An interview you'll never forget. Bre has touched and is touching many lives with her story. I feel absolutely honored to call her my friend, and for the opportunity to include her in #themomstrongproject. It was a good reminder for me that everyone has a fight we know nothing about. Let's be kind. Let's be authentic. We're on this journey together.
Tell me about your story.
On September 23, [2015,] my sister Kayli and I were at home. We had lived in our new house for six days. It was a cute duplex in Salt Lake with a backyard and many amenities we didn’t have in our old apartment. I was in such a happy time of my life. I had just started my business, it was finally taking off, I was proud of the cute house we found to live in, and I was finally feeling some hope. Kayli took the basement room, and I decided to take the upstairs room with more natural light.
So, September 23rd came. I was sitting on my bed late at night finishing up a couple emails and I heard the word, “Hey” outside my window. I thought, That’s weird. We have a six-foot fence all the way around my house, and my window is seven feet off the ground. I didn’t think it was anything and so I kept working. I started hearing some clicking near the ground by my window but there was a lot of wind that night, so again, I didn’t think much of it. My sister came home early from Park City and was with her boyfriend and so I shut my door and opened my window for the first time. It had been painted over so many times and only opened about an inch with the build-up of old paint. I set an alarm on my phone to remind me to close my window.
After Kayli’s boyfriend left, she said goodnight and after brushing my teeth I went back into my room and shut my light off. My alarm went off, and I pushed snooze, and I remember getting a text message from a friend at 12:01. I went to look at the message and as soon as I put my phone down I heard the same voice, but louder, say, “Hey, girl. I’m coming in.” When I looked to my right, probably six feet away from me, there he was: an African American man, bald and scary, coming through my bedroom window. He wasn’t wearing a shirt and so I could see he was very toned and muscular and was covered in tattoos. I knew I didn’t know him, but I jumped off my bed and ran to the window hoping I could push him out. As I approached him, that’s when we met face to face. And that’s when the fight began.
He started punching me and I froze. It was like those bad dreams where you can’t talk, you can’t move, and you’re totally frozen. I put my hands up to my face and kept saying, “Please no, please no,” but he kept attacking me. I was trying to make noises but at the same time I was trying to stay quiet because I didn’t want to wake up my little sister and have her get hurt. My plan was to get him out to the living room where we had a big glass window and I was just praying someone would see us. We were in my room and he shoved me up against my door. I said, “What do you want!?” to which he replied, “What do you have?” I told him about my computer, my phone, and pointed to my keys. “Take whatever you want. Just get out.” He put his hand over my mouth and began punching me in the stomach and he said, “Shut up and cooperate with me, or I’m going to get your little sister.” Immediately I knew that he had been watching us, or this was someone who knew more about us. He knew about my sister. It just felt like a scary dream.
Next thing I knew, we were in the kitchen and I was still trying to be quiet to not wake up Kayli. Once Kayli is asleep, she’s out, but I was kind of scared of that too. There was a moment in the kitchen when I remembered I had put a knife in a drawer. I thought maybe I could grab that knife and stab him to get him off of me but then another thought came: No, he’s so much stronger than you. He’ll grab it from you and stab you instead. So I didn’t. All of the sudden, I heard a voice I had never heard before. It sounded like a monster. It was my little sister running up the stairs, making sounds I had never heard before and swinging her arms ready to fight. She came up physically fighting, and right then I remembered Mary Katherine Smart; a memory of her saying, “scream and fight,” popped into my head. Right then I realized I needed to be like Kayli and fight back. I also remember thinking, we can’t go to a second location. And then a sense of peace thinking, It’s okay, he doesn’t know we have a basement because it’s hidden behind our fridge, and our kitchen is really dark.
At this point I was on the ground and Kayli was on his back scratching at his eyes. He picked me up as if I were just a ragdoll, and threw me right in front of the stairs. Right then I thought, He knows this place. He knows about the stairs. I widened my stance and grabbed onto his khaki cargo shorts and started punching him right where you’re supposed to hit a boy. I was hitting him, and elbowing him where I knew I needed to, and nothing was happening. I was hitting him so hard I knew he had to be on drugs. And that’s when I knew it was going to be a long night and that he was going to have much more energy than me or my sister.
Somehow Kayli got behind me on the top stair and he got so angry at her that he lifted his left leg and kicked her down the stairs. It was a hard kick. I remember thinking, What a gross man. Who would kick a girl like that? At that point I knew it wasn’t a burglary, it wasn’t a man who just wanted money for drugs… we had already offered everything to him and begged him to take everything we had… this was someone who was intentionally there to hurt us.
Our home had 17 steep stairs, and Kayli didn’t hit one the whole way down. The only thing that stopped her was her head going through the wall. Just a couple days before the attack, we had gone to IKEA to look for things to hang on our walls, and we realized that all the walls had brick behind them. I remember a few nights before, when Kayli was sleeping, I tested out all the walls to see which ones we’d be able to hang something on. The only wall in that entire house that didn’t have brick behind it, was the wall Kayli’s head went through. It’s about three feet wide with a beam in the middle of it. Her head was one inch away from the beam. There’s no way we would have survived without the power of a Higher Being and without angels around us that night. The doctors and everyone who ended up looking at the way her body hit that wall say she should’ve snapped her neck, at least had a concussion, and she should’ve been paralyzed or killed. Instead, she jumped up after she hit and was running up the stairs when my attacker pushed me down. Because I was holding onto his shorts so tightly, we tumbled down the stairs together, hit Kayli’s legs as she was coming back up, and all of us hit the landing on the stairs. It was pitch black. That’s when it got really scary.
I knew I had to call 911 because there was no stopping him. He was a monster. I luckily had a strap on the back of my phone that I had wrapped around my wrist this whole time. I remember saying, “Siri, call 911.” Siri would say, “I’m sorry, “Bray” I don’t understand.” Okay first of all, my name’s “Bre”. Second of all, Siri should always know to call 911. When she didn’t, I felt so nervous again. That whole night was scary, but there were moments throughout that night that there was fear I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain. That was one of the moments. I couldn’t call 911, I couldn’t call someone for help. I was trying to unlock my phone, but couldn’t because of the way we were fighting. I tried two more times and same result. I finally said, “Siri, call Dad,” and it went through. And then I was thinking, What am I doing? He’s 45 minutes away. He can’t help even if he wanted to. So at that point, luckily my phone was unlocked and I decided to call 911 again instead. I watched until I knew they had picked up, and saw the timer was counting. My body was halfway on the stair, halfway on the landing, and I reached out to put my phone on the highest stair I could reach, turning the speaker towards me. Everything was so fast, but yet so slow, and I felt like we were in slow motion. I said, “850 South Roberta Street. 850 South Roberta Street,” for one minute and 30 seconds. That call wasn’t dispatched. My sister was able to call three other times, and you can hear in her phone calls desperately pleading and screaming, “Help us please! Help us, he’s going to kill us. Help us please!” Not one of those three phone calls were dispatched either.
So we were fighting and calling 911 and our attacker had us both in headlocks. He looked at both of us and said, “Damn, I didn’t think you were going to be this strong.” So again, I knew he had been watching us. It made me so sick. I didn’t know if he was in our home at one point, but I knew he had to have watched us. Kayli was still making these phone calls and saying, “Siri, call 911.” At one point, he stopped and said, “Who’s Siri?” I thought, perfect timing. I can tell him about Siri to stall some time. I’m sure the police are going to be here any second. But Kayli felt differently. She yelled, “Siri! Who’s Siri!? I don’t care who Siri is- who are you!?” and continued fighting him. So they started screaming at each other and all of the sudden it was just him talking. Kayli had been screaming all night and now I couldn’t hear her. It was so dark and I couldn’t see her. I heard our attacker firmly say, “No.” At this point I was able to stand up. He pushed the end button on my cell phone and my phone fell down the stairs to shine just enough light that I could see him strangling Kayli up against the wall that her head had gone through earlier. I could see the veins in his hands. I could see that he was actually trying to kill my sister. This wasn’t some joke. I just kept having these moments where it would sink in; this is all real.
This man was 6’ 2,” 210 pounds- I’m 5’ 3”- and with the help of what I believe to be angels, I was able to NFL tackle him into our laundry room. We broke the laundry room door and fell into the room on the cold cement floor. I was lying on my back and could tell that the floor was scratching my back, and he was on top of me. He sat on my thighs and started punching me in the face with both of his hands. All of the sudden I hear Kayli coming in screaming, “Get off my sister! Get off my sister!” I could see her silhouette hitting him with something. He yelled back, “I’m going to kill you!” I have never experienced such evil knowing that was it for us, and there was still no help coming. I knew nobody was going to hear us outside. I knew one of us had to go away to get help. He continued to yell he was going to kill us and Kayli was yelling back and hitting him. I noticed him say, “Stop, you’re hurting me, you’re hurting me.” Kayli said, “Good, I’m glad. I’m going to kill you.” That’s when it hit me. I thought, she really is going to kill him. I’m going to have to call my parents and say that Kayli killed someone. So it was strange; in the midst of everything I was having all these thoughts. I noticed his arms weren’t active in the fight anymore. He wasn’t hitting anyone. I remembered I had a box of pencils for my students nearby, and I thought of grabbing one to stab him with. When I reached over to grab it, it was as if someone was shining a flashlight on the hunting knife he brought into the house. I could see the blade, I knew that it was dirty, and I knew it was at least 4 inches long because it was as long as my hand. That’s when I felt like I accepted that I was going to die.
I said, “Kayli, he has a knife. We need more help.” She said, “He has a knife?” “Yes, he has a knife. You need to go. We need more help.” I was watching my sister beat this man off of me. I wasn’t the physical player, and so I knew that once she left, I was dead. I thought, If she leaves, I have no chance. But I also thought, If she doesn’t leave, she will watch me be brutally, brutally murdered. So I begged her, “Please go. Please get more help.” She said, “I won’t go. I’m not going to leave you.”
I’ve spent this entire last year thinking about this night, every day. And I think the hardest choice that had to happen that night, out of everything, was Kayli deciding to leave. She left and ran back up the stairs and turned the kitchen light on, so there was some light shining down the stairs. That’s when he had the knife and started stabbing me. I called out, “Kayli, he’s stabbing me. He’s stabbing me!” But if I didn’t have the help of angels that made it possible for me to see that knife, I wouldn’t have known that he was stabbing me because of all the adrenaline that was going through me. I didn’t feel him doing it. But when Kayli turned the light on, I watched him do it. And I knew it was bad. I knew he was going right for my aorta. When he was stabbing me, it wasn’t like he just put the knife in, but he was moving it around once it was inside of me. He pulled out the knife and stabbed me again, and then a third time in the lower abdomen. He punched me so hard in the right leg with the knife and dragged it up about four inches, that for the next three weeks I had a bruise of his handprint on my leg. It didn’t hurt at that time, but I knew I was going to die. I tried to keep fighting him. He stood up and said, “Now I’m going to get your little sister”, and then he laughed. I remember thinking, Who is he? He doesn’t know my name. He doesn’t know my family. He doesn’t know my dreams. He doesn’t know my goals. He doesn’t know anything about me, and he is happily murdering me. As he was going up to get my sister, I remember sitting up and all of the sudden grabbing his arms. I don’t remember the action of doing it, but I somehow managed to tackle him and hold his arms down. We were on the ground, face to face. Our noses were almost touching. I said, “What are you doing? Who are you?” He didn’t answer me. I said, “What do you need? How can I help you? Talk to me. Please just talk to me.” He put his head down and said, “I’m sorry."
I have a very close family member with a drug addiction and I have friends who have drug addictions. I know it’s real. I thought of them, and thought, Oh my word, this is someone’s brother. This is someone’s dad, or husband. The moment he said he was sorry, I said, “It’s okay.” And for that split second, I felt love for him. But don’t be confused. It wasn’t my love for him. I have no love for him. But I knew that someone, somewhere, loved him. And that moment and thought I had is honestly what has carried me through this last year; knowing that although he made many terrible choices throughout his life that unfortunately brought him into my basement that night, someone loved him.
So I kept asking him, “What do you need?” He said, “What do you have?” We’ve gone over this like five times… “Here’s my phone. My computer’s upstairs, my keys are upstairs...” But then I remembered Kayli was upstairs and I didn’t want him going up there. I heard a voice say to me, Tell him there’s $1000 cash in a Nike box in Kayli’s closet.
When Kayli had gone to Park City that night, she had bought a few pairs of shoes and hadn’t told me because I have this tendency of wearing her shoes without asking. I didn’t know there were five Nike boxes in her closet. The higher power I speak of, is what I believe to be a Heavenly Father, who knows us so perfectly and so individually and cares about every detail of our lives, even down to the five pair of Nikes in our closet. Down to every aspect of our lives. It was to that second that he could’ve ran upstairs to get my sister, but instead, my attacker stopped for a moment and said, “Okay, come with me. Let’s go get the money.” We stood up together to go get it, and he immediately switched back from being this “sorry man,” to being the scary monster that he was. He started telling me he was going to kill me and talked about raping me. He talked about my dead body and said the grossest things. Here was this man cutting everything short for me: my dreams, my hopes, this new business I had worked so hard to launch, the hope of getting married. I was mainly calm the whole night; not because I wanted to be, but because that’s just how my body was reacting to everything. He picked up a suitcase, hit me in the face with it, and it chipped my tooth. At that point, game on. I was so mad. I wasn’t even nearly as close to being that mad when he stabbed me, but at this point, I was mad. I was so angry that it forced me to start fighting again. He hit me three times in the stomach with a suitcase where he had stabbed me just a couple minutes earlier. He kneeled on top of me and had me trapped. All I could move was my head until he put his hand firmly on my forehead and raised his arm.
At that moment, I just thought, At least Kayli is gone. And at least someone will find her before she finds me. I was so scared she was going to find my body and was going to have to live with that. So I’m lying there, and my mind is going a million miles an hour, but at the same time it just feels so slow. He raised his right arm and told me he was going to kill me. When he went to stab me, he couldn’t. He tried again, and couldn’t. He said, “Why isn’t this working?” “Why the f--- isn’t this working?” I remember thinking, I don’t know. The light from the kitchen was shining enough that I could see his knife and my stomach, looking up and down and up and down, and it wasn’t like he was stabbing to the side. He was actually trying and couldn’t. It was as if there were a shield covering my chest. The Higher Power I speak of, was there.
He tried 5 or 6 times, and said, “Fine, I’m going to stab you in the head.” All I remember were his knuckles grazing the side of my head, and he missed twice. My head was on the suitcase, and still to this day there are two holes in that suitcase that remind me of my miracle; of having who I believe was the Savior, with me that night, who protected me 100%.
So frustrated now, he picked me up so my legs were dangling, and he had a knife drawn to my throat while still saying all these disgusting things to me. I was feeling so defeated, but heard a clear voice telling me to “fight.” I kicked something and it pushed us back into the laundry room.
At this point, Kayli was running up and down the street for help. She knew she didn’t have time to run to anyone’s door, and so she was just yelling, “He’s killing my sister. He’s stabbing my sister! He’s stabbing her!” Our neighbors across the street, Candace and her husband Tori, were sleeping in their bedroom with earplugs in, and they woke up to Kayli screaming. Tori and his friend who had randomly slept over that night are both EMTs, and they ran out to help Kayli. They ran back in their house to get a gun, and luckily at the same time, Ben Hone, a police officer off duty and on his way home, heard her too. He heard the screams from two blocks away and decided he needed to check things out. He turned the corner, and that’s where he saw Kayli. Right then, Kayli was able to tell him everything: “There are 17 stairs, and they’re in the washroom. Don’t turn the light on…”, giving him a description of the man… everything.
I was still with the attacker. We were sitting on the ground and my back was to his chest. He wrapped his two heavy, hairy, sweaty legs over mine and put his left arm around my body trapping my arms down, and the knife was again at my throat. Again, there was nothing I could physically do to get out. He was telling me he was going to slit my throat. I was begging him. Please, no! Please, no! I started having a flash of my baby nephew, who was three months old at the time. My sister had fought infertility for five years, and she finally had baby Cole. He was our family’s biggest blessing. I remember thinking, I’m never going to see Cole again. I’m never going to see Kayli, or my mom or dad again, or my sisters or brother, and all these thoughts came to me. I’m really going to die. And so I said, “Okay, you can kill me. Just please don’t kill my sister.” He flexed to slit my throat, and right when he did, I bent my head away from him to maybe spare a couple seconds, and that’s when I saw these two black shoes coming down the stairs. Initially I thought that might be my attacker’s friend, and thought maybe that friend had killed Kayli already. I didn’t want to live if Kayli was dead. So I said, “Kill me, kill me.” But then I looked again, and I saw a badge. I could see these dark eyes of Officer Hone.
From the time Officer Hone had seen Kayli and was at the front door calling for backup, to the time he was downstairs… was seven seconds. He came downstairs and warned my attacker three times to drop the knife. My attacker said, “Step back, I’m going to stick her.” His head was behind my head, and his body was wrapped over mine. I knew that Officer Hone was going to have to shoot me in order to shoot him. I flexed my shoulders, preparing to take the shot. Hone said, “Drop the knife.” I felt my attacker’s lips on my ear, and then I heard the knife drop and a gunshot. When my attacker had pulled his arm out to get ready to slit my throat, he had pulled his head out from behind mine and our cheeks were touching side by side. Officer Hone, with one shot, in the dark, from 12 feet away, and no backup, had taken my attacker’s life and saved mine.
I remember him saying, “Get up. Get upstairs.” And calling in saying, “Gun shot. Man dead. Woman, stab wounds to the abdomen. I don’t think she’s going to make it.” I lifted my attacker’s dead arm and (even heavier) legs off of me. I had felt his head blow up. I had felt him die. And I know he needed to die, but seconds before, had also felt a love that someone had for him. It was sad for me. I struggle with that still. As much as he needed to die, it was sad to feel him die.
I remember standing up, and all of the sudden I was at the top of the stairs. Officer Hone told me later that that’s the fastest he’s seen anyone run up the stairs, but originally didn’t think I’d even be able to stand up. At the top of the stairs, I looked to the right and there she was. Kayli. She put her hands over her mouth and was in shock as she looked at my body. Blood was gushing out, and she said, “Bre.” She ran up to me and that was the best moment of my life. Down in the basement, that was all I wanted; to see Kayli again. I was thankful I got to see her one more time, and I thanked her for saving me. I looked down at my body and started feeling really weak.
The ambulance came and they were calling me a “Trauma 1,” and I knew that meant it was serious. One man in the ambulance said, “Her aorta,” and I knew what he was talking about. When I got to the ER, one doctor was putting his fingers in my wound and kept saying, “No, I don’t think he got it.” They took three CT scans and an ultrasound. My attacker didn’t only miss my aorta, he missed every vital organ, every vital vein… everything vital to my survival. They stitched me up, I stayed in the hospital that next day, and went home that next night. I thought my fight was over, but had no idea that my fight had really just begun.
Tell me what it has been like since the attack?
For months, it’s been depression. I’ve never dealt with depression before, and never realized how real it is. The way that my attacker’s choices have affected my life, post the physical fight, are fights that are so much harder and so much scarier than the six minutes I spent physically fighting him in my basement.
It’s different now. Things I used to do so easily, I can’t do right now. I used to run every day. Running was my stress-reliever. Not even to get exercise, but it was therapeutic for me mentally. Since the attack, I’ve run outside only three times. Nothing has been harder for me than those little changes in my life. I’m missing exercise and missing doing the things I used to do. Recently, I’ve been trying harder to get exercising. Last night I went to the gym by myself at nighttime. Granted, it was still in my apartment complex, which has 24-hour security, but it felt so good and gave me a little more confidence. Having that exercise cleared my mind more than anything. So, it’s all about progress and those little things for me.
When did you know you wanted to start what you’re doing now?
In the hospital after my dad was able to come in to see me, he got a phone call from a stranger. After asking, Who is this?, the man on the line replied, “Sir, I’m the officer that engaged. I just want to make sure that your daughter is going to be okay.”
This officer, Officer Ben Hone, who was off-duty the night of the attack, who was a canine officer and chose to leave his canine Ted in the truck (which is against all protocol), who chose to go down to the basement alone without waiting for backup… He was the one to come downstairs and save me. All growing up I’ve heard evil and goodness can’t exist in the same spot. It’s like oil and water right? They don’t mix. That’s not true to me anymore. I was literally wrapped in the arms of evil by a complete stranger, and another stranger came who was pure came to rescue me. So talking with Officer Hone is when it all started; a feeling like I needed to give thanks somehow in return. I wanted to help people who risk their lives for people like me. I didn’t know exactly how I wanted to do this, but I knew I needed to share my story so others could share theirs.
Over the next little while I had other experiences that led me to creating this organization. My dad, Kayli, and I were on our way to the Meredith Vieira show and were in Salt Lake waiting to board our flight. Ed and Lois Smart happened to be on the same flight as we were. They were headed to Nepal to fight sex-trafficking. As we were waiting to board we had a nice conversation with them and then said our goodbyes. After saying goodbye, Lois Smart turned around and came back to me. She said, “You know, there’s something special here. Now that you have a voice, you have a responsibility.” I remember looking at her thinking, My story is not like Elizabeth’s. I am very anti-comparing. I don’t think it does us any good, especially in traumatic situations. But after she said that to me, I thought, If they could go through all they did and now head on a plane to Nepal where they are trying to stop child sex-trafficking, then surely I can do something. I knew I needed to raise my voice.
After that, over the course of months and months, I had different experiences where people tried getting Elizabeth Smart and me together. I didn’t want to be “that girl” and call her. But one day Elizabeth actually called me and said, “It seems like we are working on similar things. Why don’t we meet up somewhere to talk.”
It was meant to be, I guess! How was it finally meeting her?
This is actually kind of a funny story. As we were discussing ideas, Elizabeth said, “Why don’t we meet at the Salt Lake Library downtown?” I hadn’t been there in years, and neither had she, and so when I got there I didn’t realize how many homeless people were gathered around that area. Homeless people are one of my biggest triggers. So I’m in my car thinking, “This is insane. I’m not going in there.” I was sitting there drafting a text message to Elizabeth about maybe meeting somewhere else, because I was scared. But then I’m thinking, I can’t send that to Elizabeth Smart! So I finally get out and I’m in there waiting. So I called her and asked where she was and she says to me, “I’m sorry, I’m so nervous. I didn’t realize so many homeless people were going to be here.” I was like, Are you kidding me!? You should’ve just called me! It was funny. But when we met, we became instant friends, It helped me realize what I needed to do, and we’ve teamed up ever since.
Why did you name your organization “Fight Like Girls?” What does that phrase mean to you?
After the attack we did a lot of talking with police officers to see what we could do to best help people like Ben. As I was talking to some head sheriffs (these established older men who have spent their lives in this occupation), they were crying. I thought to myself, Why would they be crying? Surely they’ve encountered worse things than this. I finally asked them what was going on because they were crying more than me. They both told me out of all their experience working, my story was the only one where girls actually fought back in that situation. He said, “If only everyone would fight like girls.” Right when he said that, it’s when the name clicked. Fight like girls.
What makes sharing your story worth it for you?
I have to think about that question every time before I tell my story, because it’s hard to tell my story over and over again. It’s like ripping off a band-aid. I’m okay talking about my fight post-attack, but talking about my attacker scares me and brings me right back to that scary night. It reminds me of the fear that I’ve had to live with. But what makes it worth it to me is that one person I can tell, who really needed to hear it. I’ve done many speaking engagements and there are usually lines of people that want to come talk to me afterwards… but I feel like usually there is that one person, who I know before they even start talking to me, that I was there because of them.
When I started finally opening up about my struggles now, my depression and anxiety, me not being able to leave my house, not living… that’s when people started to relate to me, and it was such a relief for me. Helping people has helped me to heal.
Does Kayli get involved in any of this?
No. We’ve handled this completely differently, kind of the way we reacted that night. I was really emotional and wanted to talk to my attacker and communicate. Kayli was very physical and outward about it. After the attack, her reaction was, He had six minutes of our lives, but not one minute more. He’s done with me. And she’s okay. She fully supports Fight Like Girls, but in her healing process, she doesn’t want to talk about it and doesn’t see a reason why she necessarily needs to talk about it for herself. I sometimes get nervous about speaking out because I want to make it clear that I think it’s important for every girl to handle their situations the best way they feel. Everyone handles things differently. But I hope that every girl who is fighting domestic violence, sexual abuse, and that sort of thing, is able to speak up about it. The fighter should always be the fighter’s first priority. If you’re not helping yourself, you can’t help others and you can’t heal.
At first, I didn’t want to open up about my anxiety and depression because I didn’t want people to perceive me as weak. I didn’t want to go from this independent woman who was a world traveler, living by herself abroad, and starting her own business, to this ball wadded up on my parent’s couch, crying all the time, and too scared to leave. I didn’t want people to know that. But it dawned on me that I needed to stop ignoring my fight and trying to help others. I needed to be vulnerable and allow myself to open up, and that’s when people really started to relate. There are times when I still have to cancel speaking engagements, there are times when I don’t go outside, there are times when I cry, and there are days that I stay in bed, but I figure that’s my fight that I’m dealing with and I am my first priority.
Have you received any negativity for speaking out?
People have been so wonderful. For a long time, as much evil as I was exposed to that night, the goodness of the world has blown it out of the water. Sometimes it’s hard hearing, “You should’ve done this, or should’ve done that.” But the truth is that no one knows what I went through and am going through. Nobody will fully understand. So as you know, everywhere you go there will always be those people out there, “haters” if you will, but you have to keep moving forward.
How do you find balance in fueling your spiritual, mental, and physical health? What are specific things you do?
I was turned off to therapy in the beginning, and it was hard for me because as I watched Kayli, it was like she was “over it” and okay so quickly. She went to work the next Monday, she’s slept alone in her bedroom ever since.
But I found a PTSD therapist who completely changed my life and put me on the right track. One of the thing that helps to control anxiety and PTSD and healing is the power of controlling our thoughts. We are not our thoughts. We have to take ourselves outside of our thoughts. For months she had me write down my thought and then I would literally put it down on the table and step away from it. It was a literal movement away from my thoughts and helped me to realize my thoughts weren’t reality. So for example, I hate showering when no one is home. It makes me so scared. I have all these irrational thoughts, and so I would write those down… He’s going to come into my shower and kill me. And then I would remove myself from that thought… No he’s not. First of all, he’s dead. And second of all, nobody is going to come in. I live in an apartment with 24-hour security… It’s not going to happen. So if I can see that it’s just a thought, I can step away from it and start to heal. This process can help with anything.
Another thing is using our senses. For anxiety, this is a huge one for me. So for example, if I’m sitting in a car alone and if I see a homeless person on the corner by the stop sign I’m next to, that causes the scariest panic attacks of all time for me. So I literally have to say things out loud like, “I see a tree. I feel my steering wheel. I can smell my air freshener. I can taste this…” If you go through your thoughts by using your senses, and in a very calm and self-paced way, it takes you away from your irrational thoughts that aren’t real. That has been huge for me too.
I love those tools. I’m going to use those in my own life. What are things you do for your spiritual health?
Spiritually, I struggled in the beginning. Prayer has always been a huge thing for me, but praying at night time and kneeling down isn’t something I can do right now. It doesn’t happen. I cannot kneel next to my bed with my back toward open area, closing my eyes, and folding my arms. I can’t do it. I feel like if I’m praying that way, I need to be in a karate stance. So prayer and many spiritual things look really different for me right now. Prayers for me happen when it’s really light outside if I want to kneel down. Or I go in my bathroom, I lock the door and put this little thing under my door so I know I’m safe, and I make sure someone is home. Prayer has helped me.
Another healing thing for me has been spiritual music. Every night I listen to music and that helps to calm me. I also have found that learning of the Savior and His ministry has helped me so much. It’s been interesting to see His life, and everything He went through, and how He’s dealt with it. One of the hardest days of His life, was when John the Baptist was beheaded, and he took his time. He went away. I think that is such a valuable lesson that even the Savior took His time. That moment in the basement that I felt love for my attacker, for that split second, has changed my perspective on the Savior’s Atonement. The way that I see and read my scriptures has changed.
What are your goals for your foundation? Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
Elizabeth and I teamed up in June and spoke at this event. After we both spoke, we knew there was something there. Before I was thinking I needed to help girls fight back physically, because statistics show only 20% of girls fight back. And then I was thinking I’d get a self-defense company to come in and teach self-defense. That was the original idea for Fight Like Girls. But oppening up about depression and anxiety was the game changer. So right now we’re creating something in the works. It will be a place where any girl can visit our website, and click on their fight, whether it’s a number on the scale, depression, etc. We want to have all these fights there that they are able to click on, a video of a girl will pop up who is raw and real and can tell her story, and then we’ll link them to professional help. Our goal for next year is to launch that website. But within that five years, we want to have hubs around the world, physical locations, where girls can walk in and say, “Help.” Hopefully in these spaces we can have things like talk therapy, music therapy, animal therapy, and even exercise classes.
We all have our own battles, whether people know about them or not. What is your advice you have for mothers who are struggling with their own fight?
I was talking to one of my really good friends yesterday about how our fights are so different. She was saying to me, “Well I’ve never gone through anything like you’ve gone through.” But I’m sitting there watching her with her three little kids, while she’s running a side business, while her husband is running a business, and I’m thinking, How are you a functioning human? How are you doing all this?
So I think it’s important for women to never compare, and also to realize that our fights don’t always come from negative things. These beautiful children that surround mothers are the biggest blessings, but being a mom and trying to balance everything in life is a fight. It’s a sacrifice to be a mom. So here’s my advice: don’t let your hard times rule you, let them teach you how to rule. I think there’s balance in everything. Some days, you might need to curl up inside with your gallon of ice cream and watch Netflix, but then the next day, you decide to get up and go outside.
Interview edited and approved by Bre Lasley, November 18, 2016.