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

Don’t mess with Texas Christian University!

This group of gals were super fun and had a hella supportive community behind them: the crowd was of all ages, including young daughters of a coach on campus. The whole TCU bunch deserves some serious high fives for engaging the youth, students and faculty to impress the Girls Fight Back message across the board. Well done friends. And thank you for letting us be a part of your fierce community!

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-GFB Bree

Georgia Southern University #nailsit!

When it comes to spring break safety awareness programming, Georgia Southern University #nailsit! (Yes, I just used a hashtag in a blog post. Roll with it.) Their greek organizations are focused on educating about the importance of designated drivers; they have FREE campus-wide HIV testing today; and last night, campus health services brought our Fight Back on Spring Break program to about 350 of their students. We had a blast!

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You may not know much about our Spring Break program because we only roll it out once a year, but it is a fantastic co-ed event that includes all the awesome info from our Students Fight Back program, but also focuses on travel safety tips, as well as, how to make smart decisions about just how much fun you are planning to have on your spring break. It’s one of my favorite programs to teach because I get to tell some great (and some horrifying) stories from my junior year spring break trip…… Ah, memories….

It’s never too early to start planning for next year, so give us a call if you want to bring Fight Back on Spring Break to your campus! And if you want to have an amazing turnout like GSU had last night, here’s a tip: connect with greek life on your campus. Our program was brought in my health services, but through their connections with greek life, we had a turn out that required us to order extra chairs….TWICE! Nice, huh?

Thanks to all the students who came out last night! You were so much fun! Bird.

-GFB Heather

Bad Ass Ballet at Anna Maria College!

I had an absolutely amazing time doing the Bad Ass Ballet with the wonderful women of Anna Maria College! Thanks so much to Lisa Saverese for being such a terrific hostess, Theresa “Smalls” for the great intro and good laughs and to our awesome volunteer Franco for not only being my fight partner but also for helping with the song mix. 🙂

Wishing everyone at Anna Maria a safe and happy spring break. And best of luck to everyone with all the incredible summer internships I heard about! What a bunch of super women!

And thank you all ever so kindly for my awesome AMC shirt!

-GFB LeahAnna Maria 2

FALL IN LOVE WITH..

 

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The day of love. Hallmark or not, even as badass women, the holiday evokes some kind of feeling from all of us. Whether you cry when your father leaves you a voicemail in an attempt to make you feel better because he got sad at the thought that you don’t have anyone on Valentine’s Day (yes, I’m still waiting for this phone call again this year.. thank you Dad for your thoughtful effort) or you wake up early, giddy because you can’t wait to surprise your lover with the gift you’ve schemed up. Regardless, this day doesn’t go ignored.

However, today my feisty friends, I started viewing St. Valentine’s special day quite differently. I have decided that I am choosing to love myself the way I love someone I’m in-love with.

That’s right. I’m going to fall in love with myself. Now before you get all judgy on me, this isn’t a conceited, take “selfies” of myself all day kind of love (puke). Allow me to explain.

Not too long ago I was in a wonderful yoga class when I had a moment of “holy crap, I get it.” Very zen, I know. But there were several things that lead up to this “ah’ha!” light bulb. First, the energy in this specific class (Yoga to the People) is so giving and inspiring. Basically, badass soul brotha and sistas unite.

Second, prior to my epiphany, we were in a strenuous pose for the third time (chair-pose for you yogis out there). And as everyone’s thighs are burning and it is showing on our faces, the instructor says something to the affect of “now take this energy you’re feeling to stay grounded and send it to someone who needs it today. Maybe it’s someone special in your life, maybe it’s the person you flipped the bird to who cut you off this morning or maybe it’s yourself.” Immediately dismissing her suggestions, I knew I wanted to send it to my momma, because, well, I think she deserves the world. But I didn’t even THINK of myself (and I hadn’t flipped the bird.. yet).

Now several minutes later, I’m laying on my mat as we are in a the few final poses of class, which are very relaxed. And I suddenly start… crying. Yep, I’m that cool person crying next to you in yoga. You’re welcome. But it just hit me all at once: What if I could love myself the way I love others? Now I know, I’ve heard it before, “love yourself.” But what would it be like to truly be in love myself? Treat myself with compassion, kindness and understanding. Give myself a break the way I do others. Instead of beating myself up because, well I seem to find a million different reasons, what if I truly adored myself the way I’ve adored men I’ve been in love with? Believe in myself and encourage myself the way I do for the loved ones in my life. Wow. That could be pretty wonderful, huh?

Still resistant to the idea? Think of it in relation to the instruction you get while waiting to take off for a flight. The flight attendants are describing that in the very rare event there is a loss in cabin pressure (aka the plane is crashing) they instruct you to first put on your oxygen mask and then assist those around you. That’s right, even before your children. Because if you pass out trying to help others, including your children, you’re pretty much useless.

So if we take care of ourselves first, love ourselves fully as if we are in love with ourselves, imagine all the good we can do for others. Imagine how much more love we can give to others if we are full. It’s limitless!

Thankfully, I’m surrounded by a beautiful group of people right now and one in particular is leading me on a journey of healing. Literally the day after my yoga class, we talked about self-love (there are no coincidences). So this concept, although I’m working on it, is something I am truly accepting.

And I challenge all of you strong, independent women to embark on this journey (because it is a process that takes work) and give yourself permission to genuinely fall in love with yourself. Just try it out. See how it feels. Stop yourself mid-beat-myself-up-session, and treat yourself the way you would a dear friend, a lover or a family member. Go look in the mirror and say “I love you!”

Love your beautiful, strong, badass self and know you are taking a step towards being a happier you. Which the world not only wants, it needs.

Happy Valentine’s Day from us to YOU.

With love,

GFB Bree

 

Book Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings Book Cover

Book Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

 

1865 – The 13th Amendment is ratified abolishing slavery

1870 – The 15th Amendment prohibits the denial of the vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude

. . . . . .

1920 – The 19th Amendment prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on sex

 

The Grimke Sisters (1792 – 1873 – Sarah & 1805 -1878 – Angelina) lived to see slavery abolished but not long enough to see women get the right to vote over 50 years later.  They are two of the earliest outspoken American feminists and two of the best known female abolitionists.  Both women were born in Charleston, South Carolina to a plantation owning and slave owning family.  Going against their family’s way of life and also against all standards for women of their time, they became leading abolitionists and later feminists by speaking in public, publishing pamphlets, and assisting with the education of many of the children of the abolition and feminist movements.  Their combination of these two passions was controversial in their adopted faith of Quakerism as many feared it would split the abolition movement into two groups—those who also felt that women and slaves deserved equality and those who were passionate about ending slavery, but still held fast to male superiority.  And, so it did.  At a time when women had no legal rights and were relegated to the roles of wives and mothers only, these two sisters dared to speak in public on political issues to both women and men.  Their published works include, “Letters on the Equality of the Sexes,” “Appeal to the Christian Women of the South,” and “An Appeal to the Women of the Nominally Free States.”

 

The strength and conviction that it takes to stand up for what one feels is right despite the views of those around you is awe inspiring, especially at a time in history when women had very few role models to look to when forging an unconventional path.  In Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Invention of Wings,” the story of the Grimke Sisters is beautifully told in the form of a novel.  Though some aspects of the narrative were created to fill in the gaps, many of the characters, facts, and historical events are true with quotes from the writings of both women included.  If your background in feminism doesn’t stretch much past the 1970’s, exploring the original works of the Grimke Sisters and the ground they gained for all of their sisters is a must.

 

Sue Monk Kidd’s novel is a story of courage that brings to life the ugly history of slavery in our country through the eyes of Sarah Grimke and a slave owned by her family, Hetty “Handful” Grimke.  The alternating narratives of the two main characters speaks volumes about civil rights and brings to mind the words of Emma Lazarus, author of “The New Colossus,”, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”  This applies to the dual struggle of Hetty, who was bound by the terrible shackles of slavery, and Sarah who was blessed to be free, yet still not truly free due to the limitations placed upon her sex; and it applies today to remind us to continue the fight to end oppression in whatever form it appears.

 

“The Invention of Wings” gets a GFB Thumbs Up.  — GFB Gina

 

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Whatever is morally right for a man to do, it is morally right for a woman to do. I recognize no rights but human rights—I know nothing of men’s rights and women’s rights; for in Christ Jesus, there is neither male nor female.”

― Angelina Grimke

 

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“Here now, the very being of a woman, like that of a slave, is absorbed in her master.  All contracts made with her, like those made with slaves by their owners, are a mere nullity.  Our kind defenders have legislated away almost all of our legal rights, and in the true spirit of such injustice and oppression, have kept us in ignorance of those very laws by which we are governed.”

― Sarah Grimke

 

To read the book: https://www.amazon.com/Invention-Wings-Sue-Monk-Kidd/dp/1472212746/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1390612592

It’s a New Year, GFB Friends! What Will You Do to Live Your Best Life in 2014?

Holla, 2014!!!!!!!!!!!

Sassy Self-Defense Guide -- UPDATED for 2014!

Have you set any New Year’s Resolutions?  We really hope part of your 2014 goals will be to continue your self-defense education, or if you haven’t taken a class yet, to sign up.  We are here to help!  This summer several of the GFB girls will be joining Bill Kipp and Debra Thomas of FAST Defense for a great weekend training in Colorado.  More info here.

Wherever you live, we have a class for you.  Download our Sassy Self-Defense Guide for an updated list of IMPACT and FAST courses nationwide.  So many of us wait until we experience a tragedy to take that first step.  Be proactive and remember that an education in self-defense isn’t just about fighting.  It’s so much more than that.  Knowing and being empowered to protect yourself can change everything about the way you view your world, the choices you make, the relationships you enter into, everything . . .  Ladies, you ARE your own badass.  You ARE your own best protector.  You don’t have to live in fear another day.  So, download the guide and join us in Colorado next summer or join any of these wonderful instructors listed in our guide and take that first step toward living your best life.  It’s a lot more important than losing five pounds and a heck of a lot more fun!  You ARE Worth Fighting For!

Best Wishes For an Awesome 2014 from the GFB Team!2013 academy GFB

Girls Fight Back with The Winston-Salem Jaycees

The Winston-Salem Jaycees are an awesome organization that I have been a part of for almost a year now.  They focus on providing social and community service opportunities for young people in my hometown.  When they expressed interest in offering a self-defense class for members, I jumped at the chance to volunteer my time!  We had a small, but mighty turnout of powerful women warriors.

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My favorite thing about doing community programs is seeing the diverse types of people who attend.  For this program, I particularly loved seeing a mom in the audience with her two college-aged daughters.  I say the family who fights violence together, stays together!

As much as I love travelling with GFB, there is something incredibly powerful about these local programs and knowing that I’m doing my part to make my little corner of the world a bit safer.  As we close the door on 2013 and look to 2014, I hope I can do more to bring the Girls Fight Back message to my friends, family, and neighbors!

GFB Heather

Graduation Time!!! – GFB Leah Has Been Promoted from Speaker in Training to Junior Speaker

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The GFB Team wishes to extend congratulations and a warm welcome to the Speaking Team to Leah.  The process of becoming a GFB speaker is an intense one that includes graduation from our Summer Academy, FAST Defense training and graduation, quite a bit of reading and studying, a series of conference calls and consults, two complimentary practice gigs that are taped and reviewed by the rest of the team, and unanimous approval from the current team.  We really want to be sure that the women who are chosen to represent us and the GFB message are the best of the best and we couldn’t have made a better choice with Leah.

Leah is based in NYC.  She majored in Cultural Studies at McGill University and wrote her Honor’s Thesis in Film and Women’s Studies.  When she isn’t representing GFB, you can see her on the stage as a comedian.  Huffington Post named her one of their Favorite Female Comedians and College Candy listed in her as one of the Top Ten Female Comics. She is also a regular on VH1′s 100 Greatest Series and has toured for the troops in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.  She already has some events booked for Spring 2014, so coming soon to a campus near you . . . . meet Leah!

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GFB – Girl in Progress Leah

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GFB Girl Today – Leah –  Junior Speaker

 

The GFB Store is Back Up and Running

That’s right, GFB friends . . . our store is back open.  From personal safety products to books and branded merchandise, these products are here to make you safer while supporting the GFB message.

It’s time to SHOP GIRLS FIGHT BACK – https://shop.girlsfightback.com/

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Pepper Spray, Inert Pepper Spray (for practice), books, DVD’s, kubatons, door and window alarms and more . . .

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Be Your Own Badass with our Badass Team Shirts

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I’m Worth Fighting For V-Neck Tees

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26 ounce Stainless Steel Water Bottles Available in 2 Sayings “Unleash Your Inner Badass!” and “I’m Worth Fighting For!”

 

GFB Morgan, Speaker in Training, Speaks to the Ladies of the Laraway School

The 6th-8th grade ladies at the Laraway School in Joliet, IL are so dangerous! It was an honor to do my first Girls Fight Back! presentation for these fierce students who rocked the Terminator Tango (thanks GFB Leah!). I would like to thank Kristen Rojas for organizing this wonderful GFB event for the female students and their parents – we had a fantastic turnout! Also, a special thanks to our “Scary Bad Guy”, Brian Johnson, who was relieved when I assured him that a full suit of amour was not going to be necessary at any point during our presentation. This talk was a special opportunity for our organization to connect with a younger audience, which only emphasized how universal the GFB message is for all of us, regardless of age, because we are all worth fighting for!  – GFB Morgan

team-morganWay to go, Morgan!!!  We are so proud of you! – GFB Team

Just this past Tuesday, I did a Girls Fight Back program at Clemson University in South Carolina.  It was a Panhellenic program attended by hundreds of sorority women.  As a Tri-Sigma, I adore speaking to Greek audiences.  Yes, there is a lot of baggage that comes with going Greek and there are tons of stereotypes, but when you really think about it, sorority women have made the incredible choice to build up other women.  In our society, which thrives on tearing others down, these women come together to grow and learn as sisters.  Now is it perfect?  Of course not. There are always going to be certain schools or chapters who perpetuate the stereotypes and give all Greek organizations a bad rap, but the majority of sorority women I know and those I meet on the road with GFB, are a part of the system because they want to become better people and they want to help their sisters become the best they can be.  The women I spoke to and laughed with at Clemson truly exemplified what it means to be a sisterhood.  The room pulsed with girl power and I felt an instant bond with each of you.  Thanks for making my final program of the semester a truly memorable one!

GFB HeatherClemson 11.19.13

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

https://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: https://bit.ly/stalkingstory

UConn.. we applaud you.

Last night GFB Speaker, Bree and Speaker in Training, Leah dropped in at University of Connecticut – Storrs on the Be Your Own Badass Tour to bring Students Fight Back to the Huskies.  This event was hosted by the wonderful UConn Student Union Board. These badasses owned the night with energy, love, laughter, and some serious ass kicking . . . it was incredible.

Having gained quite a bit of national attention recently after some very controversial comments about sexual assault on campus, I would love to shine light on a very important fact: The UConn Student Union Board, lead by Kyle and Samantha, had invited Students Fight Back to campus months prior to these events and the media attention. These Huskies were leading the school long before the media attention to create a positive change in their student culture and to let their voice be heard that violence is unacceptable. The Board and students in attendance last night were not reacting to all the recent violence and media attention . . . they were taking the proactive, courageous steps to make personal safety a priority.  And THAT is the kind of action that deserves resounding cheer, applause, and media attention.

Thank you UConn Huskies . . . you are truly fighting back!  And for that, we applaud you.

Much love from the Students Fight Back and Girls Fight Back team.

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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 : https://bit.ly/girlsfightback

And check out https://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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Hoosiers Holla Back!

Last night I threw down with the Indiana University Hoo-Hoo-Hoo Hoosiers! As seen above, Girls Fight Back welcomed several ladies and gents to master the Badass Ballet, as well as some improvised weapons and basic ground fighting. The energy was just awesome!

A special thanks to IU’s Union Board for hosting a stellar event and taking a stand to fight back against recent assaults on campus. Born and raised in Indiana, I was especially proud to see such leadership and empowered young blood in my home state. Way to hold your own Hoosiers!

I Threw Away My ‘Runt’

Last weekend I moved into a new apartment. It was just my tiny mom and I carrying desks, tables and recliners up and down three flights of stairs, driving a U-haul truck, lugging around a queen mattress, ruining walls with my power drill and even laying carpet. Let’s be honest, I was feeling pretty badass.

But it was when I was unpacking things, making my ‘ya’ and ‘na’ piles of clothes and junk, that I truly felt strong. I smiled when I saw The Runt stun gun my aunt had bought me a couple years back as I moved to Nashville solo. I had forgotten about it, as I failed to keep it handy. Heck I didn’t even know if it really worked. So, with a sense of pride, I tossed my Runt, into the ‘na’ pile.

I had a similar “hell yeah” moment after completing my GFB training in Colorado. Prompted by the discovery that carrying mace on a plane is considered a felony (even though I made it through a couple airports concealed in my purse.. thank you, TSA) I tossed my mace into the trash.

You might be thinking “What an idiot. Who would throw out a perfectly good self-defense weapon? Especially since GFB teaches incorporating improvised weapons into your protection.” (Yes, I’m sure that was your quote-for-quote thought). Well, allow me to explain why tossing out my mace and stun gun was the best decision for me.

1.)    I am an idiot (don’t tell my future husband that) and would probably make the $5,000 mistake of carrying the mace on the plane again.

2.)    After my extensive GFB  training  with Bill Kipp and the FASTDefense team as well as IMPACT – Chicago, I knew I had the ability to lay a solid palm strike if

need be.

3.)    After struggling to work my fine motor skills in several of these adrenalized scenarios, I know the likelihood of removing mace from the bottom of my purse, turning off the safety, and effectively shooting a stream into an attacker’s eye carried the same success rate of the blind dates I have been on: not so hot.

4.)    Let’s say an attacker is hyped up on some kind of drug. Spraying mase in their eyes would be

like splashing some water at them… refreshing the attacker is not the goal.

5.)    What about those moments when I’m probably not going to have my weapon on me? Like on a plane or in the little girls room? It isn’t always going to be handy, thus unreliable.

Yet, above all, the main reason I chose to toss out my protection goods was because I know my mind and body are much stronger than some spray in a bottle. In the heat of the moment, I trust my own hands, my intuition, my power, my body, my mind, my core and my “mama bear” over a man-made product. I am my own best protector. Not the Runt or mace.

This is obviously a personal choice and not best for everyone. In fact, you might feel your inner ninja is most lethal once you get a bottle of pepper spray in your hand. If any self protection weapon that you have experience using gives you the confidence and security you need to fight back, then by God, carry that buddy everywhere you can.

But personally, I can only count on me when it comes to my safety. No one else.  No other thing. Which is pretty empowering and quite plainly, feels damn good. So sighanora Mr. Runt.. this minimalist is sticking to what I know and trust best: me and my guns (pun intended).

Gun Tattoo On Muscle from www.tattoostime.com

This One’s for the Boys

Sitting in my improv class at the Chicago iO Theater, one of my peers found himself in a scene about manicures. Seeing as how he honestly didn’t know what cuticles were, I figured this was going to get good. He made a comment about how fun it would be to get a facial shave from a barber shop, old-school style. “I figured real men shave with a straight razor.” I laughed.

First, I know no one who gets this kind of treatment; all of my man friends continue to cut themselves with a protected Bic razor, let alone an open blade. Second, because I love the term “real men.”

Typically, “real men” are imagined as dudes ripping meat off of a huge turkey leg with their teeth,  speaking in a deep, sultry voice, built like The Rock, break boards for fun, sport a chest full of hair (button it up, Chi-town),  chop wood daily and yes, shave with a pocket knife.

Thankfully, we outgrew the cavemen era and this is a bunch of crap. Although any intelligent human being knows this, it became crystal clear to me a couple weekends ago as I furthered my GFB training with self defense guru Bill Kipp and his FAST DEFENSE team, the leaders in adrenal stress scenario based training.

The roll-call included Veterans, Air Force, police force, SWAT team members, ninjas (literally), black belts of all kinds of martial arts, and arguably THE best in self-defense. Yet upon exiting the toughest training I’d ever been through, “The Gauntlet” (that’s a whole other blog), each time I was greeted by these friendly giants with a huge embrace, as was every other woman at the training. Not to mention, the men who were taking my knee to the face multiple times would approach me after with compliments and encouragement.

Not once but twice did a few of these men bring me to tears with in-depth conversations of personal stories, faith and family. I was in awe of these gentle giants. Almost all heroes of some kind of war or an expert in martial arts, yet the kindest of hearts you can imagine.

At the end of the weekend during our reflection time, one of the other women who volunteers for GFB and is an active feminist shared that these tough guys are the ones who define a “real man.” My eyes began to swell because her words rang so true. These men, along side brave women, are our country’s protectors whether through education, across seas or in our backyard. Even though they may be big, burly and carry a mean punch, this is not what makes them real men.

No, it is when the walls are down that we see the true hero.  All of these wonderful men, and the men and women who raised them, from self-defense educators, to veterans, to school teachers, to policemen, to dads,  brothers, grandpas, best friends, to mentors, to heroes, to the social workers, to the volunteers, and GFB supporters, this one’s for you:

 “The bravest are the most tender; the loving are the daring.” – Bayard Taylor, poet.

Thank you to all the real men for leading this country and supporting women not with your pocket-knife-shave or macho puffed out chest, but with your heart.

Announcing the B.Y.O.B. Tour

Recently a sexual assault on the campus of University of Montana has shined a light on the reality of rape on campus…that in many cases, the person committing the crime is someone you know. Someone popular. Someone who’s NOT wearing creepy aviator glasses and jumping out of the bushes…but instead, sitting next to you in Statistics class.

Here’s another college reality: If you are assaulted, there’s a good chance alcohol will play a role.

Now I know what you’re thinking. What are you saying Weed?!? “No boys? No booze? Whaaat?”

Don’t freak out…this is not to say you can’t trust guys. You can – just trust your intuition more. And please have a good time…it’s college, after all! Just know the facts and how to protect yourself.

Here at GFB, we’re all about getting real. Being real. Talking real. Not with fancy stats or scary lingo…but just telling it how it is. And teaching you how to handle it. No fuss, no drama.

So while the realities of violence in college often involve men we know (and sometimes love), and the frothy fun drink – it’s time to have a frank conversation. Enter, the name of our upcoming tour for school year 2012-13:

THE B.Y.O.B. TOUR
(be your own badass) 

The tour logo? A pink solo cup. Naturally. (Check out the superfly tour poster here.)

This Fall our GFB speaker team will be hitting the road speaking at cities across the United States. Wanna get on the tour? Then you need to know Caryn Begeschke, our Tour Director. She’ll hook you up. Tell her Weed sent you. Just call her at (303) 872-8030 ext. 103 or e-mail Caryn here.

As you may know, I won’t be doing much speaking/traveling because I’m basking in the glow of new motherhood. I welcomed my baby girl, Phoebe, to the world on June 21st. This “mom of 2 kids” thing has got me baffled, I gotta tell you. How do these women take showers? I swear, you should be glad you’re not seeing me much on this tour. I usually have dried baby vomit in my hair. (wish that was a joke – but it’s the TRUTH)

BUT…my GFB girls Bree, Heather and Megan might be coming to a city near you. And they all ROCK like Spock. So you’re covered.

OK, let’s do this. Raise your pink solo cup to GFB and say CHEERS to living the badass life we were all intended.

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. What do you think of the BYOB theme? Is the frank conversation about boys, booze and violence long overdue?

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