PITTSBURGH — Lisa Piocquidio Johnson believes everyone deserves to feel safe, but that too many women and children are at risk of being a victim of violence.
“There are statistics that say that as many as one in three women will become a victim of violence in their lifetime,” said Johnson, who earned her RN to BSN at Carlow in 2001 and is a certified instructor in R.A.D. (Rape Aggression Defense) Systems of Self Defense. “While women do carry a fear (of violence) with them, more often there is a denial that they will ever become a victim, which is the greatest hurdle we must overcome.”
For Johnson, a close friend’s experience illustrates the reality of that statement. Her friend was walking to her car following a youth sports event when she was confronted by a stranger, who put his hands around her throat as she almost lost consciousness.
“She told me that she never saw it coming, wasn’t prepared and froze with not being able to react or even scream for help,” Johnson said. “She never thought this could happen to her, and luckily someone intervened just in time. But what would have happened if no one intervened?”
Johnson said she shudders to think of the fate that might have befallen her friend if no one had intervened, but from that incident an idea was born.
“I knew there was something that I had to do to help protect, empower and educate women and children about self-defense,” she said. “It’s not just domestic violence or sexual assault either. There are potential victims of bullying and human trafficking that need to be empowered, too.”
In collaboration with her brother, Daniel, a certified black belt instructor in martial arts, they decided to incorporate their education and experience and develop a simple, yet effective, self-defense and personal safety program called Fearless Female that could be learned by women and children regardless of their age, skill level or size. Since its founding in 2013, Fearless Female has been able to educate more than 3,000 women and children from ages 8 to 80.
“This mission is critical, and we must advocate to spread the word of the importance of learning how to protect and empower ourselves,” Johnson said, who often worked odd hours when she was working as a nurse in a hospital – she currently works in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry – and would find herself in potentially vulnerable positions when she walked to her car late at night or very early in the morning. “This is as much of a life-saving skill as CPR is.”
Fearless Female begins by teaching women and children important safety skills around the three simple rules of awareness, avoidance and personal space that can help minimize the chance of becoming a victim. Fearless Female also teaches powerful, focused self-defense techniques that can help someone escape and potentially save a life.
“Many women and families are busy and on the go, juggling many tasks,” Johnson said. “It can be easy to not be 100 percent aware of the surroundings.”
She said talking or texting on a phone while walking to their car can cause people to lose sight of the immediate surroundings, which might be all that is needed for an attacker to get the upper hand.
“When it comes to self-defense, you need to be pro-active, not reactive,” she said. “By being educated and prepared in advance, you can escape a potentially threatening encounter by being ready to react when someone enters your personal space.”
As a nurse, Johnson always considered herself to be a protector of her patients and even her colleagues. As the co-founder and spokesperson of Fearless Female, she continues the role of protector, safety mentor and advocate.
“If we can prevent one woman or child from becoming a victim, then we know we are on the right path to impact many more to be safe, empowered and protected,” she said. “One woman and child at a time who then pass their knowledge on to other women and children that they know. There is power in numbers.”
Visit Fearless Female for more information and available safety seminars.