The Girl Who Changed Everything
“Excuse me, Teacher, but what if more than one bad man is attacking you?”
The laughter in our outdoor self-defense class came to a complete stop. She looked down at her hands. All 200 girls became silent as they waited for me to answer this quiet girl’s question.
She was fidgeting with her yellow scarf when I asked her name. “Judisa,” she answered barely above a whisper. She looked up, and asked the question again. “How can we get away if there is more than one bad man?” The fear I saw her eyes and in the eyes of the crowd of little girls around her will haunt me forever.
Our translator came up behind me to explain that an eleven-year-old girl was recently attacked and raped by a group of men in the nearby forrest. She had been on her way to school. By the time her cries were heard, it was too late.
My heart broke as I looked around at this group of girls who were fearful and grieving over their friend together. You see, I don’t know anyone who can fight off more than one grown man at the same time. And the thought of one these precious girls wondering how to defend herself against multiple bad guys woke me up to the very real danger that girls face around the world - just to walk to school. As I studied their beautiful faces, I realized that in so many of their cases, it’s not a matter of IF they will be attacked - but WHEN. It’s the price so many around the world pay - just for being a girl.
I thought quickly about how to answer Judisa’s question, and dropped to the ground in the center of the circle to show them ways to fight off attackers. I showed them how the same skills we had learned standing up could also be used while on the ground. Then we reminded them that if one technique didn’t work, to try another. If a wrist-release wasn’t working, then try the foot stomp. If striking the attacker’s nose didn’t work, get him with your knee in the groin. Don’t give up.
Most importantly – do not walk alone, especially through the forrest. Two girls are better than one, three are better than two, and groups are even safer. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, LISTEN to your intuition and get away. Humans, and especially girls, are the only creatures on earth that don’t listen to their instincts. The girls understood that even the dreaded Black Mamba snake listens to its intuition and slithers away to safety when danger is near. That funny feeling we get in our belly, the pressure in our chest, the tingling on the back of our neck – those are all gifts of warning to us.
Listen to the warning, then run away. Always run away to safety.
As we closed the class, Kelsey and I talked more with Judisa and learned more about her story. She was a refugee. Her family had come to Kenya from South Sudan to escape the horrors of war and famine. Kenya was her Promised Land, and now she was still faced with the threat of danger every single day. She told us about her little brothers and sisters. She told us about how she loved coming to school, and that she hoped to be a doctor someday. She told us that even though the she had never been attacked, she knew many girls who had been the victims of violence. This young girl who had already seen far more death and destruction than anyone should ever have to see in a lifetime promised that she would help younger girls practice the skills they learned in our class.
As we left, Kelsey gave Judisa her very own personal safety device – a Stabby Kitty. To the rest of the world, it looks like a cat-shaped keychain, but in the hands of a girl who has learned to protect herself, it can be used as an extension of her training – to keep the bad guy away.
We will continue to be a voice for Judisa and for all of the girls and women we meet on our travels. Because of her, we approach teaching self-defense even more seriously than we did before. If we can teach enough girls, an army of sisters around the world who can defend themselves and each other - we will no longer have to fear the bad guys in the forest.
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