Free Self-Defense Class April 8th

“But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”
-Mitch Albom

Free Self-Defense Class
April 8th
St. Michaels YMCA
10am-noon

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month and my sweet dad has asked to sponsor the self-defense class on April 8th in honor of my mom, Carol Layer, who lost a 9 year battle with oral cancer. I have no doubt that the fight I saw in my mom over the 9 years she fought cancer directly impacted the fight I had in me the night of the attack.

I saw my mom go through insurmountable obstacles due to oral cancer, but she continued to carry on and fight for more time with her family. I was so fortunate to have a mom like mine for 24 years and her influence continues to play a large role in my life today.

LeCarlo Beaty from Divas in Defense will be coming back to St. Michaels to teach life saving skills on April 8th. Thank you Tracy Cohee for again donating the space at the St. Michaels YMCA!

The class is free and all ages are welcome. We will be selling Rising Strength tanks at the class for $25 with 100% of the proceeds going to The Oral Cancer Foundation. My awesome and talented friend Beth Murray designed the logo. Thank you, B!!

Free Self Defense Class

Self Defense Class
St. Michaels YMCA
March 11th
10am-noon

LeCarlo Beaty from Divas in Defense will will be teaching a course on self-defense and situational awareness. These classes are about prevention, safety and building confidence. I started taking self-defense classes after surviving an attempted rape and murder in my home during a home invasion. Self defense gave me an outlet to channel my frustration and fears after the attack and lead to growth and healing. I hope to give as many women as possible the positive experience I had from self-defense classes.

We are able to provide this class for free due to the generosity of Benson and Mangold who is sponsoring this class and Tracey Cohee who donated the space at the YMCA.

Self-Defense in St. Michaels

1 in 6 women in America will survive an attempted or completed rape. 1 in 87 women in America will take a self-defense class.

Thank you to the women who braved the snow on Saturday to attend the self-defense class at the St. Michaels YMCA! It was a great morning with LeCarlo Beaty from Divas in Defense providing many life saving skills. We went over how to properly punch, kick and get out of holds. Thank you, LeCarlo, for your enthusiasm, professionalism and traveling over two-hours to get to the class!

We had women of all ages in attendance and received great feedback. Thank you,Tracy Cohee, for providing the space for the class and to your awesome staff for staying open in the snow storm! We will be providing another free self-defense class in the upcoming months.

Thanks, Eddie, for being the best “attacker” and photographer on Saturday 🙂

Free Self-Defense Class in St. Michaels

self-defense-2

On December 10th, I will be hosting a free self-defense class at the St. Michaels YMCA from 10am-noon. LeCarlo Beaty will be teaching a course designed for women to learn how to prepare to physically defend themselves from being assaulted. LeCarlo is a personal trainer and has been practing MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai Kickboxing for over 10 years. LeCarlo teaches self-defense classes to individuals privately and through the Divas in Defense programs.

In 2013, I was targeted by a paroled rapist who followed me back to my home while I was running. I was attacked in my home several hours later. I will be sharing the full story of my attack at the class and the role that self-defense played in helping me heal. This class is critical for women who run or take walks by themselves and high school students that will soon be heading out to college. If you are interested in attending the class please feel free to contact me directly at risingstrengthllc@gmail.com or through Facebook.

Rising Strength Farm Flow

Farm Flow

“Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise”

-Maya Angelou

This past fall, I reconnected with my high school soccer teammate Jamie Weymont after ten years of living in different states. Within moments of us spending time together it became clear that Jamie and I share a passion for connecting and empowering women. Before the day was over we had started to contemplate how we could combine our efforts.

On Saturday June 18, 2016 we held the first Rising Strength Women’s retreat, aptly called Rising Strength Farm Flow because of the beautiful farm that it was held on. I’ve been fortunate to have many incredible experiences but this past weekend will stay with me as one of the most powerful days I’ve ever had. The day was supposed to be focused around yoga, meditation and sharing the story behind Rising Strength but it became so much more when we opened the conversation in a group sharing circle. I cannot thank the women who attended enough for joining us and sharing your experiences. It was impossible to leave the day not feeling empowered by the strength and resilience of these women.

Thank you to all of the amazing women who shared their time and hearts with us on Saturday.  Thank you for making the Rising Strength Farm Flow such an unforgettable day.

Thank you to all of the amazing women who shared their time and hearts with us on Saturday. Thank you for making the Rising Strength Farm Flow such an unforgettable day.

Jamie, thank you for organizing a day that was called “magic” by more than one attendee. We are all blessed to know you and call you a friend! Thank you, Shelly for hosting us on your gorgeous farm.

Thank you, Kia for making it to this event!  So grateful for our friendship that has last long after our ETSU soccer days ended!

Thank you, Kia for making it to this event! So grateful for our friendship that has lasted long after our ETSU soccer days ended!

One of the coolest parts of the day was getting to spend time with women I went to high school with at John Carroll.  Thank you so much for coming it was beyond awesome to see you all!

One of the coolest parts of the day was getting to spend time with women I went to high school with at John Carroll. Thank you so much for coming it was beyond awesome to see you all!

1 in 6

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1 in 6. That is the statistic reported by RAINN for the amount of women in America who survive an attempted or completed rape. I never would have believed this statistic until I became it on September 21, 2013. Unfortunately, every time I speak at a school or organize a self-defense class I have women and men share with me their story of abuse and rape. I was so fortunate to be able to get away from my attacker before I was raped or killed, but so many others do not get away.

Please take the time to read a powerful letter from a victim of rape to her attacker…Letter to Rapist

When I read her story, I think of how close I was to enduring the horror of rape and then having to deal with being in a hospital getting photographed and prodded while answering questions from police and having to face my family and friends after knowing that life would never be the same. I’ll never forget the look on my dad’s face when investigators told us how lucky I was to be alive. I think of that moment often and it fuels my passion to prevent this from happening to anyone else. While my heart breaks for this victim and what she has endured, I am also so proud of her for detailing her experience and putting it out there for the world to see.

I believe that we live in a country that is better than a 1 in 6 statistic. I will keep sharing my story and working to keep women safe and help survivors heal until we are better than that. Thank you to all the amazing people who are supporting me on this mission.

Upcoming Rising Strength Event

Self-Defense Does Not Put Responsibility on The Victim

boxing

“I believe everyone should get some self defense and safety training from a qualified instructor AND most importantly never be complacent about your personal safety…. it can happen anywhere at anytime so better to be prepared than not!”
– Todd Williams

I recently spoke with Two-Time United States Olympic Distance Runner and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt Todd Williams, who is also the founder of RunSafer, about the importance of taking self-defense classes. Todd explained how self-defense classes improve situational awareness and build confidence. After the attack, I went from being independent and confident to feeling scared to be alone. It was only after I started to train at a MMA studio with a skilled trainer that I started to feel like myself again. The more that I trained the more I could feel my confidence returning and fear slipping away. I wanted other women to have this empowering experience.

Several months after the attack, I started to speak publicly about what happened to me and the role self-defense had in my life. I started organizing workshops and speaking to colleges and teams. An article was written about Rising Strength and picked up by the Associated Press. My trainer and I were ecstatic that our workshops were getting some press and that my story was being heard.

Shortly after the original article was published another article using my story was featured in the Nashville Scene, that countered our approach to keeping women safe through self-defense and argued teaching self-defense puts the responsibility of the rape on the victim if they can’t defend themselves. I am grateful for the continuation of the conversation and different viewpoint, however, I disagree wholeheartedly that self-defense in any way makes victims responsible if they are unable to defend themselves.

To me, self-defense is the equivalent of a seat belt. A seat belt makes no guarantee that you will survive every car accident, it just gives you a better chance. From my experience a chance is sometimes the difference between tragedy and triumph. In no way does self-defense make a victim of rape responsible for rape if they are unable to defend themselves. Additionally, self-defense provides an outlet for victims to gain their confidence back and feel empowered.
Self Defense 3
Last month, I had the opportunity to speak and participate in the Divas in Defense self-defense class held at Fitness Rx in Easton, MD. I shared my story and why I believe taking self-defense classes is so important. The turnout was fantastic and it was wonderful to see women of all ages participating in the class. Thank you to everyone who came out to the event, Fitness RX and LeCarlo! The next Divas in Defense workshop that I will be speaking at will be held on April 23 at Fitness RX at noon. Please message me for any additional information.

Self Defense 2

OCF Run for Jeremy Blevins

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
-Muhammad Ali

Shelley OCF 2

I first connected with Shelley Blevins in the fall of 2014 after we both participated in the Blue Ridge Relay. Two months after the race Shelley sent me a message letting me know that we had much more than running in common. Like me, Shelley is a graduate of East Tennessee State University. Unfortunately, Shelley and I also share the heartbreak of losing a loved one to oral cancer.

Shelley lost her husband, Jeremy, in August of 2013 after an eight month battle with oral cancer. Jeremy was 42, a non-smoker and ran every day. Shelley described Jeremy as “having perfect health” and in the 25 years that they were together he barely ever had a cold. Jeremy’s form of oral cancer was so aggressive that even major surgery and treatment at MD Anderson in Houston, TX could not save or prolong his life. Jeremy and Shelley have two young children who now don’t have their dad because of oral cancer. Oral cancer does not discriminate and often there are no known causes.

Shelley and I at the OCF Run for Jeremy Blevins

Shelley has been an active member of the Oral Cancer Foundation for the past two years. On February 6th, I had the opportunity to walk in the OCF Run for Jeremy Blevins in Fort Mill, SC. Shelley did an amazing job organizing the event and the turn out was great! Thank you, Shelley for all that you do to raise awareness and support the Oral Cancer Foundation.

Oral Cancer Foundation

Thank you, Jess and Beth, for waking up so early and driving 6 hours round trip to attend the event.  You two are the best!!

Thank you, Jess and Beth, for waking up so early and driving 6 hours round trip to attend the event. You two are the best!!

OralID

Photo by: Tony Weeg Hair and Makeup by: Patty Preston

Photo by: Tony Weeg
Hair and Makeup by: Patty Preston

Thank you OralID and the Oral Cancer Foundation for sharing my mom’s story. It’s an honor to be affiliated with both of these organizations and I cannot thank you enough for all that you do for patients, survivors and families affected by oral cancer. I hope that my mom’s story helps others learn how critical early detection and screenings are in saving lives and preserving the quality of those lives.