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INSPIRING INTERVIEW WITH DALLAS JESSUP

JASMEEN DUGAL  (click here to know more about this blogger)

Are you a student living away from home? Do you feel unsafe as a single woman? Well, what are you doing to protect yourself? I was one of those living in a bubble of denial that I would never be faced with crime.. until I saw supermodel Anjhula Singh Bais view of  Just Yell Fire among celebrities' endorsements. I became aware of harsh realities and the videos inspired and empowered me. She introduced me to 22-year-old Dallas who founded the non-profit organization combating violence against women in 2006 (she was 14 then!). The message is that we should know our rights and how to defend ourselves against sexual assault and violence. It's about fighting back. An exclusive interview with Dallas Jessup.

What is 'Just Yell Fire'? 
'Just Yell Fire' is a revolution of girls and young women. We live in a world where 1 in 3 are victims of dating or relationship abuse and 1 in 4 are sexual assault victims. 'Just Yell Fire' gives girls the knowledge and skills to say 'Not Me!' Nearly three million girls have watched our instructional videos online: 'Just Yell Fire' (for girls aged 11 to 19) and 'Just Yell Fire: Campus Life'. They are free to watch online at www.justyellfire.org We also spread the word in school and college seminars and train teachers and coaches so they can share the 'Just Yell Fire' stay safe message with their girls year after year. I'm so glad girls and young women across 66 countries have connected with 'Just Yell Fire' to learn to keep themselves safe.

What inspired you to start the 'Just Yell Fire' movement?
Two abductions and murders of teen girls in my hometown.. a spate of attempted abductions.. and the chilling security video footage showing a young girl in Florida being taken and soon found dead all at about the same time had an immense effect on me. Specifically as I was a black belt martial artist and I knew that a girl can get away from an attacker of any size (run.. not stay and fight) if they know just a couple of simple things. So that was the social crisis I decided to take on. 

What makes you an expert in your field? 
As far as my expertise for the 'Just Yell Fire' nonprofit empowering girls to fight back I have earned a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and am a second degree instructor in Filipino Street Fighting. I am also about to test for my third degree in Krav Maga. For Volunteerism I have logged 4500 hours with 'Just Yell Fire'. I have worked across Canada and villages of rural India. I was also been inducted into the Frederick Douglas Hall of Fame for Caring Americans in Washington DC and was named CNN Hero... and I am 22 years old! So I know how to do this. I have seen the different examples of community service and I believe teens can relate to my work because of my age.

Your non-profit is known as a "Million Girl Revolution." How did you spread the word about your mission?
This all happened with a great team and good communication and technology combined with the power of a simple idea to enable our worldwide revolution of girls to say 'no' to assault and violence. The simple idea is that neither their parents nor the police can be everywhere so girls are on their own. We discovered that if we empower girls to know their rights (to report violence against them.. to have friends outside of a relationship.. to refuse anything that threatens them in any way) and give them a hour's worth of street fighting training (strategic eye gouging and whip-slapping) any girl can get the few seconds she needs to get away from an attacker. We spread the word through two films that spotlight dangers girls face and suggests stay-safe strategies and demonstrate street fighting techniques that give them the time they need to get away. Every girl should see these films and that's why the program is being taught at schools and colleges around the world.  Schools invite us to put on programs and I travel 10,000 miles a month to help. For example I put on programs at 12 colleges in southern India because there's a problem with abduction for the sex trafficking industry there. 

You must have had fascinating experiences producing these films. What has been the most rewarding part?
The most rewarding is those one on one moments where you know the program made a difference in one girl's life. Several times after school presentations girls have come up and told me they're getting abused at home but have never spoken up. I walk with them to their counselors and get them started on the road to empowerment and restoration. I heard from an AIDS orphans shelter in Africa that there's an urban legend that if you rape a virgin it cures HIV! These kids are at extra risk because of no parents. That shelter is teaching every kid 'Just Yell Fire' getaway moves. Whenever I speak about 'Just Yell Fire' girls from all backgrounds come and stand in line for up to an hour to tell me about an idea they have to start a service project of their own. These are just a few of the great moments I get. We've had as many as 800 emails in a day.. many with stories of girls avoiding date rape and ducking an abduction or standing up for themselves and no longer being victims. Every story is a reward for me.

What would girls be surprised to learn about self-defense?
We've learned that girls think they need a black belt to be effective at self-defense. They are universally shocked that they can learn enough in one hour to get out of almost any situation with just a few street fighting tools. An attacker of any size can be disabled for a few seconds with an eye gouge or a groin slap or a strategic bite. These techniques give girls the chance to get away and run and that's our advice: don't stay and fight. Get yourself out of danger and escape as fast as you can.  

I think girls feel intimidated to take self-defence or martial arts classes. What advice do you have for them? 
Martial arts take years to master. However staying safe is more important and any girl can learn the street fighting skills she needs to escape an attacker within an hour. I've done presentations to over 100,000 girls and once they realize you can momentarily disable a 300-pound guy by gouging his eye they know they can do that. When they learn that by slapping an attacker's ear in just the right way you can momentarily ruin his equilibrium, they start believing THEY CAN DO THIS. With an open mind they then enjoy learning that a groin slap is equal to five punches.. that a bite will make anyone instantly let you go.. and that simply yelling 'FIRE' gets attention more than 'Help'. Martial arts are great for sport but street fighting skills and permission to use them are empowering. My adsvice is "Don't stay and fight: you'll lose even if you've had martial arts training. The whole idea is to disable an attacker for just 3-4 seconds so you can run."

What brought about the follow-up 'Just Yell Fire: Campus Life?'
This idea came up when I was a freshman at Vanderbilt University. Girls heading off to college -- typically living away from home for the first time -- are prepared for the academics but clueless when it comes to the social side of the experience. They expect an idolized 'Gossip Girl' environment but the reality is that 1 in 4 will be victims of physical violence. When more than 1.6 million girls downloaded the first 'Just Yell Fire' film and many reported getting away from violent or abusive situations because of what they learned we knew that an online film made by girls for girls could have a bigger social impact. Also I have found from speaking at schools and colleges that girls listen to someone their own age while they ignore warnings from parents or teachers. The opportunity to help millions of girls on how to avoid dangers with quick-learn techniques was too compelling. So 'Just Yell Fire: Campus Life' was launched for free download at www.justyellfire.org and we're rolling it out at universities as well.

Can you please explain the drink coaster that tests for date rape drugs that 'Just Yell Fire' offers?
Sure! The coaster is a wonderful tool. My friends and I just fold them up and keep them in our purse. Each coaster has two strips with A and B dots. If you have a doubt that you are feeling drunk even though you aren't drinking alcohol or haven't had enough to be that intoxicated just dip you finger in your drink and wipe the liquid across A and B. Each coaster will test two drinks. If the dots turn blue you have been drugged. These coasters test for the two most popular date rape drugs: Ketamine and GHB. 

You authored 'Young Revolutionaries Who Rock'. Tell us about inspiring change makers you met along the way.
Yes I wrote 'Young Revolutionaries Who Rock' to spotlight incredible kids that took on impossible social crises and made a big difference. A 13-year-old leukemia survivor learned that the bone marrow registry for minorities was terribly inadequate and he started a campaign to change that and like 'Just Yell Fire' it went viral and he increased that registry by 30 percent nationwide before he was 15. Another teen who was bullied by his friends and teachers at school because he was different took on the school system and won a big judgment and used that money to establish effective tolerance programs in schools across Canada. One guy who has become a friend raised  money and literally built a school with sports facility and provides books for kids in Tamil Nadu. He started this project when he was just 12 years old!! I visited this school and it is so impressive. Kids are taking on local causes in their communities and national causes and even International ones: whatever makes them angry. The message of the book is that one kid can (and should) make a difference and the take away from the book is a blueprint for how to do it illustrated by teens who have done just that.

How can our readers get involved with 'Just Yell Fire'? 
Watch one or both films.. know your rights and how to avoid danger.. and stand up for yourselves. Then it's just a matter of spreading the word. Everyone has a cousin or neighbor.. sister or acquaintance who will be safer if they watch the films. We also have lots of girls in high school who take 'Just Yell Fire' as a project and show the film to their schoolmates or get their school to adopt the program as an empowerment program. Girls in college are sharing the film with their dorm mates and others are working with colleges to make 'Just Yell Fire' a part of orientation for freshmen. It's a cool service project (and a great resume item) and you can impact the world. Anyone can get in touch with us at information@justyellfire.com. Of course as a nonprofit we can use financial help and you can donate on our site using PayPal or a cheque. No one here gets a salary and money goes to pay expenses in making this available to girls at no cost!

There's more information at www.dallasjessup.com and www.justyellfire.org
 

Just Yell Fire
Just Yell Fire!
 
Anjhula Singh Bais
Supermodel Anjhula Singh Bais films for
 
13-JULY-2014
 
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