Angela Champagne-From experienced many women’s worst nightmare: being attacked by a stranger.
On April 19, 2012, Champagne-From was about to get into her car in a Minneapolis parking garage when a man in a business suit came up behind her. He pressed a knife to her throat and told her they were going for a ride.
“I grabbed the knife and I sliced my thumb, and that’s when I knew it was serious,” Champagne-From said. Intuitively, she knew that if she got in the car with him, she would not end up alive.
She screamed, and when he tried to cover her mouth, she bit him. Then he stabbed her in the abdomen.
After she finally broke free, he told her she was lucky she was a fighter and he left. By the time she collapsed at the toll booth four levels down, Champagne-From had lost half of her blood.
The man, a registered sex offender, eventually was identified, charged and convicted. But Champagne-From still felt let down by the criminal justice system and society.
“I just made it my mission that I was going to tell as many people as would listen my story and encourage people to take self-defense classes and empower themselves by having the knowledge to fight back,” she said.
Now Champagne-From is speaking two to three times a week about her “Fight Like a Girl” campaign. She chose the name to try to erase the negative connotation of doing something “like a girl.” Women have different strengths than men and can use those to their advantage when defending themselves, Champagne-From said.
She had taken a self-defense class in high school, and she credited that with teaching her body not to freeze in a crisis. (She also pointed out that she has a feisty personality, which may have also played a role.)
After the man was convicted in April 2013, Champagne-From went back to her high school and talked to more than 20 senior girls taking that same class – the first time she told her story publicly. She encouraged the girls to be proactive about safety – taking self-defense seriously, being aware of risks and sticking together.
One of her great hopes is that these young women and others who have heard her story will share it with the women and girls in their lives. And that they will be empowered to fight if faced with a critical situation – because, Champagne-From said, it could happen to anyone.
“I feel that there are messages that people get in their lives that just stick with them, and I’m hoping that my story is that lesson,” she said.
Champagne-From recently launched a website that shares resources and lists events where she’ll be speaking. She’s also forming a nonprofit organization, FLAG Foundation, which has the mission of empowering women and children to fight back through education, advocacy and self-defense classes. And in the long run, she hopes to go to law school to become a prosecutor.
“People don’t survive what I survived not to share their story and not to promote change,” Champagne-From said.
BE A CHANGEMAKER:
How to take action:
• Ask Angela Champagne-From to speak to your organization or event. Often she brings Anne Yatch of Sealed Mindset to teach self-defense tactics. Email email@example.com or send a message through her Facebook page.
• “Like” her Facebook page to follow her activities: Angela’s Story: Fight Like a Girl
• Take a self-defense class.
• Read “Beauty Bites Beast: Awakening the Warrior Within Women and Girls” by Ellen B. Snortland.
• Talk to children about protecting themselves and having a plan.