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Girls Fight Back: Sassy Self-Defense at Roanoke by Emily Geno


On Thursday, a representative from Girls Fight Back, an organization dedicated to teaching young women self-defense, visited campus to give a self-defense presentation. Speaker Heather Maggs opened her talk giving a few statistics about assault, and explained the story of Shannon McNamara who was the inspiration for Girls Fight Back. Shannon was killed in 2001, and the way she bravely fought her attacker inspired her friend Erin Weed to start the organization to make sure girls in the future would know how to defend themselves.  

Heather explained that self-defense has three steps: trust your intuition, be a bad victim, and bring a can of “whoopass.” Intuition, she explained, is the first and surest warning against unsafe people and situations. Since 73% of rape victims know their attacker, relying on a “scary bad guy” stereotype doesn’t work.

Heather asked every woman to be on her guard when the “red flags” start going off in a situation that feels unsafe. Choosing awareness when walking alone in public places, mainly keeping your eyes up and posture confident, and looking strangers briefly in the eye, will unconsciously communicate to them that you are not someone who is an easy target.

Heather went on to emphasize the importance of the people you hang out with. She explained that if you hang out with people who don’t respect you, it is more likely that you could get hurt in social situations. If you spend time with people who will protect you from danger, then the odds of being physically or sexually assaulted drastically decrease. “Just look out for each other because you’re [both] human,” freshman Hannah Gardner responded.

In the second part of the presentation, Heather asked Kody Ruther to help her demonstrate a self-defense situation. He represented the scenario’s “scary bad guy,” and Heather walked the audience through a step-by-step process to disable an attacker. Even though it is important to learn self-defense, Heather argued that “the best fight is the fight that’s never fought.”

You can check out the organization’s website at girlsfightback.com, or follow their Twitter @girlsfightback.