Student Starts Organization to Teach Self-Defense After Witnessing Domestic Violence

By Imani Farmer

March 22, 2017 9:18 pm

The Stand Tall Project E-board poses for a portrait on March 21, 2017. The group is currently fundraising to give girls free self defense classes to help them evade attackers. Their outreach is aimed towards females in middle school and high school. “Everyone should be able to afford to defend themselves,” vice president of the E-board Ellie Small said.
Chloe Grigsby | The State News

During her high school years, international relations and economics sophomore Kelly Eusebi witnessed something traumatizing: domestic violence.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, or NCADV, on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.

In high school, Eusebi was a part of a cultural group that had weekly meetings in downtown Detroit. During one of her Saturday drives downtown, Eusebi witnessed an incident firsthand that would go on to impact her.

She saw a domestic violence incident taking place directly on the side of the road between a man and his girlfriend while Eusebi’s two sisters were in her car.

She knew she wanted to help. To protect her safety and that of her sisters, she said she slowed down and observed to see if it was safe to pull over.

“It was probably one of the most violent things that I think I’ve seen that close,” she said.

After yelling for him to stop, the man got back in his car. Eusebi offered to give the woman a ride, so the woman ran back to her boyfriend’s car to grab her baby before getting into Eusebi’s car.

Eusebi spent a long time reflecting on this situation. She tried to figure out ways to help and do something about it and for other domestic violence issues.

“Before going college, I took some self-defense classes in Novi and I kind of thought, ‘Hey this would be awesome to kind of start for girls in high school and middle school,’ because typically girls in middle school and the earlier years of high school are targeted for things like kidnapping and violence,” Eusebi said.

Thinking of the woman’s daughter and stopping to attend a situation like this, Eusebi started an organization at MSU to teach girls how to get away from attackers.

The Stand Tall Project is a nonprofit organization aimed at organizing self-defense seminars for high school girls in at-risk neighborhoods.

Vice president of The Stand Tall Project Ellie Small said they are a new student organization, founded in November of 2016. They are planning fundraisers to teach the self-defense classes.

“We don’t know exactly where we’re going to be having our first fundraiser yet, but it’s probably going to be in the fall because it does take quite a bit of time for us to raise these funds and we’re still so small and still growing,” Small said. “But the end goal is that we’re going to be teaching a self-defense seminar.”

Small and Eusebi are sorority sisters, and Small said Eusebi came to a bunch of them to share her idea and ask for help.

“I just thought that it was a really, really great idea and she obviously couldn’t do it alone, so I thought it was a really great opportunity to help her hit the ground running with the idea and really make a difference in people’s lives,” Small said.

Vice president of marketing and neuroscience junior Madi Kraus said she heard about this project through Eusebi and loved the idea.

“To me, this was such a special thing, that somebody thought of a way to kind of counteract this issue of violence towards younger women,” Kraus said. “Because a lot of people talk about the issue of trying to prevent violence but that’s not realistic, in my opinion because it’s always going to be out there, there’s always going to be danger, especially for young women.”

Kraus said working with the young women and girls will be the most rewarding part of the organization.

“I think the main thing that I hope to take out of this experience is working with the kids at the end of it,” Kraus said. “I think it will be so hugely rewarding to be able to see these young girls learning how to fight for themselves and stand up for themselves, and you know, stand tall.”
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Imani Farmer