“Don’t Mess With Texas…” – Lamar State College

Lamar State College 2015

Don’t mess with Texas, friends. Trust me. Especially if you are at Lamar State College. Students Fight Back visited both of these fine campuses in one day and holy smokes, they brought the heat.

We threw down in a mere hour and the energy at these schools, oh my. I was on an adrenaline buzz just being around these fierce birds. They kept me on my toes and were so pumped to be there.. it. was. amazing. And I have to give a shout out to all of the nurses and men on campus.. both showed their unwavering support for this cause and are leading by example for the rest of the student body.

Thank y’all (cus that’s what you say in Texas.. duh.) for sharing your time and energy with Students Fight Back and taking a solid stance against the violence culture. You are our leaders of this generation. Till next time…

With Love and Gratitude,

GFB Bree

Kutztown is killin it!

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

Kutztown

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

Love and Light,

GFB Bree

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

Thank you Morehead State University!

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It was an absolute joy to open a can of whoop ass with the fearless students of Morehead State University! I would like to thank LaShayna Sawyers, Nate (our fantastic SBG) and their super fans for putting together this awesome event. Everyone rocked the Badass Ballet and I have to say that these ladies really are dangerous!

I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe spring break!

-GFB Morgan

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

Campus Activities Magazine features the Ownership Transition of Girls Fight Back in this month’s edition

The New Girls Fight Back!

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There are many purposes for our system of student programming and campus activities, dollars that all students pay in their tuitions that are meant to entertain yes, but even more importantly, to enlighten. What’s really fortunate is when a program can do both and even still take it a step further. We’re talking about a program that can not only give your students something to do, but it can teach them what to do, and make your campus and surrounding community a safer place.

Girls Fight Back! was founded by Erin Weed in 2001, after she was inspired to take other women on the same journey of self-discovery and self-empowerment she had herself taken after the violent death of a close friend. “I had recently graduated college and was living in New York City working as a television producer when I found out one of my best friends, Shannon Mc- Namara who was two years younger than me and still in school, had been murdered in her campus apartment at Eastern Illinois University. Learning that for me, was almost like a ‘Matrix’ moment, where all of a sudden I realized that this ‘program’ I had been living in of a safe and secure world was just that, a program…an illusion. The real world is gritty and dark and scary and that is how I compare the change of my perspective in that moment, learning about the violence that can fall on any one of us. When I went home for the week of the funeral, I realized it wasn’t just me, everyone I knew was scared and very unnerved.” Erin started to process more and more what this fear was not only rooted in, but its greater effect on her life as well. “I started to wonder what that fear was holding me back from. I was hearing my friends saying ‘the worst part of my day is when I have to walk to my car in the parking lot, or leave my night class, or go to work at night.’ They didn’t want to live alone, or travel and I realized this fundamental fear of being murdered or raped or attacked is really holding us back in so many ways.”

Image: Erin Weed, Founder

So, Erin decided to do something about it. She began taking extensive self defense courses and training herself to master her fear and live the life she wanted unconfined by the worries of constant physical danger; not turning a blind eye to it or ignoring the dangers, but by being prepared for the possibility of them. “At that time, it was something I was doing more for myself than anything else. I didn’t have any sort of grandiose plan, but I began to realize that if this was affecting me so deeply, it must be doing the same for women all over the country. I realized on of the best tributes that I could give to Shannon would be to become proactive in my own life and make sure the same thing never happened to me.”

It wasn’t long before Erin realized that she could do more than just put her own mind at ease, she could make a real difference by spreading this message and teaching the techniques she had learned, not only in the basics of self defense, but in the attitude and confidence that came with knowing she was no longer a shrinking violet or easy pushover to would-be attackers.

“Girls Fight Back! is a 90 minute seminar that is given at colleges across the nation,” she says. “We have been presenting it since 2001 and in that time have reached over a million people. It has been a really transformational time and experience in my life over the past 12 years, and has acted as my hope and healing.”

Image: Amy Hong, Speaker in Training and Gina Kirkland, President

More than just delivering hope, it has been a way for millions of people to stake a claim on their own lives. “People have been able to claim their power, which is what I think the program is really all about. It’s not just self defense, or learning how to fight bad guys, it’s about owning your power in so many different types of situations, whether that be physically, verbally or socially. It is about owning your own decisions and becoming a unique, independent and strong person in every facet of someone’s life. That’s really what Girls Fight Back! is and we’ve had a lot of success with it, and it has been a lot of fun.”

There is a variation of the program called Students Fight Back!, which encompasses both men and women into one program, but the flagship program of GFB! is focused on the female population of your student body, a specific population that could have certain fears as they move onto or around campus and on their own, often for the first time.

Image: Heather Maggs, Senior National Speaker

Gina Kirkland, of Kirkland Productions, motivated by some personal circumstances (check out Gina’s article on stalking in this issue), recently made the decision to acquire the GFB! franchise from Erin, who with two children and other projects commanding her attention, has decided it’s time to pass on the torch. “Girls Fight Back! is designed for women, and if you look statistically at addressing violence in our culture, violence against women is a very big issue,” Gina says. “That is not to say that men are not an important part of the answer; we do have men that come to the program and that works out great as well, but we are primarily speaking to the women on campus. Students Fight Back! still has all of the same core information that is important to everyone, but also includes a piece on bystander behavior that is very important so that men can be part of the solution.”

More than self defense, more than kicking bad guy butt, more than just feeling more comfortable about the fear of bodily harm, GFB! is about something more. “It’s an idea,” Erin says. “It’s much bigger than just me, or even Shannon’s story, as important as it is. We hope we can convey the information and make it relatable, but the idea is that one should NEVER make decisions stemming from fear…we should all live the life that we have always wanted to, no regrets, no holding back, no reservations with nothing standing in our way. That is what Girls Fight Back! is all about and I knew that concept had legs and was something that we could scale.”

Image: Leah Bonnema, Speaker in Training

Erin realized that if she wanted to spread this message in a truly effective manner, she couldn’t do it alone, so she trained a team of speakers to go out and help her propagate this new way of thinking. Now with Gina and Kirkland Productions stepping in to take the program to the next level, the GFB! team hopes to expose many, many more students to the valuable and lifechanging lessons they are teaching.

“Gina has been able to continue to train even more speakers to keep up with demand, and they have done a phenomenal job. They are better speakers than I am at this point, and it just goes to show you that when there is an idea that people need and want to hear, almost anything is possible.”

Gina leaves us with a profound thought: “I wanted to share a quote, that has been really powerful to me, from the wonderful Gavin de Becker and his book, ‘The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence.’ I think this really cuts to the heart of things. ‘Most men fear getting laughed at or humiliated by romantic prospects, while most women fear rape and death.’ That is quite a different fear, and when you put into that perspective and start to compare those things, it speaks to exactly why a program like Girls Fight Back! can be such a powerful and empowering tool for a campus.”

For more information on bringing Girls Fight Back! Or Students Fight Back! To your campus, contact Gina at Kirkland Productions at 866-769-9037 or booking@ kirklandproductions.com.

Read the full story here online : http://bit.ly/girlsfightback

And check out http://www.campusactivitiesmagazine.com/

Girls Fight Back.. Welcome to MIAMI . . . University! – October 15, 2013

And boy did they welcome us . . . with open arms and the best kind of sisterhood power! The Panhellenic team threw down with us last night as part of their Women Empowerment week (yes, an entire week dedicated to all the glow and glory that is women . . . how freaking cool, huh?). The ladies of Miami of Ohio are the epitome of everything that is good about the Midwest: down to earth spirit, vivacious energy, . . . and some serious ass-kicking sass. The RedHawks were in the moment and killed the Badass ballet engaging and challenging each other and myself with questions, cheers and roars. Yes, there was roaring. A special thanks to Ellie and her team for making me feel so at home and hosting a hella sick event. Much love to the newest sistas of Girls Fight Back! — GFB Bree

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I Heart Huntingtown High School!

GFB Jaime and Dena, the awesome lady who brought GFB to Huntingtown High School.

Last week while I was on the east coast, I got to bring Girls Fight Back to the fabulous young ladies of Huntingtown High School. I was so excited when I peeked out from backstage and saw about 700 high school ladies ready for GFB.  This event was jam-packed with excitement.  The ladies were pretty much a perfect crowd . . . super energetic with just the right hint of sass.  I also had a scary bad guy who doubles as a drama teacher in real life.  I would like to drop a big thanks on Mr. Andersen for being the most believable SBG yet and an even bigger THANKS on Dena for all of her hard work to bring GFB to the high school.  We all truly appreciate it.  Finally, Push Pause TV on Fios covered the seminar and is putting together a story on Girls Fight Back at Huntingtown High School. All around, it was awesome!

To all of you wonderful ladies at Huntingtown, I had an amazing time sharing GFB’s message with you and talking with you after the seminar.  Thanks, everybody and stay dangerous!