VeryWellFit voted Girls Fight Back/Students Fight Back – 2021 Best Online Self-Defense Class for Groups & Organizations!

Students Fight Back was developed from the need we saw to expand on the original Girls Fight Back curriculum and bring a message of safer campuses to a gender inclusive audience. The problems of violence on campus and in our society aren’t going to be solved with one-sided conversations and everyone needs to work together to learn to be better allies to one other.

Our empowerment self-defense (ESD) seminars strive to make risk recognition, preventing violence and fighting back an approachable topic for everyone on college campuses and beyond. Our programs are evidence based, trauma informed and victim centered. We believe that we can simultaneously work to prevent violence at its source and offer people the skills to manage their safety in the present. We want students everywhere to have the freedom to live confidently and limitlessly!

We have empowered over 1 Million people since 2001!

We want students in our audiences to learn that they are fully capable of protecting themselves while being allies to others and this program is designed to give them the tools they need to do so. Through this work, we know we can create stronger communities and safer environments for all students.  Program content includes consent, bystander intervention, and tools and strategies for supporing survivors in addition to teaching awareness, personal safety, intuition and the basics of physical self-defense. We work with campuses to customize each program to include local and campus resources and reporting structures as needed in addition to the national resources we always include.

Students Fight Back and Fight Back on Spring Break (our specialized Spring Break program) are our way of ensuring that the message of empowering people with safety options gets out to the largest audience possible and we can increase our impact in helping everyone live safer lives.

The program is 75 minutes + Q&A and includes these key components:

  • Using your intuition
  • Safety strategies – awareness & verbal boundaries
  • How to be an active bystander and a good ally
  • The definition of consent
  • How to support a survivor
  • How to set boundaries that work for you
  • Verbal de-escalation skills
  • The basics of self-defense in our Badass Basics (or Terminator Tango)
  • Plus a discussion of improvised weapons, ground fighting, and how to sign up for a full-contact adrenaline based self-defense course near you!

logo-FightBackSpringBreakFight Back on Spring Break is a specialized version of Students Fight Back. It is also gender inclusive and puts special attention on how we can be safer and look out for each other more actively on Spring Break or any time we want to be social, have a good time, or travel away from home. This program is also 75 mins + Q&A. Visit the Fight Back on Spring Break website.

logo-FightBackSpringBreakGirls Fight Back was born in direct response to the June 2001 murder of a dynamic, athletic, and loved college student named Shannon McNamara. After Shannon’s death, her friend and sorority sister, Erin Weed, realized the need for practical and empowering options for young women to learn violence prevention and self-defense. Inspired by the way Shannon fought her attacker, Erin immersed herself in training with the best violence prevention experts and self-defense trainers in the world and, from this, developed the GFB seminar. By combining core values, a fun and empowering attitude, and the best safety and self-defense methods available, Girls Fight Back was born. This program is also 75 mins + Q&A. Visit the Girls Fight Back website.

The Facts about Violence:

  • Every 73 seconds someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted
  • 1 in 5  women will experience sexual assault in college.
  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced rape, physical violence, and or stalking by an intimate partner.
  • 56% of Native America and Alaska America women have experienced sexual violence.
  • 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women, and 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.
  • 1 in 2 transgender people will be the victim of sexual assault in their lifetime.
  • Approximately 86% of survivors know their assailants.

Research shows that Empowerment Self-Defense training reduces women’s risk of experiencing violence, including completed and attempted sexual assaults by up to 50%!

Statistics were sourced from:
National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2016
National Violence Against Women Survey 2000
FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, 2018
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs 2019
National Crime Victimization Survey 2003
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010


STRONG – We believe that every individual is their best protector. Our strength is not necessarily made up of mere physical muscle, but is built upon making a conscious choice to reclaim our sense of security in the world. We strive to empower individuals to be in control of their lives, to set boundaries that allow them to feel safe, to be wary of anyone who discounts their NO, and to learn how to live a safer life through their actions and help other people around them to do the same.

RESILIENT – Though the statistics are shocking, we are here to say that we will not conform to the violence. Our world and most of our individual lives have been wrongfully altered by violence. We believe in recovery on individual, societal, and world levels. Our message is presented without judgment to how anyone handled or felt about a past violent situation. These are very personal issues and there is no one right way to react or feel, but we can share the tools that empower people to fight back.

SPIRITED – Belief in oneself is essential. We believe that scare tactics do exactly as their name suggests—scare people. Instead, we strive to eliminate the taboo status of topics like violence prevention, self-defense, and personal security. Only by making these topics approachable and encouraging everyone to tell their stories we will begin to change the pattern of violence.

UNIFIED – Though each individual is their own best protector; we also believe that we are here on earth to look out for one another. Protecting yourself is a great first step, the next step is to educate and empower others. By working together we can spread the word about personal safety and self defense, while simultaneously working to tear down the violence. We want to re-enforce the truth that while most sexual assaults are committed by men, most men are not rapists. Though Students Fight Back is not the answer to solving the problems of violence . . . we ARE one key part of the solution and we stand together with everyone who strives to combat violence in our world.

Learn about our partnership with:


Girls in Progress


NICOLE SNELL :: CEO + international speaker

Nicole purchased Girls Fight Back in 2020 because of her passion for empowering women, advocating for women’s rights and her desire to make the world a safer place for everyone. She is dedicated to bringing the message of living a fearless life and combating violence to millions of people across the country and around the world. Nicole received a full scholarship to Cal State Long Beach as a President’s Scholar, and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Speech Communication. Her self-defense training includes IMPACT LA (where she is also a lead instructor), Defense Against the Armed Assailant training, FAST defense & the GFB Speaker Academy. Nicole is an NACP Credentialed Advocate and currently sits on the board of IMPACT Personal Safety. Nicole was featured in a self-defense instructional video by Tastemade Travel that won a People’s Voice Webby Award in May 2020 and she is the creator of Outdoor Defense, an IGTV series that aims to help people stay safe while enjoying the outdoors. She is a collaborative partner with Difference Makers (10 Strong) and has traveled the world speaking and facilitating workshops at military installations, colleges, K-12 schools, corporations, and private groups. In 2017 she volunteered in Fiji to teach self-defense to the women and girls in local villages. On her spare time, Nicole loves to hike, camp, horseback ride, play sports and travel the world; often on her own and is an active volunteer in her community. Read more about Nicole here: www.nicolesnell.com


BREE SWARTZ :: senior national speaker

Bree is a graduate of Purdue University, where she studied Mass Communication and Theatre, was an ambassador for the College of Liberal Arts and a Co-Captain for the Purdue Golduster Dance Team. Her self-defense training includes IMPACT Chicago, FAST Defense, adrenal stress confrontations and the GFB Speaker Academy.  She is also a Certified Victim Advocate. Bree is an actress in NYC when not on the road with SFB, where she is an active member in The Community, a nonprofit theater group founded by fellow William Esper Studio graduates. Bree has coordinated and lead audition workshops for the organization to create a place for growing actors to work on their craft. During her time in Chicago, where she first became a GFB/SFB speaker, Bree mentored a young theater group in the suburbs of Chicago through classes and talks on the importance of being an artist. More recently, Bree helped coordinate an incredibly successful meditation workshop for the Clairvision School, which is a dynamic, interactive two-day workshop that unfolds a systematic method for achieving a state of inner stillness, focus and clarity of purpose. Although Bree is currently awaiting her approval for Big Sister, she finds time to work with local youth through her work with Puppetonia at Symposium Bookstore, an inner-active, educational children’s show. She gets her funny-on and hones her public speaking skills through improv comedy classes at Upright Citizen Brigade in NYC. Bree finds time to “play” by spending time with friends, family, seeing shows, writing, dancing, reading and taking classes at the nonprofit Yoga to the People.


ERIN WEED :: founder

Erin founded GFB in 2001 at the age of 23 in response to the murder of Shannon, who was her close friend and sorority sister. Erin has won many awards for her work in women’s empowerment and social entrepreneurship. She was a columnist for CosmoGirl and is the author of Girls Fight Back! The College Girl’s Guide to Protecting Herself (now available in its 3rd edition). She is the creator of the GFB seminar seen by over a million women, and also the GFB Speaker Academy.


SHANNON MCNAMARA :: inspiration

Shannon was murdered on June 12, 2001 just a few days shy of her 22nd birthday. While the world lost an incredible human being that day, heaven gained one hell of an angel. Shannon’s story has inspired over one million women to become their own best defenders, and to live the badass life each of us were intended. And for that, we are so grateful.

GINA POLESETSKY :: sister – friend of GFB

Gina Polesetsky graduated from Amarillo College and West Texas A&M University with an A.A. and a B.A.. She worked as an educator and an event planner before opening Kirkland Productions, Inc., a college entertainment/speakers agency, in 2000. She served as a Facilitator for the AAG (Associate Advisory Group) for NACA (The National Association for Campus Activities) and was awarded Agent of the Year in 2014 by NACA South and in the past by both the NACA West and Central regions. In 2007, she opened her second company, KP Comedy, and, in 2013, she channeled her lifelong passion for Women’s Issues into the purchase of her third company, Girls Fight Back, before selling it to Nicole Snell in 2020.  Gina is currently working as an Associate MFT Therapist with adults, children, families, and couples, providing chaplain work to prisoners, and volunteering with elementary school aged children for Reading Partners Los Angeles. She is a NOVA certified Victim Advocate, is a graduate of the Gavin de Becker Advanced Threat Assessment and Management Academy, IMPACT Los Angeles and FAST Defense.

Morgan-CrouchMORGAN CROUCH :: sister – friend of GFB

Morgan Crouch graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she earned a B.A. in Art History with an emphasis in gender & critical race. Morgan studied improv and comedic writing at The Second City Training Center and iO Chicago. She is a graduate of the GFB Speaker Academy 2013, with training in FAST Defense.

Beth-Townsend-SmithBETH TOWNSEND-SMITH :: sister – friend of GFB

Beth studied Psychology with Certification in Child and Family Studies at Roosevelt University and is also a graduate of The Adler School of Professional Psychology’s Art Therapy program. She has worked with special needs children, at-risk teens, and parent education groups across the Chicago area. When not out promoting GFB, she also teaches art and science. Beth is a Graduate of the GFB Speaker Academy 2013, with training in FAST Defense.

Leah-BonnemaLEAH BONNEMA :: sister – friend of GFB

Leah majored in Cultural Studies at McGill University and wrote her Honor’s Thesis in Film and Women’s Studies. Huffington Post named her one of their Favorite Female Comedians and College Candy listed in her as one of the Top Ten Female Comics. She is regular on VH1’s 100 Greatest Series and has toured for the troops in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. Leah is a graduate of the GFB Academy 2013, with training in FAST Defense.