All posts in October 2012

Cornell University: Brains and Brawns

On Tuesday night this week I had the honor to throw down with some stellar students at Cornell University for the BYOB12 Tour. Given their Ivy League status, I think genius smart (or “Andy” from The Office) typically comes to mind when you think of Cornell.

However, I got to see these smarty pants kick some ass. And to hear them tell it, it’s about time.

Given several recent assaults at Cornell, leaders in the Greek community are working to empower and educate students. But these Cornellians want to do more than just talk the talk, as both men and women were ready to put the books aside for a serious lesson in Bad-Ass Ballet.

By the end of night, I was humbled to see several students, especially the gals, walking out with comments of feeling safer, stronger and more empowerd.

So I have to thank you, Cornell students, for inviting Students Fight Back to take part in your campus awareness. But more importantly, thank you for having the guts to address these serious campus issues that are often easily swept under the rug at such prestigious schools. Those of you taking the stand to be your own best protectors are the true brainiacs on campus. With brawns, of course.

How to Protect Kids (dedicated to Jessica Ridgeway)

Last week I was working at my desk when one of those horrific-sounding emergency alerts came on the radio about the weather – or so I thought. Instantly my heart sank, as I noticed the skies outside were dark and maybe this was a tornado warning.

But this warning was different. The announcer stated the Amber Alert for missing girl Jessica Ridgeway was officially over. She was found murdered, and the search was now a mission for justice.

My heart sank further.

Then I went and picked up my kids, hugging them tighter than usual. Kissing them more than they appreciated. Doing this not just for me, but for all the parents out there who can’t anymore because someone murdered their child.

All of us at Girls Fight Back send the friends and family of Jessica Ridgeway our love, support and our deepest sympathy. We stand with you in solidarity of intolerance, and hope someday you can find peace.

When I was a guest on NBC’s John Walsh Show a few years back, John said it so eloquently:

“Parents shouldn’t bury their children.”

I’ve had a unique perspective knowing parents who have lost children to homicide over the past decade, starting with the beautiful McNamara family – the loved ones of my friend Shannon who was murdered in 2001. GFB started because of 9 little words Cindy said to me at Shannon’s funeral:

“I am just so afraid she will be forgotten.”

My outward response was a tight hug for Cindy, leaving a tear on her shoulder. My internal response was I will make sure that never happens.

Over the years I have watched the McNamaras, John Walsh, and so many others go through the stages of losing a child in a violent way. They are some of the most inspiring people I know. Our deepest hurt often inspires our greatest courage.

So how do we move forward after losing children like Jessica, and others?

The violence expert in me advises you to educate your kids and educate yourself. The self-defense instructor in me suggests you sign your kids up for a class like FAST Cats (created by GFB’s self-defense trainer Bill Kipp) or Kid Power. If you just want to dip your toe into this subject with your child, start with a Safe Side Superchick DVD. It’s awesome and totally un-scary. The researcher in me asks you to recognize that most violence and abductions involving children is committed by someone they know. The threat assessment manager in me recommends reading Gavin de Becker’s book Protecting the Gift. Costing less than $10 on Amazon, it’s one of the best investments you can make in your child’s safety.

And the mother in me advises you to go back into your child’s room after she is asleep tonight for one more kiss on the forehead.


Tweet, Tweet… University of Iowa Kicks Some Tail-Feathers

Last night I spoke at my first Big Ten school on the Girls Fight Back “BYOB: Be Your Own Badass” 2012 Tour. Yes, I threw down with about 200 Greek gals at the University of Iowa.

And boy did they bring it: The energy was flowin’ and the palm strikes were throwin’. By time we learned the Badass Ballet and the gals added their own verbal grunts (it rocked), I’m pretty sure everyone in there was on a bit of an adrenaline rush.

But I think my favorite part of the night was reviewing the feedback and Twitter buzz, as we always ask the women at every event to join us online to create some commotion via Facebook and Twitter @girlsfightback #byob12. And boy did they ruffle some feathers.

I was overwhelmed with gratitude as I read the  kick-ass feedback. The BEST part of my job is when a young lady reveals that after learning what GFB is all about, she feels a little stronger, a little more self-assured and a lot more badass. Seeing things like  “I’m worth fighting for” and “I can actually do this stuff!” and my personal favorite, “God help the idiot who tries to attack me” are completely humbling. I knew these women were fierce the minute I met them, they just needed a little nudge to unleash their Mama Bear. And let me tell you, it is one of the greatest gifts in the world to help empower these amazing women.

So thank you Hawkeyes for bringing your own badass and throwing down with me last night. Thank you for all of the love. But most of all, thank you for giving me the gift to watch you walk out of that room a little bit taller last night, ready to kick any idiot’s ass that tries to attack you.

Thank You, Chi Psi Fraternity

Since I started Girls Fight Back over a decade ago, we have been blessed with many supporters. Many of them are survivors of horrific crimes who know all too well what’s at stake. Some of them have lost loved ones to violence. And often times, they are men who simply want to be part of the solution.

That’s right. MEN.

Amazing, supportive, glorious, forward-thinking men. And sometimes, these supporters are FRATERNITY MEN.

<record player screeches>

Wait, WHAT? Frat boys? Aren’t they all just a bunch of drunken date rapists?

Oh friends, let’s talk about this. Indeed, crime happens at college. Some men victimize women. But most do not. In my experience as an undergraduate student, member of Alpha Phi and someone who has worked with fraternal men since launching GFB in 2001 – I can testify that in most cases, these dudes are our greatest allies.

Chi Psi Fraternity is the lead sponsor for the GFB Tour, and I am just so proud to say that. After my first conversation with the Executive Director Sam Bessey he said to me, “Frankly, I can’t think of a reason NOT to get behind this tour.”

And my heart went pitter-patter. Mr. Bessey is one class act. But I wanted to know more about WHY they wanted to team up with us, and his team put some thought into it, and came up with these reasons below. (Warning: You will want to date, marry and pro-create with a Chi Psi man after you read this.)

  • Chi Psi needs to support GFB because we’re about self-respect, regardless of who has it. Nothing’s cooler than a smart, independent woman who can take care of herself – and ward off creeps with a life-threatening credit card or car key to the throat! In fact, who knew that a Gold Card could get you a formal dress AND draw blood?
  • Safety? Not a women’s issue – it’s a bullying issue (and that’s not OK for anyone).  Part of our values are to serve the needs of the broader community – and GFB offers education in a way that Chi Psi can’t.
  • Chi Psi is a Fraternity of gentlemen – so while we expect that we’d never be on the receiving end of GFB’s badass techniques – we do want everyone to feel empowered and confident. Our Brothers can’t be everywhere, so we’re sponsoring GFB because we want everyone safe.
  • Chi Psi supports GFB because confident women don’t scare us. Confident women SHOULD scare the jerks who use fear to try to push them around. Fight back, ladies (and if we haven’t taken the GFB training, we’ll stand behind you…literally!)

Thank you Sam. Thank you men of Chi Psi. Thanks for caring about our plight. Thanks for being hilarious, awesome and non-threatened by women who know how to regulate. Thanks for having the guts to be so public with your intolerance. And thanks for having our back.  (We got yours too.)

CLICK HERE to “like” Chi Psi on Facebook, or to leave them a little love note on their wall.

We Are Not Man-Haters

“You want what you can’t have.” We’ve all heard it, and probably lived it more times than we’d like to admit. But, I think this is exactly what went down when I visited New Mexico Tech on the Girls Fight Back BYOB 2012 Tour.

Allow me to explain: The same day GFB was making a stop at New Mexico Tech, there was a meeting on campus about self-protection and awareness. My friends who hosted GFB (and threw a stellar event) invited only the ladies to the BYOB Tour later that night.

Fast forward to that evening, I’m waiting outside the auditorium pointing people in the right direction to learn the “Badass Ballet,” my favorite self defense moves. In the process, I kid you not, I’ve never seen so many dudes ask and complain about not being invited to the GFB throw-down! It was hilarious.

Although I got a kick at how these guys legit wanted to come see what they were missing out on soley because they hadn’t been invited, I assured them they were more than welcome. ‘We are not a bunch of man-haters.’ It’s only together that we will win this cause. So come one, come all.

I was very impressed that a couple of the gentlemen took me up on my offer and supported their fellow lady friends as they learned to seriously kick some booty. So thank you to all the ladies (and men) of New Mexico Tech for having GFB and for joining forces to make your campus a kick ass and safe place.. even if we had to lure you there by make the grass greener on the other side:)

Desperate Housewives Learn Self-Defense

OK, so I have been FORCING myself to watch the entire series of Desperate Housewives.  I can’t honestly tell you why other than to say that I am very goal driven and by God when I start something, I finish it.  I have suffered through murders, miscarriages, plane crashes, suicide attempts – all the gold standard events for a soap opera.  And last night I caught an episode where the ladies decide to take a self-defense class.

Ok, first can we agree that this may possibly be the worst format for a self-defense class ever?  The instructor makes like 30 seconds of intro and then tells the students to choke each other from behind while he just walks around watching.  Huh?

But the real thing that caught my attention on this episode was a quote from Susan “may be the worst mother/most annoying TV character ever” Mayer-Delfino’s daughter Julie.  In this episode, she is dealing with the emotions brought on by a recent attack in which a masked stranger attempted to strangle her.  As the women of Wisteria Lane determine that they are going to take a self-defense class, Julie says something along the lines of “I was taking out the trash when someone came out of no where and choked me from behind.  If someone wants to get you, they are going to get you.  No matter what you do.”

I had to think about this a lot because in a way, she is right. There are some situations where fighting back isn’t possible.  And we may never know exactly what percentage of attacks can be thwarted by self-protection and what percentage can’t.

But here’s the thing: Couldn’t we use that rationale for anything?  What about all the thousands of people who get CPR and first aid training each day?  Couldn’t we just say “well, if someone is going to die, they are going to die so why bother”?  Couldn’t we say that for ANY medical intervention?  Of course not.  Because we KNOW that those things save people’s lives.  We see and hear about it everyday.  We don’t hear about success stories in self-protection nearly as often, but they are out there.  At Girls Fight Back, we strive to share and celebrate those successes every time we hear about them.  If you see a story in the media or have a personal story you’d like to share, we’d love for you to e-mail us or share in the comments below.

In reality, I may never use the countless hours of training I’ve gone through.  If I’m lucky, I’ll never have to really physically defend myself.  But going through self-defense training is so much more for me than just knowing how to kick someone’s butt if needed.  It’s about carrying myself with confidence.  It’s about sleeping easier at night.  It’s about being my own badass so that I never have to rely on someone else to take care of me.  And it’s about never giving up hope because if something terrible were to happen to me, I would do everything in my power and might to protect myself and the people I love.

I close with my Personal Safety Tip of the Day: don’t live on Wisteria Lane.  That neighborhood has a disproportionately high amount of violent crime.  Like whoa.

Let’s Hear it for the Boys!

I had such a great time yesterday at the University of South Carolina – Lancaster campus.  I presented a lunchtime Students Fight Back program and I have to say, it was the BEST lunchtime crowd I’ve ever had!

At each school we meet awesome women and men who are all working to make their campuses safer.  My SBG at USC, Cory, was just the nicest guy you ever did meet!

Doesn’t he just look so friendly?!?  So often in violence prevention, we are forced to focus on the statistical reality that men are more likely to perpetrate violent crimes than women are, but when I meet guys like Cory it reminds me that there are good guys everywhere!

Feel free to give a shout out to the good guys in your life in the comments below!

Baylor University.. I love you.

Traveling across the country for GFB, I get to meet a lot of fun, new people. But sometimes I get to make those much-needed pit stops at schools where, well it’s kind of like that favorite hang-out spot… everyone know’s your name. This is how I would describe my second stop of the BYOB 2012 Tour at Baylor University.

After having us in their house for several consecutive years, Baylor University knows all about GFB. And boy, do they make you feel welcome. With personalized T-shirts (photos to come), Dr. Pepper Floats and shouting out The Badass Ballet they’ve memorized.. all I’ve got to say is, Baylor University… I love you.

It Actually is A Wonderful World…

Happy Monday friends! At Girls Fight Back, our main goal is to educate and empower women to lead bad ass lives. We never want to scare you or convince you the world is a terrible place. And honestly, I feel the media does a pretty good job of highlighting all the bad out there. And what fun is that running around pretending every person is a serial killer or every sidewalk is a gauntlet!? (I mean, that could be kind of fun to take on a gauntlet on your way to work?)


But sometimes I think it is good to have a little reminder that this place we call Earth is actually quite awesome. There truly are so many great people out there doing amazing good deeds. So if you are needing a little pick-me-up today, here is an article that has been circulating the social media sites that will “Restore Your Faith in Humanity.”

Do something GREAT for another person today. Let these photos be your inspiration. Whether it be holding the door for another person, calling your grandma to say hello or smiling to a friendly stranger, share the love. And remember that it actually is a wonderful world!