On a campus rocked just months ago by the brutal murder of sophomore Samy MacQuilliam, students are more aware than ever that violence confronts thousands of college-age women every year.
Although many women have either been victims themselves or fear being attacked, few ever really talk about it.
Erin Weed has broken that silence at colleges around the nation as she describes how her best friend’s murder changed her life.
Weed spoke to University of Tampa students last month to create awareness of the violent threats lurking in everyday life and to arm them with defensive fighting techniques.
“I don’t know you, but I care about you,” she told her audience of female students.
Weed abandoned her lifelong dream of broadcasting to dedicate her life to educating college students everywhere against attack, rape and murder.
“Sometimes, your real mission finds you,” said Weed, who was a TV producer in New York when she heard the news that shattered her world: her best friend and sorority sister from the University of Illinois had been strangled to death in her own home.
Weed attended the two-week trail, and at one point time froze for her.
As the suspect and the victim’s father both walked to the courtroom, the defendant turned and winked at his victim’s grieving dad.
The conviction of her friend’s murderer gave Weed conviction of her own: the conviction and confidence to share the empowering message of self-defense–of fighting back.
She said the American way of protection is “sticking our head in the sand and hoping for the best,” but Weed says that can change.
Today, the woman who at age six was kicked out of ballet for being “too uncoordinated,” now holds the title of Cosmo Girl of the Year for her defense and survival tactics.
She is the author of Girls Fight Back and has spoken to over 100,000 college students a year.
She says that women can’t ever totally protect themselves from being a victim, but they can turn themselves into a bad victim.
By using mind and body, they can turn themselves into their own protectors.
Years ago at a two-week-long self-defense conference sponsored by the NYPD and the FBI, former military men teaching there took on Weed as a special project, giving her intense training as a fighter.
From using high heels as weapons to advising on the best pepper spray on the market, Weed not only informed the crowd at Wednesdays “How to Be a Bad Victim” seminar, she made them participate.
Using a male volunteer as an example of an attacker, she turned Reeves Theatre into a defense class.
Students practiced common fighting techniques and were taught how to use everyday objects as volatile weapons.
They were taught to try to deescalate situations when confronted by threatening people by saying, “Stop. Leave me alone. I don’t want any problems.”
This helps to establish boundaries and let criminals know that they’re dealing with a bad victim-one who’s prepared to “open a can of whoop-ass.”
Weed says her formula is a simple math equation: Figure out where he is vulnerable and where you are strong, and then add force.
She urges young women to follow up with self-defense courses, many of which are on her website, myspace.com/girlsfightback.