Dallas Jessup is one kickass chick - and not just because she’s a double black belt.
This 20-year-old senior at Vanderbilt University is the founder of Just Yell Fire , an organization that combats violence towards women through teaching self-defense techniques.
Dallas, whose organization has reached over 1.5 million young women in 64 countries, recently received a $25,000 Youth Award from the World of Children , which honors people who make a difference in the lives of young people. Just add it to the trophy collection: she also won a Do Something Award in 2008.
Can you tell us about Just Yell Fire?
[Just Yell Fire] is a nonprofit I started my freshman year in high school, which works to equip girls with self-defense skills to get themselves out of a rape or abduction situation. We do speaking programs where we go into schools, and we do one-on-one hands-on training with girls. We also have two films. The third component is the Train the Trainer program, where we bring in leaders in the community - like PE teachers and coaches - and train them in the Just Yell Fire program so they can teach. From our experience, girls are saying, ‘We got out of this situation because of learning your techniques.’ That’s the beauty of Just Yell Fire techniques: they’re really simple and easy to learn.
What inspired you to start the program?
I have a black belt in tae kwon do, and I’m a second degree in Filipino street fighting. My freshman year in high school, I saw the video footage of Carlie Brucia. She was a young girl in Florida, a man came up to her and said something, and she went away willingly. They found her body four days later. I watched that going, ‘You know, that didn’t have to happen to her.’ No, she can’t beat him to a pulp, but she could get those two to three seconds to get herself out of that situation. So I thought, I’ll make a homemade video. And my mother said, why don’t you take a scriptwriting class? So I decided to do that. And the professor absolutely loved what I was doing and said, “I have friends in the industry, they would love to help out the cause.” And the homemade video was never made, and it turned into this crazy whirlwind of a trip that ended up turning into a nonprofit and empowering girls all over the world.
What are misconceptions people have surrounding violence towards girls?
People think, “This won’t happen to me.” One in three girls will experience dating violence and one in four will be date raped before they graduate college. This is a real issue that will affect you personally or someone that you know. The second component is that girls think, “I’m defenseless, I’m weak. You know, I’m not a bodybuilder, I’m a hundred pounds and 5’4”.” In reality, you can do it. It’s about leveraging your skills and tactics to get out of situations. That’s why Just Yell Fire works so well. It’s just knowing what to do, preparing yourself, and if a situation happens, you have the skills to get out of there.
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