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Girls Fight Back teaches self-defense to PHA members

The presentation was part of Girls Fight Back’s national tour.

Sept. 12, 2013

The Panhellenic Association brought in speaker Bree Swartz from Girls Fight Back to give a presentation to help empower sorority women Wednesday night in Jesse Auditorium.

Girls Fight Back is on a tour around America called “The B.Y.O.B. (Be Your Own Badass) Tour.” Its goal is to spread the message of self-defense and empowerment to countless women across the nation, according to the Girls Fight Back website.

Inside the auditorium, pop music was playing and “Be Your Own Badass” projected on a screen onstage.

After being introduced and receiving an uproar of applause, Swartz paused on stage and thanked the women for welcoming her.

“Thank you all so much!” she said. “This must be what Britney Spears felt like on her comeback tour!”

Swartz played a short video about the start of Girls Fight Back.

On June 12, 2001, Shannon McNamara, a student at Eastern Illinois University, was brutally murdered in her apartment. She was strangled and beaten to death by a 26-year-old male college student. He was found and convicted of the crime because McNamara fought him and left evidence of his presence behind.

These events inspired founder Erin Weed, a friend of McNamara, to create Girls Fight Back. Since then, Girls Fight Back has taught self-defense to more than one million women worldwide, and has appeared on such programs as The Today Show and CBS News and in publications such as The Washington Post and Glamour.

Jory Mick, PHA vice president of public relations, said the event is a success if it makes the women feel safer walking around campus at nighttime.

“We hope that our members can learn how to be safe and learn some skills to keep them safe,” she said.

Swartz’s presentation consisted of three main segments, two parts instructive and one part demonstrative.

“We don’t want you guys to say, ‘I knew it,’ after the fact,” Swartz said in her presentation. “We want you to say, ‘I know it, and I’m going to do something about it now.’”

Then it was time for the crowd to “open a can of whoop-ass,” Swartz said.

Swartz went through a number of self-defense demonstrations with the help of two male volunteers from the Interfraternity Council. She pointed out the multiple weak points on a man’s body using stickers on the two volunteers and used them as dummies when teaching defense sequences. Some of the sequences included the Badass Ballet, the Toddler Tantrum and the Booty Strike — a move using hip thrusting and your butt to quickly make an assailant from behind fall to the ground.

Swartz also demonstrated how to use typical items a woman would have with her, such as keys, a hairbrush and pumps, as weapons for self-defense. When one of her volunteers began inspecting the table of items, Swartz jokingly threatened him.

“Are you checking out my tools?” she asked. “Because I’m gonna beat you with that in a second.”

The presentation ended with Swartz asking the crowd if they felt dangerous, to which they responded with a unanimous and enthusiastic cheer.

Freshman Maddy Litschgi said she felt more confident after the event.

“I feel way more ready to defend myself,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’d still be really scared, but I feel more prepared.”

Sophomore Olivia Meyer, another participant, said she found the presentation helpful.

“Not only was she hilarious, but she really made the presentation relatable,” she said.

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