“But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”
Free Self-Defense Class
St. Michaels YMCA
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!!
Self Defense Class
St. Michaels YMCA
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or through Facebook.
The Oral Cancer Foundation has encouraged members to take part of Giving Tuesday, on December 2nd. Giving Tuesday, is a campaign to add a new date to the national calendar with the hope of one powerful national day of giving, raising funds and awareness for important causes everywhere. I hope that many will participate and support the cause that they are passionate about.
My Giving Tuesday will go towards Carol’s Fight, the fundraising and awareness effort that my friends and family have helped me with in honor of my mom. Thank you to everyone who has worn Carol’s Fight shirts and supported this cause that means so much to me.
“Survivors are making use of their fear, not being ruled by it. Their fear often feels like and turns into anger, and that motivates them and makes them sharper”
– Laurence Gonzales
Above, is one of my favorite quotes from the book Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. I identified with the feelings of turning the fear of the attack into focus. Starting Rising Strength is my way to direct that focus and anger into something good. Ultimately, I feel extraordinarily lucky to not only have survived the attack, but to also be in a position to help other women. The combination of immense gratitude and anger over the violence that occurs against women is what fuels me to try to reach as many women as possible with the message of Rising Strength. Health, awareness, gratitude and resilience is the cornerstone of what Rising Strength is about. I am so fortunate to have amazing people in my life who have helped turn Rising Strength into a community of women who support, uplift and motivate each other. I am very excited to see what this upcoming year will hold for us as we plan more talks, races and self-defense workshops.
Last month, I had the wonderful opportunity to share the message of Rising Strength with the female athletes of Emory and Henry College. The student athletes that I met with are incredible girls who listened intently and asked me insightful questions throughout the talk. It was an honor to spend time with these young women. Thank you, Taylor Jefferson for organizing this talk and for caring so deeply about the safety of the athletes at Emory and Henry.
A few weeks after the attack I had the opportunity to run a trail race in North Carolina. While the race was memorable for many reasons, the best part by far was meeting Beth Murray and Jessica Brown. The friendships I have with Jess and Beth have enriched my life so much and I am eternally grateful to have met them. In addition to the friendship between the three of us, we have each introduced each other to other friends, creating an amazing network of women who continuously support each other. Many of these women were on the Blue Ridge Relay team and those who couldn’t run in the race were cheering us on the entire time. I am blessed to have this network and I am grateful for each of these amazing women.
I mentioned in a previous post how Jess and I spoke after the race where we met and connected on a deep level over our shared experiences. I was still very much in shock about the attack when I met Jess. It’s hard to articulate just how much talking to Jess that day helped me to begin to heal and to eventually see the importance of starting Rising Strength.
Above, is my favorite picture of Jess and encapsulates the joy that she brings to everyone she meets. It is an honor to have Jess for a friend and I am so glad she is on the Rising Strength team. These are her words…
So it has been a few weeks since our Rising Strength team of 11 amazing people ran 208 miles along the Blue Ridge Mountains. Some people called us crazy and some thought it was an amazing feat that we accomplished especially after hearing our reason for running. Our 11 member team came from all over and most of us had not met before the day of the race. Our connecting link was Rachel.
After Rachel’s attack last year she made it her mission to spread awareness on violence against women and she is starting by rallying friends and family to join her cause. A big part of her mission is teaching young women the importance of being healthy and active. So we decided to get a group together and run a crazy race just to help spread the word. When I first heard the idea I was completely on board! I am always up for a challenge and of course helping out a good cause.
I didn’t realize how much I would benefit personally from it and how much it would mean to me. I met Rachel a few weeks after her attack and we immediately bonded because we both were now a statistic. I am so proud of Rachel for not only dealing with her experience but sharing it with others. So many people put their experiences in a little box and refuse to talk about them – I was one of those people for so long and had tried to block so much from my mind. But things always have a way of sneaking back up. I love the name that Rachel is calling her movement – “Rising Strength.” We can’t hide from our experiences; we can’t ignore the statistics. We can share our stories; we can rise above and become stronger!
It’s hard to believe that it has been one year since the attack. Many of my close friends who I spoke with in the early morning hours the night of the attack recalled with me recently, the feelings of terror, shock and relief that we all felt.
It would have been easy to cope with the attack by considering myself lucky and trying to put it behind me. However, two other women weren’t as lucky as I was, and were raped by my attacker when he grabbed them as they walked on the sidewalk in Johnson City, TN. I can’t shake the memory of the look on my dad’s face as we listened to the investigator explain how the violence and confidence that my attacker showed that night indicated that I narrowly escaped rape and murder. I watched my dad listen to what is every father’s worst fear for their daughter. I am completely aware of how fortunate I am and this awareness is what has led to Rising Strength.
At the time of my attack I was coaching an under 14 girls soccer team. After the attack I had a hard time being around the girls and not imagining them in my situation one day. Knowing that these ambitious young girls will, much like me, play soccer in college, pursue graduate degrees and live alone one day haunted me. The thought of any of my players enduring what I had been through and not being as lucky as I was to get away from my attacker, was crushing. This thought was driven home even more so when several months after the attack I was speaking to a class about my experience at East Tennessee State University. A nurse from the local hospital, who did the rape kits on the two women my attacker raped, explained to me and the girls in the classroom that my attacker was HIV positive. I sat at the panel stunned and tried my best to not break down in front of the young women I had just spoken to. Again, my young players came to mind and it was heartbreaking. I knew in that moment that Rising Strength had a greater purpose.
In the short nine months that Rising Strength has existed there has been self-defense classes started, talks with teams and classrooms, fundraising events and a Rising Strength team that took on the Blue Ridge Relay all for the purpose of keeping women safe and bringing awareness to the violence that occurs against women. Thank you to all of the people who have and continue to support the goals of Rising Strength. Words cannot express how grateful I am to so many individuals who have helped me throughout this year. So much more needs to be done on many levels to end gender violence. As Rising Strength continues to grow and add members to what has turned into an amazing team effort, I am excited to see what this next year brings. I never would have believed a year ago all the amazing things that would come from something so terrible. Thank you to everyone who has made it the most rewarding and remarkable year of my life.
It is hard for me to describe how meaningful this past weekend was at the Blue Ridge Relay. Nearly, one year ago I was in the same mountains running the Asheville Half Marathon, a week after the attack occurred. At that point, I think I was still in shock about how closely my life was almost so violently taken from me. As I ran the half marathon course, I remember feeling immense gratitude to be alive and unharmed but also relief to be around so many other people. Fear of being attacked again and feeling scared to be alone took many months to fade. I had no idea that day at the race of all the amazing things that would soon come.
This weekend being back in those same beautiful mountains surrounded by people I love, I was still filled with gratitude but the fear of the attack was gone and replaced with feelings of triumph. Unlike the night of the attack when I was alone, this weekend I had my friends and dad by my side taking on the mission of Rising Strength. I can not thank my friends enough, who not only took on the Blue Ridge Relay challenge for Rising Strength, but who also spent their time and money throwing fundraisers, drove hours from home, took off from work and pushed through injuries to accomplish our team’s goal. Thank you, Beth Murray, Jessica Brown, Erik Goransson, Ashley Daugherty, Beth Koloup, Christi Comes Out Bird, Pam Morgan, Cristi Blalock, Holly Street, Laura Rosenberg for being such incredible friends and people, I am very blessed to have each of you in my life.
Thank you Blue Lizard Sunscreen, Team Kattouf, Broyle’s Florist, Mountain Yoga and Interstate Resources for sponsoring our team! Thank you ETSU Athletics for helping bring awareness to our efforts,
Thank you to all the sweet friends and family who contributed to our cause, came to our fundraisers and cheered us on. It is a very exciting time for Rising Strength as we work closer to becoming a non-profit and start formulating what races, events and volunteering that we will be apart of in the upcoming year.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Words cannot express how grateful I am for the support, love and encouragement I have received from so many amazing people in my life. I know without a doubt that if I did not have this network around me Rising Strength would never have started. The goal of Rising Strength is to create awareness of the violence that occurs against women and ignite change that will keep women safe. Thank you to the many people who have made such a difference in my life and continue to support the goals of Rising Strength. Simply put, I love you and your support means the world to me.
Last week there was a fundraiser hosted by Rising Strength Blue Ridge Relay team member Pam Morgan at the Depot Street Brewery in Jonesborough, TN. I met Pam in 2011, through a mutual friend who thought that Pam and I had a lot in common. During this time I was taking care of my mom as she was passing away from cancer. Pam and I immediately connected over sharing the loss of losing a mother to cancer along with our love of the outdoors and healthy living. Pam has provided infinite support and encouragement to me throughout the years that I have known her and I am so blessed to have her as a friend. Thank you to all those who came out to the fundraiser!
Enjoying Depot Street beer in honor of Rising Strength, cheers!
We are less than a month away from the Blue Ridge Relay! The girls on the team and I are so excited and want to thank everyone who has donated to our cause, come to our fundraising parties and encouraged us along the way. HUGE thank you to our sponsors Blue Lizard, Interstate Resources, Team Kattouf, Broyles Florist and Mountain Yoga!
Blue Ridge teammates Cristi & Ashley with family and friends at Depot Street!