“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!!
You have a remarkable gift that isn’t learned or taught. You have the innate power of instinct and intuition. You don’t need to think very hard. You don’t panic or obsess. You act.
After the attack, people would often ask me “how did you get away”. I would answer that I was blessed and very lucky that I was an athlete and that I reacted the way I did. While this answer generally would suffice, internally I struggled with the question and wanted to know more. I became very interested in the traits that define survivors and have read many books on the topic. At the forefront of almost every book that I read is trusting your intuition and instincts.
I didn’t have a bad feeling the night of the attack but several days before the attack my dad was visiting and was locked out of the my house. My dad called me to say that he climbed in my bathroom window. He kept asserting that if he could get in anyone could get in that way. My dad wanted me to call my landlord and ask him to fix the lock on the window. I assured my dad that I would and briefly thought about someone breaking into my house through the window but immediately dismissed this thought. After the attack my dad blamed himself, he felt that the attacker was probably watching my house and saw my dad climb in the window. There is no way to be sure if the attacker saw my dad get into my house that day, but I believe that the message from my dad was a sign of what was coming. I chose to ignore it. I didn’t trust my thought of someone coming into my house. I rationalized. I thought to myself, I sleep with that window open all the time. Nothing will happen.
I was blessed to have been able to get away from my attacker unharmed. I’ll never forget the relief that I felt when investigators told me and my dad that the man who is believed to have attacked me was caught. Knowing that the man who had broken into my home by removing the screen windows and putting them in my neighbor’s yard and who then used my patio furniture as a step ladder to get in through my bathroom window and then proceeded to crawl into my living room to attack me from behind, would never have the opportunity to prey on women again was incredible. That relief was soon met by the devastating news that my attacker is a HIV positive paroled rapist who went on to rape two women in the days after my attack.
My heart was broken for the women who were not as fortunate as me to get away. I thought about what could have happened if my attacker had raped me that night and I survived. The investigators told my dad the violence and confidence of my attacker indicated that I was lucky to make it out of my apartment alive. But what would have happened to me if I had survived but would have been exposed to HIV? What would have happened if the attacker would have had a gun or knife? These questions still stay with me daily and were a huge reason that I started Rising Strength. I tell my story as a way to raise awareness for violence that occurs against women and encourage women to put their health and safety as a top priority. I also tell my story to encourage women to trust your instincts. I recently received the message below from a young woman I went to college with.
“I just wanted to let you know what an inspiration you are! I read your story about the attack when you first started rising strength and it was very inspirational and compelling. I never thought I’d find myself in a similar position. Recently a man came to our home and knocked on our door and because I didn’t know him I didn’t answer. He left but a little while later I noticed he has parked a little ways off and was walking back towards our house. I was already nervous but when I realized he was coming back to our house I felt paralyzed with fear and I remembered your story and I knew I needed to get out of the house. Thankfully I was able to leave before he broke in the back door. I was able to ID him for the police and he was caught. Since then I’ve been terrified to be home alone… Even during the day (that’s when the break in happened). When I feel scared and immobilized by fear I remember you and how you’ve overcome. I know my experience was nothing like yours but your strength and resilience are an inspiration to me.”
I hate that my friend had this experience, but I am so proud of the way she handled this situation and the way she trusted her intuition. I’m glad that my story has had an impact and helped my friend find the strength to react but her intuition, faith and action was what I believe helped her get out of a bad situation. She did everything right. She did not answer the door when it was someone she didn’t know. She checked back to see where he was. She was able to get through the fear and react to get out of the home.
If you have an instinct…trust it and act.
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
― Lao Tzu
Photo by Tony Weeg
The word courage is derived from the Latin word for heart. This makes a lot of sense because to me you can’t have courage without a tremendous amount of heart. My mom exemplified heart and courage everyday during her nine-year battle with oral cancer. Even when my mom was suffering from unimaginable pain she still took the time to constantly think of others before herself. My mom loved to send uplifting cards and support causes. I’ve tried my best to carry on her thoughtfulness and love of people, along her passionate fight against oral cancer through Carol’s Fight. Seeing my mom’s courage and fight for life is one of the main reasons I believe that I was able to fight my attacker off the night of the attack and start Rising Strength.
Photo by Tony Weeg
Last month, I was missing my mom so much and just wanted to talk to her. While thinking about her love of people, her sense of humor and her knack for always knowing how to make me feel better, I looked up her birthday on World Vision. That’s where I found Courage, a five-year old from Ghana who shares my mom’s birthday and a name that could not have been more perfect. World Vision is an incredible organization that allows you to have an impact on a child’s life in areas of the world where children desperately need our help. I am so honored to be Courage’s World Vision sponsor and carry on my mom’s love of supporting others. To me, the best way to direct your pain from losing someone is to honor the person that they were. Somehow, when you do this the pain eases and the presence of your loved one is palpable.
We are less than two months away from the Blue Ridge Relay! I can’t wait to join my Blue Ridge Relay teammates and take on 208 miles to raise awareness for women’s health and safety! It takes a lot of heart and courage to run those mountain goat hard legs in the dark and I can’t thank everyone on the team enough! HUGE thank you to our sponsors Evco, Interstate Resources, Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union and OralId! If your interested in supporting the team please contact me.
“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!