excellent point… And we at Students Fight Back! are NEVER encouraging you to put yourself in a more harmful situation. Simply getting help or making a phone call to the appropriate authorities so a professional can intervene is being a GREAT active bystander. This keeps you safe while still looking out for each other, ya dig?

Thank you for being so engaged and asking this important question CCC crew- and for having me to your beautiful campus. You all are rock stars and I can’t wait to visit you all again soon. Until next time…

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Love and Light,

GFB Bree

Obama creates the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault

Yesterday, this report was prepared by the White House Council on Women and Girls and the Office of the Vice President.  The report contains this quote. “College students are particularly vulnerable: 1 in 5 women has been sexually assaulted while in college. . . .”  President Obama signed a memorandum yesterday to create the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.  I encourage you to read the words from his press conference and the report itself.

President Obama:

I think that conviction and that passion brings us all here today — because this is not an abstract problem that goes on in other families or other communities.  Even now, it’s not always talked about enough.  It can still go on in the shadows.  But it affects every one of us.  It’s about all of us — our moms, our wives, our sisters, our daughters, our sons.  Sexual assault is an affront to our basic decency and humanity.  And for survivors, the awful pain can take years, even decades to heal.  Sometimes it lasts a lifetime.  And wherever it occurs — whether it’s in our neighborhoods or on our college campuses, our military bases or our tribal lands — it has to matter to all of us.

Because when a young girl or a young boy starts to question their self-worth after being assaulted, and maybe starts withdrawing, we’re all deprived of their full potential.  When a young woman drops out of school after being attacked, that’s not just a loss for her, that’s a loss for our country.  We’ve all got a stake in that young woman’s success.

When a mother struggles to hold down a job after a traumatic assault, or is assaulted in order to keep a job, that matters to all of us because strong families are a foundation of a strong country.  And if that woman doesn’t feel like she has recourse when she’s subject to abuse, and we’re not there supporting her, shame on us.  When a member of our military is assaulted by the very people he or she trusted and serves with, or when they leave the military, voluntarily or involuntarily, because they were raped, that’s a profound injustice that no one who volunteers to defend America should ever have to endure.

So sexual violence is more than just a crime against individuals.  It threatens our families, it threatens our communities; ultimately, it threatens the entire country.  It tears apart the fabric of our communities.  And that’s why we’re here today — because we have the power to do something about it as a government, as a nation.  We have the capacity to stop sexual assault, support those who have survived it, and bring perpetrators to justice.

And that’s why, last year, I was proud to sign the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which improved the support we gave to cities and states to help end sexual assault.  And that includes funding to train police officers and nurses, and to speed up the processing of untested rape kits so we can reduce that backlog, solve unsolved cases, get justice for victims.

We pushed for the Violence Against Women Act to include more protections for immigrants; for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans; for Native Americans.  Because no matter who you are or where you live, everybody in this country deserves security and justice and dignity.  And we have to keep reaching out to people who are still suffering in the shadows.

As Commander-in-Chief, I’ve made it clear to our military leadership that we need to deal aggressively with the problem of sexual assault in our armed forces.  It has been going on too long, and we have an obligation to protect the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect us.  And Secretary Hagel and Chairman Dempsey have already taken steps to reduce violence and support those who have been harmed.  But I’ve made it clear I expect significant progress in the year ahead.  These crimes have no place in the greatest military on Earth.

I’ve directed agencies across the federal government to do more to help members of their workforce who have been assaulted — because employers have a role to play too, and I want my administration to lead by example.  That’s why we’re releasing a new report today that outlines all of our efforts and where we intend to do more.  And I met earlier today with Secretaries Sebelius, Hagel, Duncan, Attorney General Holder, as well as Vice President Biden, as well as members of my senior staff to discuss how we implement going forward.  Because I want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to spare another American the trauma of sexual assault.

Today, we’re taking another important step with a focus on our college campuses.  It is estimated that 1 in 5 women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted during their time there — 1 in 5.  These young women worked so hard just to get into college, often their parents are doing everything they can to help them pay for it.  So when they finally make it there only to be assaulted, that is not just a nightmare for them and their families, it’s an affront to everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve.  It’s totally unacceptable.

Three years ago, we sent every school district, college, and university that receives federal funding new instructions clarifying their legal obligations to prevent and respond to sexual assault.  And we have seen progress, including an inspiring wave of student-led activism, and a growing number of students who found the courage to come forward and report attacks.  That’s exactly what we want them to do.  And we owe all these brave young people an extraordinary debt of gratitude.

But we cannot stop there.  There’s obviously more that we have to do to keep our students safe.  And that’s why here today, I will sign a presidential memorandum creating the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.  And we’re going to work with colleges and universities and educational institutions of all kinds across America to help them come up with better ways to prevent and respond to sexual assault on their campuses.  And then we’ll help them put those ideas into practice, because our schools need to be places where our young people feel secure and confident as they prepare to go as far as their God-given talents can carry them.

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Please read the full report here . . .

 

GFB Gina