A Michigan State student organization provides self-defense seminars for young girls in at-risk neighborhoods in southeast Michigan.
“A lot of the girls we’ve worked with in the past have talked to us after our seminar about how they’ve witnessed their own moms getting beat by their boyfriends or husbands,” human biology senior and President Allie Stone said. “We just don’t want them to fall into that cycle.”
Stone took over the project in 2018 and hopes to expand their seminars to MSU's campus before she graduates.
“These skills are important,” sustainable parks, recreation, and tourism junior and communications chair of the organization Emma Kull said. “It would be ideal to learn them at a younger age, but say you made it to college and you’re not super aware of how to defend yourself in certain situations, that’s really important.”
The seminars are aimed to stop the cycle of domestic violence before it starts, at an age Kull believes young girls start to underestimate themselves.
“Starting from that age and showing them they are powerful and that they can learn these skills and be more powerful than these girls think they ever could be is really important,” Kull said. “If you don’t do the sort of things that are going to empower them young, then it’ll trickle into college-age and from there on …”
Ultimately, The Stand Tall Project was created to give young girls power so they can speak up against domestic violence, sexual assault and bullying, Stone said.
“I think it’s important for them to speak up and tell their story because that is very powerful, especially for people who feel that they can’t speak up,” Stone said. “By making an environment that allows people to talk about their issues and their experiences, I hope that can help reduce the prevalence of domestic violence and sexual assault as well.”
Though the organizers know that The Stand Tall Project won’t end domestic violence and sexual assault, the goal is to give young girls the power to fight back.
“It never ends really in our society,” Kull said. “I don’t think its something we should just accept … If this is going on, what are we going to do to make sure that we’re keeping girls safe? If this is going to happen, we’re going to try to advocate for things to be changed, but knowing that nothing is going to change overnight, how do we keep our girls safe?”