Rising Strength at Miles and Stockbridge

Yesterday, we had an awesome day at the law firm of Miles and Stockbridge! I shared the story behind Rising Strength and LeCarlo Beaty taught a self-defense course to the female lawyers who work there. We reviewed basic self-defense and situational awareness. Thank you, LeCarlo, for again teaching a great and fun course!

I can’t thank my dear friend, Beth Koloup, enough for helping organize this class. Beth is a lawyer at Miles and Stockbridge and has been a tremendous supporter and advocate of both Rising Strength and Carol’s Fight. Beth is the epitome of a great friend. I could not have gotten through the loss of my mom and overcome the attack without the support of amazing friends like Beth.

Thank you, Eddie, for always being so encouraging and supportive!

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

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 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 🙂

1 in 6


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


“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



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.

Ben Sherwood

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.

Rising Strength in North Carolina


This past weekend was a great one for me and several of the Rising Strength Blue Ridge Relay team members Jessica Brown, Beth Murray and Christi Comes Out Bird. Jessica and Beth hosted a fantastic pool party in honor of Rising Strength and raised almost $600 for our team! Huge thanks to Jess & Beth and everyone that came out to celebrate with us! Thank you Austin Brown, Ryan Murray and Sarah Deblaey for such a great weekend!

I met Jessica and Beth at a trail race in NC only two weeks after the attack. At that point, I was still feeling in shock about what had happened, but was happy to get away from the area where the attack occurred and to meet new people who enjoyed running as much as I do.

After the race that I met Jess and Beth, two weeks after the attack

After the Uwharrie Trail race where I met Jess and Beth.

After the race Jessica and I spent some time together and spoke about the attack. Jessica shared a close family member’s story of surviving an attack and attempted murder. I instantly felt very connected to Jessica and was stunned to hear that someone so close to her had endured such a horrific experience. Jessica oozes positivity and joy for life and you would never guess that Jessica was so closely tied to something so heartbreaking. Talking to Jessica about my experience that day really helped me start the healing process and understand that I was not alone in my experience of violence against women.


I am beyond grateful to have met Jessica and Beth that day and for the friendship that I have with them. In addition to being great runners, Jessica and Beth also love to bike, do yoga, paddleboard and windsurf. These athletic girls are also proud army wives and nurses! Jess and Beth introduced me to Christi Comes Out Bird this past spring at a hot yoga class in Southern Pines. After hearing about our Blue Ridge Relay team, Christi jumped on board right away and has been very supportive of our team’s efforts! Christi, thank you for coming out to the party this weekend and bringing your brother and sister in-law!

I am so excited for the Blue Ridge Relay and to introduce the rest of our team to these awesome ladies!

Blue Ridge Relay

Blue Ridge Relay

Over the past couple months ten ladies have joined me on my mission to raise awareness of the violence that occurs against women and bring self-defense to schools. We are teaming up to run the Blue Ridge Relay, a 208 mile relay race that will take us from southwest Virginia to downtown Asheville, North Carolina. I could not be more blessed to have each of these women in my life and cannot thank them enough for being a part of Rising Strength. I will be providing bios on all of the members of the team and our fundraising efforts throughout the summer as we prepare to run in the relay.

If you would like to donate, be a sponsor or be involved in any way please feel free to contact me and check out the link below. Thank you!

Rising Strength Blue Ridge Relay Team

Getting Started


March has been another great month for Rising Strength. I have been so fortunate to of had the opportunity to share my story with the women of East Tennessee State University. I first spoke to Officer Amanda Worley’s RAD class, along with several other advocates for women. Amanda then joined me a week later to speak with the ETSU Women’s Soccer Team. Being an alumni of the ETSU soccer team, the thought of any of these girls going through what I did, absolutely crushes me. Coaches Debs Brereton and Adam Sayers have been so supportive of me and my cause and keeping their girls safe is very close to our hearts. The feedback from the girls was amazing and they seemed to really get a lot out of the program, as well as have fun. I am honored to be associated with such awesome young women!

This month also marked the first self-defense workshop held at The Ludus Boxing Gym. The turnout for the workshop was great and Garrett O’Sullivan did a fantastic job! We will be having the second workshop on April 19th.


Additionally, Rising Strength has a new administrator and co-founder, Beth Koloup. Beth and I have been teammates and friends since we were 12 years old and share a passion for outreach, faith, fitness, friends and advocacy for women. Beth is an incredible athlete, who played soccer and lacrosse at the University of Notre Dame. Currently, Beth is working as an attorney in Baltimore and stays fit by playing soccer in local leagues and running races. I am blessed to have a friend like Beth and I am thrilled to once again be teammates as we turn Rising Strength into a non-profit.
Me and Beth


There are so many exciting things coming up for Rising Strength! I am so blessed to have amazing friends in my life that are helping make Rising Strength into so much more than a blog. I cannot wait to soon share several of the projects that we are working on, along with more information about the incredible women who are joining Rising Strength and making it happen!

Fighting Back

Fighting Back

Fighting Back

The past month has been an incredible one. The feedback, encouraging messages and amazing support of Rising Strength has been overwhelming and has only deepened my belief that there is a purpose in what happened to me.

Tony Casey, a friend and awesome runner, wrote a great piece for the Johnson City Press on the attack and the mission of Rising Strength. Thank you, Tony for helping get this important message get out there.

I had the opportunity to speak to a RAD class at East Tennessee State University. Officer Amanda Worley is the dedicated instructor of this class and it has been an honor to get to know her. I hope that every female student takes advantage of the RAD class, it could save your heart, mind and life one day. I will be going back next week to speak with the athletes at ETSU. I am so grateful for the constant support of the ETSU Women’s Soccer Team. The support of the current coaching staff, my teammates and the parents of my teammates have given me strength on days that were hard after the attack.

One of the best decision I made after the attack was to start taking boxing with Garrett O’Sullivan at Ludus Boxing in Johnson City, TN. After the attack, I was scared and had lost my confidence when I was alone. I went from feeling like an independent, young professional that was ready to take on anything to literally being afraid of being alone and sleeping with the lights off. I have known Garrett and his uncle Ray for many years so I felt comfortable going to Garrett and asking for help. The confidence I gained from taking sessions with Garrett was incredible. I also think learning how to throw a good punch helped me alleviate the frustration and anger that had started to build after the attack.

Self defense should not just be something you consider doing one day. Please don’t wait, like I did, to take boxing or self-defense after something terrible happens.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me on this journey. I am so excited to get the opportunity to help women and get the Rising Strength message out there.