By Seth Littrell
Students seemed to be less than enthused as they waited outside Brock Auditorium on Thursday, Sept. 23 for the Students Fight Back presentation – an attendance requirement for most freshman orientation classes. Once inside, however, it only took guest speaker Megan Ellis mentioning “knee to the groin” to turn their impatient sighs to laughter.
“Do it!” was screamed out by an audience member and everyone cheered.
Ellis, a worker in violence prevention, assured the students in the beginning that she was not there to waste their time.
“This is going to be relatively simple,” she said. “I’m not here to give you a bunch of boring statistics.”
But before busting out some self-defense moves, Ellis gave a brief background on Students Fight Back. What began as “Girls Fight Back” was founded by Erin Weed in 2001 after the violent murder of her friend, Shannon McNamara. Over the years, other women joined the cause to teach violence prevention, some of which had similar stories.
Ellis is one of them.
“When I was a child, my neighbor was killed by her husband, which I believe had a major influence on me going into criminal justice,” she said. “It always stuck with me and once I learned about Students Fight Back, I wanted to get involved.”
Now Ellis travels around the country to different schools gearing her presentation around one question.
“What can you do to end campus violence?”
Ellis said a good sense of intuition is the leading preventer.
“It’s knowing something without knowing why,” she said.
She then added that everyone has intuition, but they tend to ignore it and reassure themselves that everything is fine. Ellis used a deer analogy to make her point.
“I’m a deer and I hear a strange noise,” she said while coming to a standstill and getting wide-eyed. “What am I going to do? Run away!”
College students face these situations usually when they are walking after dark. Eastern’s recent male “flasher” incident may come to mind.
When a suspicious person like this approaches a student, Ellis said to walk assertively, looking them in the eye long enough to silently say, “I see you,” and walk away. She had the audience stand up and practice what to do if the problem escalated from there. Students were told to assume a fighter’s stance- shoulders squared, palms out and feet shoulder-width apart. They followed her in saying, “Stop. Leave me alone. I don’t want any problems.”
The presentation livened up as Ellis filled up the remainder of her time acting out self-defense role-play. She called out a male and female volunteer to help her demonstrate several techniques, with the help of the audience screaming out body parts for her to attack.
“I think the speaker was very in-depth in her descriptions and showing every place on a body to strike an attacker,” said criminal justice major Sheldon Mays.
Fire and safety major Michael Williams, agreed.
“I enjoyed the acts on the stage,” he said. “It was great reminder of how to be aware and handle a dangerous situation.”
While Ellis’ presentation was light and amusing, she did leave an impact on students.
“The stage acts were hilarious,” said criminal justice major John-Taylor Hardin. “But seriously, I was influenced by what she said. I guess you just have to go with your gut.