Episode 10: Bre Lasley, Fight Like Girls
This week on the You Matter! podcast, Bre Lasley, founder of Fight Like Girls, visits the studio to speak about her survival of attempted murder, and how her experience led her to start an organization to empower women.
The mission of Fight Like Girls is: "Whether it's poor body image, domestic abuse, violent assault, rape, pornography, eating disorders, drug addiction, depression, anxiety, divorce, loss of a loved one, an illness, infertility, bullying, or whatever else our mission is to empower all to choose to keep fighting, to stop victim blaming, to self love, to help others, to have hope, and to heal."
Intro Voices [00:00:05] Where do I go? It only happened once. I think I was singled out. The phone calls began about one month ago. What is hazing? Something happened to me when I was younger. I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry. Can someone help me? Where can I get help? Can someone help me?
Intro Voices [00:00:31] This is “You Matter”, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of Public Safety.
Karen Ortman [00:00:37] Hi everyone and welcome back to “You Matter”, a podcast created to teach, inspire, and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion, and to identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I am your co-host Karen Ortman, assistant vice president of field operations at the Department of Public Safety and a retired law enforcement professional.
Sabah Fatima [00:00:59] And I am Sabah Fatima, a premed graduate student here at NYU College of Global Public Health.
Karen Ortman [00:01:05] Today we introduce Bre Lasley, a survivor of attempted murder and the founder of Fight Like Girls, an organization whose mission is to help heal and empower all survivors regardless of their story, through training and self-defense. Bre Lasley, thank you so much for being here today.
Bre Lasley [00:01:25] Thank you for having me, I’m excited.
Karen Ortman [00:01:30] All the way from Salt Lake, we are truly honored. So Bre tell us who Bre Lasley was before September 23rd 2015.
Bre Lasley [00:01:41] So I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. I lived there almost my whole life. I am the second oldest of five children. There are four girls in our family and then my brother’s the youngest - our brother’s the youngest. Yeah we grew up, we've always been really close. Family over everything is kind of our family motto. We spend a lot of time together. I grew up really loving the outdoors. I love adventure. I love - I really just love just being outside so anything outside I'm down for. Speaking of, the weather right now in New York is perfect. I don't know if I've ever been here - the weather is just beautiful and I love it.
Karen Ortman [00:02:24] It’s a beautiful fall day.
Bre Lasley [00:02:25] It’s way better than when it’s freezing, I’m leaving freezing Utah to come here, anyway. Yes I love everything adventurous. I love being outside, one of my very favorite things is just getting to know people and building relationships with them, ever since I was little I've always just been a people person and that kind of took me around the world. After I graduated high school I moved to China, within two weeks, lived in China for a year. From China I went to Ukraine then Egypt, Mexico, Brazil. So I've lived in a few different countries and have had wonderful experiences just getting to know other people, different languages. And it's just been - probably a lot of the highlights of my life happened travelling and spending time with wonderful people around the world.
Karen Ortman [00:03:11] So what brought you to those other countries?
Bre Lasley [00:03:14] Yes I was going as a volunteer teaching English at the beginning when I went to China and then I just spent time there teaching English. I went with a different organization than teaching, but while I was there I kind of developed my own curriculum that was working better and that I enjoyed more, teaching, and so I just kind of picked that up and kind of polished it along the way in the different countries that I went to. And then when I came home to go to dental hygiene school, I was going to dental hygiene school and then teaching English on the side and I was just like, you know, I love this way more than cleaning people’s teeth, so I stopped going to dental hygiene school and I focused full time on starting in English as a Second Language business. And so I was just taking my curriculum to different businesses and teaching their employees the English specific to their jobs and like what they needed to know. And it was great. I really loved it. I loved the independency of traveling and kind of doing my own thing. And so it's free spirited like that.
Karen Ortman [00:04:13] That's awesome. So were you teaching English as a Second Language up until September 23rd?
Bre Lasley [00:04:19] Yes yes. I was getting ready, I was like planning my business. We were actually supposed to launch AcroEnglish on October 3rd. So that was like the launch date. And so I was just working up to it and getting ready to launch it.
Karen Ortman [00:04:35] So if you could share with our listeners what happened on September 23rd, 2015. Where were you living first of all?
Bre Lasley [00:04:43] OK. Yes. So I had been living in Salt Lake City with my little sister Kayli. We had lived there for three years together in a couple of different places. And six days before the 23rd our landlord, who's a good friend of ours, was like “Hey, we sold the house, you guys got to leave” and we were like, “Are you kidding me?” It's like, it was on a Wednesday, and he said we needed to be out by Monday. And so we're like, there's no way we're gonna find a place, like what are we supposed to do, this is crazy! But he did hook us up with where we were living for a couple of years and so we felt like we should, you know, try and help him out and get a place and get out quick.
Bre Lasley [00:05:21] We got really lucky and we found this cute home that was just re-furnished and we were super excited about it and we moved in. When we were actually touring the home, it was kind of funny, because I really wanted the upstairs room because of the natural light, I didn't want to be in the basement, and I knew that if I said I wanted the upstairs room then Kayli would want the upstairs room, and so when we were going through the house I was like, “Oh, dibs on the basement room,” like, “That's my room, it has two closets, I want it.” And she was like, “No,” she's like, “I want it.”
Karen Ortman [00:05:58] Ah that’s so funny, typical sisters!
Bre Lasley [00:05:59] Right? Good tip for all you listeners. So I got the upstairs room, we unpacked everything. Kayli went on a trip. She was just going to go to Park City for a couple of nights and she ended up coming home randomly on September 23rd, the evening of September 23rd. So her and I went to dinner with my mom and our brand new nephew. He was just three months old at the time and he took - it took our older sister five years to get pregnant and he was like - he still is just the absolute highlight of our lives. I’m a first time aunt with him and we just loved him and this will kind of come into the story later. But we went and spent time with him having dinner and then we went home. Kayli left with her boyfriend for a little while and then I was working on my computer in my bedroom, on my bed, in my underwear and I thought I heard something outside my window and I thought, there's no way, we shared the duplex with an older lady in her 70s and I thought that wasn't her, there is a 7 foot fence all the way around our house and so I just figured that was nothing, but I shut my music off just in case and I listened to it a little bit longer, didn't hear anything and so I just kept working. Kayli came home within a couple of minutes after that and her and her boyfriend went downstairs for a little while and then he came up and said goodnight to me. He just knocked on my door and said good night, I said good night, he left and then Kayli was getting ready for bed in the bathroom next to my room and so I went in and got ready for bed. We had sister talk, how was your night, whatever.
Karen Ortman [00:07:35] What time was this?
Bre Lasley [00:07:36] This is around 11:50 probably. And then when I went back in my room, I shut my light off and I had an alarm set on my phone at midnight to close my bedroom window. So I had opened it about an inch, it was really hard to open because they had painted over the windowsills I guess a few times. So I was like squatting down to get the window open and I could only open it about an inch and I was always kind of paranoid about safety. I was like, I would never sleep with like a window open as always. I've always just been extra cautious and I think that came from like living abroad and just knowing that you had to be on guard all the time to the point where it was kind of like, people would joke around, like Bre, you need to chill out, like you're in Utah, you know. Anyway my alarm went off to remind me to shut my window. I pushed snooze. I was just going to finish an email for my English business and then I heard the voice that I heard a few minutes earlier but this time I heard, “Hey girl, I'm coming in.” And when I turned my head to the right, about seven feet away from me this huge man was coming through my bedroom window, so I knew immediately that I was in danger and that my little sister also was in danger and because I was in my underwear on my bed I thought, “Oh, he's gonna rape me.” So I got off of my bed. My idea - he was coming in - our window was like seven and a half feet off the ground.
Bre Lasley [00:08:59] So he's pushed himself up with his hands, he’s propping himself up on the windowsill with his palms and leaning his chest in and when he leaned in he came in head down and then he kind of crawled in with his hands and so he was standing back up when he put its feet in. So I got over to him right when his both hands hit the ground and his head was looking up to come up.
Karen Ortman [00:09:20] And there's no screen on the window.
Bre Lasley [00:09:22] No, no it's an older home and the window is like two feet wide and I'm surprised he had got in, he was six two, two hundred and ten pounds, a huge, ripped dude. Yes, so he came in, I ran over, my idea was to hopefully get there in time to push him out of the window but I didn't get there fast enough, so he was already in and standing up by the time I got over there and immediately he just started punching me just back and forth in the face and the stomach. And then my mouth was immediately dry. I had never had a panic attack before, I didn't know what that felt like. I didn't even know I was having a panic attack at the moment until looking back, I knew what that was. I remember I put my hands up in front of my face and just said “Please no, please no.” I had my phone in my right hand. My computer was on my bed, my car keys were on my nightstand, and I said,
“There are my car keys, there's my computer, here's my phone, take whatever you want, just get out of my house.” So I figured he must be there for drug money. Let's just get him out and then I don't worry about it anymore.
Karen Ortman [00:10:24] What was his response when you offered?
Bre Lasley [00:10:25] He said no, he didn't want that. He wanted me. He covered my mouth with his left hand, shoved me up against my bedroom door and told me, “Shut up and cooperate with me or I'm going downstairs to get your little sister.” I knew that it wasn't anyone that I knew and so I figured maybe he knows my little sister because clearly he knows that she's younger than me, which was interesting because usually when people meet us for the first time they always think that Kayli is older than I am and she's 5 years younger than me. So yeah, he told me to shut up and cooperate with him or he would go downstairs and that just wasn't going to be an option.
Karen Ortman [00:11:02] And he knew that she was downstairs too.
Bre Lasley [00:11:05] Yeah and another interesting thing is outside of our home the window that he came in - my window’s directly - my room's directly above Kayli's room. Her window was ground level. It would have been so much easier for him to just go in her window. He knew not only that she's my little sister but that she was downstairs. And after he said that, though, in my room, I knew that I needed to get him away from my bed. And I thought if I could pull him into the kitchen and then pull him through like our dining room and into the living room, there's a huge window. I thought maybe if I could get him to there then somebody outside could see us and come in and help us.
Karen Ortman [00:11:40] Is your kitchen and living room on the second floor where you are?
Bre Lasley [00:11:43] Yeah just right outside my door. Yeah. My bedroom door. So I remember pulling. I reached up as far as I could on his arm, my left arm was like in his armpit. And then I just pulled as hard as I could on his arm trying to drag him away from my bed and I'll never forget, his arms are so soft and like sweaty and just so slippery that my hands just slid all the way down his arm. And it was terrifying because I thought, wait. What am I supposed to do? He's shirtless. He was hairless. I was. I had nothing to like grab onto, his skin was so soft that it made it even hard to like pull him out. Right. So am I pulling him towards the kitchen. We finally get into the kitchen and we're just fighting and fighting and I thought at least he doesn't know we have a basement. Which I was, you know, the whole like, a second location is very unforgivable. You do not want to go to a second location. And I knew that in my head it was just like, don't go to a second location, don't go to a second location. I don't even know why, I think I heard that one time in my whole life growing up. But it was that one time that I knew, like, do not go downstairs. But as soon as I finish that thought he picked me up like a little rag doll and threw me right in front of the basement stairs, which was also another clue that he had been watching us or he knew the layout of our home, because when we were touring that home we were like, “Isn't there a basement?” We were asking the landlord like, “We thought there was a basement here” and he's like, “Yeah, it’s in kind of a weird place, it's around the corner behind the fridge.” Weird entry to the basement. All right, whatever. And then the fact that he knew exactly where it was startled me. So he threw me over there and then I just heard this screaming that I'd never heard before.
Bre Lasley [00:13:25] I thought that he had brought someone else into our home and I turned around and it was Kayli, but obviously she woke up and she came up to fight. And she came up swinging and also, at this time, before she came upstairs I wasn't hitting him. I froze. I was so terrified. I felt, yeah, he was using this really nice voice trying to talk to me and I fell for it. I was trying to listen to him saying, “What do you want, how can I help you.” I mean, how can I help you, you're in my freaking house like get the heck out of my house, you know. Anyway I was just like just falling for his manipulation.
Karen Ortman [00:14:03] At this point he hadn't brandished any weapon?
Bre Lasley [00:14:05] No nothing. Anyway when Kayli, her reaction was completely different. When she came up she came up screaming and she came up swinging, she was ready to roll. She jumped on his back. She's trying to claw his eyes out, she's scratching him, she's screaming at him, they were just automatically fighting. I remembered that I had just put away some bear spray that I take hiking with me in this little, like, I call it the junk drawer in the kitchen, just like random stuff in it, you know. So it's like, OK, I'm gonna go over there and get that and then I remembered, oh my gosh, our kitchen knives are right there, like I'm just gonna grab a knife, and then I went over to get it and I was like, if I grab this he's gonna get it away from me. And so I was like, forget it. I'm not doing that. So we just kept fighting and fighting and he pushed me in front of - I was like in the doorway leading down to the basement.
Bre Lasley [00:14:51] And I remember spreading my knees in the doorway cos I was like, I do not want to go in the basement, if we go in the basement, no one's gonna hear us. No one's going to see us. We're gonna die. I spread my legs or my knees up against the doorframe, I'm holding onto his khaki cargo shorts and I'm punching him as hard as I can where every girl is told their whole lives to hit a boy right. So I'm hitting him as hard as I can in the groin. In fact I was like extending my arm just to make sure I wasn't missing anything. I used my elbow, I used my fist, and nothing was happening. He showed no reaction, no sign of pain. Nothing. And that was terrifying because it was one of the things like growing up, if you hit a boy there, like you'd watch a movie or see any boy hit right there is like down and out you know. And so that was really terrifying. And I just knew like we were in for a really really long night.
Bre Lasley [00:15:42] I remember being at the top of the stairs and hitting him there. Kayli somehow got behind me so she's standing on the top stair behind me. He lifts up his left leg and ninja kicks Kayli right in the chest so hard that she fell down the stairs but she didn't hit one of the stairs. She just went flying downstairs and the only thing that stopped her was her head going through a wall. The only wall in our house that wasn't made of brick and that was put in finished painted that day that we moved in. Doctors, specialists, anyone who has seen the way that she hit say that she should have been paralyzed or killed on impact. And luckily she wasn't. In fact, she got back up and was running up the stairs to come back and help me. Yeah. When she got upstairs or halfway up the stairs our attacker pushed me down but I was holding onto his shorts still. And so he rolled down the stairs with me. So we all kind of tumbled together and then we all got to the bottom of the stairs and that's where the real ugly physical fight started.
Bre Lasley [00:16:52] We spent what felt like forever at the bottom of those stairs just doing literally anything we could to get out from under him or away from him and just like fighting back. I remember I was on my stomach at one point he was on top of me, half of my stomach was like on the last stair, and on the landing. And then I still had my phone in my right hand and was like, oh, perfect. “Siri call 911” and Siri said, “I'm sorry, Bray I don't understand” and I was like OK. Now is not the time Siri. So I said “Hey Siri call 911” again. “I'm sorry Bray.” So now I'm like first of all my name's Bre, you should know, I've had you for seven years. And second of all, why isn't Siri understanding 911. And that was terrifying. And so I said “Hey Siri call dad.” And so “Calling Dad” she starts calling my dad and then I saw that it was like - my keypad was unlocked because I couldn't enter my passcode to unlock my phone, my face recognition wasn't working. And so as soon as she started calling my dad I ended the phone call, my keypad was unlocked. And then I dialed 911 and I specifically waited until I saw that our call was picked up. And as soon as I saw that it was taking the call was up I put my phone on the furthest stair that I could reach, turned the speaker towards me and for a minute and 33 seconds I screamed our address, “850 South Roberta Street, 850 South Roberta Street.” That's all I could think of because I just figured that's all they need to know, and if you just say your address they don't need to know anything else, right. Yeah.
Karen Ortman [00:18:29] At what point did you pick up your phone.
Bre Lasley [00:18:31] I was texting a friend and I was working on my computer, I had my phone right next to me texting a friend. So as soon as he said, “Hey girl, I'm coming in” I was putting my phone down and I looked up and saw him.
Karen Ortman [00:18:42] So your phone remained in your hand?
Bre Lasley [00:18:43] Yeah yeah until I put it on the stair.
Karen Ortman [00:18:46] Right. So you're at the bottom of the stairs now.
Bre Lasley [00:18:49] Yeah.
Karen Ortman [00:18:50] You put your phone after calling 911 on I guess the furthest away stair that you could reach -
Bre Lasley [00:18:57] Yeah, I’m still on my stomach and I just reached my arm up to it.
Karen Ortman [00:18:59] Yeah. Where's Kayli at this point?
Bre Lasley [00:19:02] She’s - we’re still at the landing of the stairs, so I didn't - I wasn't sure exactly where she was because he was on top of me and I couldn’t really see -
Karen Ortman [00:19:07] Was it dark?
Bre Lasley [00:19:09] Pitch black, completely black.
Sabah Fatima [00:19:11] You couldn’t see.
Bre Lasley [00:19:12] No, no. In fact, the only light in our house the entire night was moonlight from our kitchen window. So in the kitchen, I mean, I saw him when he was coming into my room because I was on my computer and had my computer light on but when I went in my room after getting ready for bed I shut my light off and so our house was completely dark. There wasn't a light on. It's just the natural light from outside coming in.
Karen Ortman [00:19:35] So then what happened? You're on the landing of the steps, the bottom steps. He's on top of you, Kayli somewhere.
Bre Lasley [00:19:42] Yes, and I’m just screaming my address. And then I realized, like, I can't hear Kayli anymore. And she'd been very vocal all night and it was scary, I was like, what happened to Kayli, why isn't she screaming, where is she. And right then my attacker kind of figured out what we were doing and he said “No.” And he ended my phone call. And when he ended my phone call he hit the button so hard that the phone fell down the stairs. And so there's a little bit of light and I could see his hand strangling Kayli up against the wall that her head had just gone through. And that's why she wasn't screaming. And that's why I couldn't hear her. That was the first time that I knew I needed to physically fight back right then because he was hurting my sister. And something clicked and I was like a lion. I don't think I - I've never been so angry. I've never been so physical in my life. And I remember running back. I was able to get up and I remember running backwards so I could have more space to run forward to tackle him. And so I like, like a frickin NFL tackle or something. I just remember like hitting him as hard as I could that we went through our laundry room door, broke the door, landed on the ground. So now we're on the ground. I can hear Kayli screaming, “Siri, call 911,” she had her phone with her too, before she went upstairs she left her phone on her bed and then she thought, I should probably get my phone. So she went back, got her phone, came upstairs to fight, luckily kept it with her somehow. And then she was calling 911 and she was able to call 911 three times during our fight in the basement. So I tackled him, we're in the laundry room, he's on top of me. Our laundry room’s like an older home, it’s like a cement room. I'm still in my underwear so I'll never forget the feeling of the cold cement on my back. He's kneeling on top of me, just punching me with both hands. So over and over again. My right arm is trapped up against my left - or my right side, but my left arm is free.
Bre Lasley [00:21:42] And I remembered I had a box of pencils for my English students. I thought, I'm gonna grab a pencil out of this little box, and I'm going to stab his eyes. That was my kind of grand plan. And then I can - he's telling me he's going to kill me, he's going to f-ing kill me and then all the sudden Kayli, she's hitting him with something and I'm not sure what she was hitting him with but she says, no, I'm going to kill you, I'm going to f-ing kill you. And as she's hitting him he says “Stop, please stop, you're hurting me.” And I was, I was kind of like, okay, stop. Like, maybe we can all just talk about it and save some time. I figured we'd already called 911. They already have our address. Someone's going to come here. Just like, everybody just chill out, which - looking back I’m like, absolutely not, never chill out. But I was just being manipulated by him, by his soft voice, by him saying he's hurt. It's crazy. He's in my home. He's on top of me. He's trying to hurt me, he's hurting my sister, and I'm still being manipulated by him. And it's just disturbing that they have that power - they can have that power over someone anyway. And then I just hear Kayli, they're fighting, and then she's like ,“I'm going to kill you first.” And they're just like - those two are just like so angry.
Bre Lasley [00:22:59] I remember grabbing what I thought was a pencil but when I turned my hand - you have to remember it's really dark. Yeah. When I turned my hand and I opened it to see what I had grabbed, I saw a knife.
Bre Lasley [00:23:10] I saw the blade of a knife - I was holding the blade of the hunting knife that he was holding with his right hand. That he was about to stab me with. I remember thinking like a hunting knife was not meant -
Karen Ortman [00:23:26] Mm hmm.
Bre Lasley [00:23:27] Sorry. It wasn't meant for me. It was dirty. It was serrated. It was so long. It was - I mean, it was, my whole hand was holding it, so it was like - the blade itself was five inches long. And then the handle I think was three inches. I'm not sure. Anyways, I'm holding this knife and I just said “Kayli, he has a knife.” And she was shocked. “He what?” And I was like, “He has a knife” and I knew right then, “You need to get out of here. We need more help.” And that's just kind of the darkest point of the night, was, I knew that we were going to die and he wasn't there for drug money. He wasn't there for anything than what he already said - for me and for Kayli. And I told Kayli she needed to go to get more help. And she said, “No I'm not leaving you.” And then I told her again, “Please, you need to go. We need more help.” And she said, “No, I'm not leaving you” again. And then a third time. And then finally she listened. She listened and still to this day -
Karen Ortman [00:24:43] I'm sorry but what strength on your part to send her.
Bre Lasley [00:24:46] Yeah.
Karen Ortman [00:24:47] And what strength it took for her to leave you.
Bre Lasley [00:24:49] Oh, even more so. I can't imagine - I think if roles were reversed, and that's why, in a weird way, if it happened I'm glad that he came through my window because I think that my pride or whatever would be like, “No you are not going to hurt my sister.”
Bre Lasley [00:25:06] I don't know if I could have left. No one has ever done an act of love like she did for me, leaving, that she did for me, for my future, for our family, for our mom, our other sisters, my brother.
Karen Ortman [00:25:26] But you displayed acts of love too.
Bre Lasley [00:25:27] Yeah exactly. But just out of gratitude, I think that that deserves more recognition of, she left for me and I'm grateful she did. And I wanted her to leave, obviously to find help, but mainly because I didn't want to see - I didn't think that she was going to be able to find help by then. I thought, there's no way, I'm dead. But I didn't want her to see her older sister being brutally murdered and then being brutally murdered herself. So she's almost at the top of the stairs and that's when she hears “He's stabbing me. He's stabbing me.” So he started stabbing me, stabbed me multiple times in the stomach. He knew exactly what he was doing, and this might be a trigger warning, but he wasn't just - it wasn’t just an in and out stab. It was - the knife was in then he was moving it around. He knew -
Karen Ortman [00:26:22] Purposeful.
Bre Lasley [00:26:23] Yeah it was purposeful, he knew the stabs that would kill me the fastest, basically. Or where to stab to kill me the fastest. And then he stabbed me in the right leg and when he stabbed me in the leg he stabbed it and then he dragged it up four inches. And then, so Kayli’s hearing, “He’s stabbing me. He’s stabbing me.” So she leaves to go get more help. He finishes stabbing me. He stands up, his knife is pointed towards me, his back's facing me. He turns his head over his left shoulder, laughs, and says “Now I'm going to get your little sister.” And that was the last thing I was going to let him do. I don't remember getting up - I can remember my ponytail, I had like a nighttime ponytail on top of my head and I can remember that flopping and kind of hitting my forehead and then grabbing his arms and pulling him down. So then it's me and him.
Karen Ortman [00:27:10] What strength on your part. You had just been stabbed multiple times-
Bre Lasley [00:27:14] Multiple times. I was losing so much blood. The interesting thing is, though, I - and a lot of - a common question is, did it hurt? I didn't feel anything. If I didn't see the knife, I wouldn't have been able to pay very close attention because it's still really dark and I wouldn't have been able to pay close attention to his silhouette to see what he was doing, so I wouldn't have known he was stabbing me if I didn't grab the knife, until later, obviously. Yeah. So at this point it's just, we're on the ground. He's seated on his bottom. His legs are spread. I'm on my knees in between his legs, we’re face to face. Both of my hands are up and on the top of his arms under his armpits. I can feel his warm breath on my face. I get chills just thinking about it, even talking about it. And then I say, “What do you want. Just please talk to me.” I'm thinking, this is somebody’s Dad. This is somebody’s brother who has an addiction. Maybe we can help him and just like - just talk to me. And my other thing was, too, I took it very obviously, I took it very personally but I had spent my whole life learning about other people, loving other people, serving in communities of addiction and having that affect my personal life in so many different ways, from family members and for other friends and I saw that addiction changes people and I figured that that's what it was and I was genuinely, “Just talk to me,” that's who I am. That's who I was before, and I just wanted to help him if I could. And I also was like, “If you knew me, you wouldn't be doing this to me. I'm a good person.” And it was so - it's so hard for me to think, they're not thinking about that. They don't care about that. You know, they don't see us as people. They just see us as objects and a game. Anyway, so we're sitting there, he puts his head down and he says “I'm sorry.”
Bre Lasley [00:29:06] And for a split second - I usually don't even talk about this because I don't ever want victims or survivors or someone who's being abused - this is a - I don't even know how to explain it correctly, but I felt a love for him. But please do not get me wrong. It was not a personal love - I have no love for him. I don't think I ever will. I don't want to have a love for him. I hate him. He's like, he's a monster.
Karen Ortman [00:29:34] That goes to your beauty as a person to see that and to feel that, you know. There's no shame that I can see in that, in saying that that's what you experienced.
Bre Lasley [00:29:48] I appreciate that.
Karen Ortman [00:29:49] No it's not - you're not forgiving what he did to you. You can't help with that sort of overwhelming power that you have in your life and how that affected you at a particular time.
Bre Lasley [00:30:03] Yeah well thank you and I think it's just - I think I just say it with caution because I don't want - in victim mentality, there's no wrong or right way to feel and I don't want someone to feel like they have to have that feeling because they don't. In fact, a lot of times I wish I didn't ever have it because it makes me so angry sometimes too. Like I don't want to have - I didn't want to have that feeling but I just knew for a split second that somewhere, someone loved him. And maybe it was his mother, maybe it is God. maybe it is another higher power. I don't know, but I just knew somewhere someone loved him and was going to take care of it. I no longer - it was just I guess a great lesson for me and my healing. I don't have to worry about him anymore. He's gonna be taken care of. I need to worry about me. And that's - in that moment in that basement, there's the same thing. OK. Whatever. He's fine, he's taken care of. It's time to think about me. That just lasted for a split second. Then he's back on top of me saying he's going to kill me. Then he's going to rape my dead body. His plan was to rape me first, but he didn't know I was going to be strong. Which was another sign of, “Oh, so you've been watching me. If you didn't think I was going to be strong.” So I’m kind of like putting this all together, as this is going on he gets up off of me, and I was like, “What do you want. What.” And he's like, “Well what do you have.” And then I had this distinct thought of “Tell him there's a thousand dollars cash in a Nike box in Kayli's closet.”
Bre Lasley [00:31:34] And I was like, there is not a thousand dollars cash in - anywhere in Kayli’s room or in this house. That's crazy. So I didn't say that.
Bre Lasley [00:31:42] And then again, “Tell him there's a thousand dollars cash in a Nike box in Kayli's closet.” Little did I know, Kayli had gone to Park City - she went to the Nike outlet. She bought five pairs of Nike's, came back, didn't tell me because she didn't want me to wear them. So she hid them in her closet on the top shelf in all the Nike boxes. She has two walk in closets so like walking back into her room, it was just like a PowerPoint almost, like a slideshow, like “You're gonna do this and then you're going to tell them that it's in her closet, when he goes into the room, shut the closet door behind him, shut her bedroom door, lock it on the way out and then you'll have time to run upstairs and get help by the time he has to get out of all the doors and go through the Nike boxes. these supposed boxes.” So we walk into the room -
Karen Ortman [00:32:23] So you said that to him.
Bre Lasley [00:32:24] Yeah I say it, and he went for it. “There's a thousand dollars cash in the Nike box in my sister's closet.” And so he's like, “Okay, let's go get it. Okay.” So he wanted me to go with him. But our stairs didn't have a railing or anything off the side, and so I knew that if he went around me he could just jump up the stairs and run and get Kayli. So I did like the side shuffle up against the stairs because I didn't want him to go. He would have to go around or through me to get to the stairs to get to Kayli. So I remember specifically turning and side shuffling that way like leading him to Kayli's room.
Karen Ortman [00:32:56] But at this point you don't even know where Kayli is.
Bre Lasley [00:32:59] I have no idea where Kayli is. She was upstairs, I know she's gone. I have no idea where she is. We get into Kayli's room and then he said, “Nevermind. I'm going to kill you instead.” And so he picks up the suitcase that was in Kayli's room. He hits me in the stomach.
Karen Ortman [00:33:15] Where's the knife at this point?
Bre Lasley [00:33:17] I I think it was left in -no, no, he still had it. So I don't know, because it was dark. So it was probably in his left hand - or his right hand, I'm not sure because I don't know what hand he hit the suitcase with or was holding when he hit me with the suitcase. But he hits me in the stomach with the suitcase and then he hits me across the face with the suitcase. And I've always been like so weird about teeth, like I love teeth, I studied dental hygiene, teeth have always been a thing for me, right. And he chipped my tooth and I was pissed.
Bre Lasley [00:33:46] I was like, there is no way I'm going to die with a freakin chipped tooth. So I just remember being so angry about that and just like getting up and just really fighting him again.
Bre Lasley [00:33:56] And so it's just like we're back fighting. And then he picks me up. He has his knife in his right hand. So he must have hit me with his left hand with the suitcase because when he picked me up again he had his knife at my throat. My feet were dangling, I'm up off the ground. And I thought, like, this is it, there's literally nothing else I can do. And I kind of gave up and then I just had this thought, “Fight. Keep fighting.” That's kind of turned into my mantra, my motto. And so I don't remember what I kicked but I remember I kicked something which pushed us back into our laundry room. And so now he's on the ground. I'm on top of him, my back's on his chest. He puts me in like this MMA hold, has his legs up wrapped up and over me, they're crossed, he pulls me in tighter to him, has his left arm up and over my arms and his right arm and his right hand is at my neck with a knife pressed against it. I could feel the blade on my neck and I could feel him flex, him telling me he's going to slit my throat, he's going to kill me then he's going to rape my dead body. I remember holding both of my hands up on his arm and trying to pull it away from my throat and just saying, “Please no, please no.” And then I was so tired and I think I was getting a little bit delirious or something for my blood loss and just obviously the trauma of the situation and I again, I just kind of gave up and said, “Okay, you can kill me, just please don't kill my sister.” That's the last thing I said before he flexed his knife to slit my throat. But right when he flexed I moved my head over a little bit to the right and right when I did that, I saw two black shoes coming down the stairs and I thought, they'd already killed Kayli. I couldn't hear Kayli screaming. I didn't know what was going on so I said “Kill me, you can kill me, just please don't kill Kayli.” And then I heard, “Salt Lake City Police Department, drop the knife.” And so the two black shoes I saw weren't the shoes of another bad guy, they were the shoes of a hero, my hero, an angel really.
Bre Lasley [00:36:05] And when he said Salt Lake City, please drop the knife, he gave him three chances to drop the knife. And now he says he gave him two chances too many as a joke but it just speak so highly of him as an officer. Because even in that situation, an undeserved creep, he still gave him three chances to drop the knife, and he didn't. So he said “Drop the knife” three times, my attacker said “No.” In fact, he told the officer to step back because he's going to stick me. And when he extended his arm, so he brought his right arm out and he extended it to come back and stab me in the throat. But right when he extended it - before then he was kind of playing peekaboo with the officer, so he had his head behind my head and was kinda leaning out back and forth, back and forth. But when he extended his arm he extended it with such force that his head came out from behind my head. So our cheeks were touching. The officer took one shot in the dark, and that one shot took my attacker's life and saved my life. And then I stood up and I went to give Ben, Officer Ben Hone, I went to give him a hug.
Bre Lasley [00:37:08] And here I was like gushing blood. He said it looked like a Tarantino movie or something, like, “you do not touch me.” And so he was like “Get upstairs.” I have no memory of running up the stairs and because I'm so worried about my teeth - here I am talking about teeth, you’d think it was like a teeth episode. But I never - when I'm running upstairs, I literally never skip stairs. I've never done it. It's a weird thing of mine. I always go one by one.
Bre Lasley [00:37:33] But he said I was running so fast up the stairs I was skipping two stairs.
Karen Ortman [00:37:39] And you had the strength to do that.
Bre Lasley [00:37:40] Yeah but I also give credit to a divine help because I don't have any memory of the stairs at all. And then I got to the top of the stairs. All I wanted was to see Kayli. I turned my head to the left which is the direction of my bedroom, I saw my open window and I just said “Kayli.” She wasn't there and then I looked straight ahead into the kitchen. I didn't see her.
Bre Lasley [00:38:06] I just think where is she. Then I remember I turned my head to the right, that’s when I saw her, and she was okay. She was okay and she said “Bre!” and then she ran over to me.
Sabah Fatima [00:38:21] What an inspiration you are. So brave.
Bre Lasley [00:38:25] Oh thank you.
Sabah Fatima [00:38:27] Both of you are so brave. How's Kayli doing now?
Bre Lasley [00:38:30] She's doing well. It's really interesting how trauma affects people differently. It's been four years on the 23rd of September, it marked our four year anniversary and we just moved out from living with each other. So we've been living with each other and that was a really big step for both of us. So she's now living in Salt Lake in an older home with her boyfriend and I think it's a little triggering because we've lived - ever since our attack, we've lived in high rises with full time security. It's interesting how I've been going to different therapies and I've really, I guess, outwardly struggled for this entire time. Whereas her struggle has been more of an inward - she doesn't talk about it, we don't talk about it.
Bre Lasley [00:39:17] I can't speak for her but it is interesting to see from an outside perspective how things are kind of just coming to the surface four years later.
Sabah Fatima [00:39:26] What resources did you seek after the incident? When did you?
Bre Lasley [00:39:31] I think that's a really good question. I think, well after, I mean immediately I was - I think I was in shock for about a week. But after that, I mean I think I was in shock for longer than that. But the week after, I didn't think about any resources, I didn't think - I thought I would just go back to work on Monday and it was going to be fine. That's what Kayli did. So I thought, well, that's what I can do too. Wasn't the case for me. I remember sitting on my parent's couch googling “What to do after surviving an attempted murder. Where to find help after surviving an attempted murder.” And the only things that came up on Google were other stories of other attempted murders. I didn't know where to go to find help. I remember going to like a religious therapy which I did not like at all. I remember going to talk therapy, family therapy, which again I didn't like at all. And then I found EMDR and that was life changing for me.
Karen Ortman [00:40:25] What’s that?
Bre Lasley [00:40:26] It’s an eye movement therapy and so they help on realigning your brain lesions to help you - to make thoughts - to clear your thought process basically. And it's a common therapy for trauma. So I remember seeing like the YMCA popped up, but I was like, the YMCA, like my ignorance, I thought that that was like for homeless people or something, like I didn't know of all the resources the YMCA has. I didn't know of like all these things, that there's a plethora of resources for women - in fact, for every 2000 resources a girl has, a female victim has, a boy has one. So there's all kinds of resources for girls but it's just finding them - they're just really, for some reason they're really hard to find until you're a part of the world of advocacy then they're - obviously they come to your attention.
Karen Ortman [00:41:17] Well that's the purpose of of a podcast like this. To really spread the word regarding resources that are available to those who need them. You know so even if you have somebody who's a victim in Utah or California, you know, hopefully the podcast will present resources that are available to that, you know, side of the country but if they can't seem to find what they're looking for they can always reach out to the resources that we list or were referred to in our podcast, because I'm pretty sure that if it's a New York City based resource they can help somebody find something in their area.
Bre Lasley [00:42:01] Absolutely. A good resource to go to is like on campus, there's women's centers on every campus that I know of, that I've ever had experience with. So women's centers have a lot obviously, like what you guys are doing here on campus is wonderful. Yeah it's huge. In fact, I think that that's something that every campus should have and push, mainly, obviously, for the resources you guys have in the help that you're doing. But just to create awareness of, “Hello, we're here for you” in a safe place and creating a safe place that people who understand and who have a background and those sorts of things. It's vital for campuses. Also Victim Services or victim advocacies, people can just look those up and from them then they can be referred to a ton of different options.
Sabah Fatima [00:42:50] Yeah. How is your recovery progressing emotionally and physically now?
Bre Lasley [00:42:55] Yes. So after our fight, I found out that only 80 percent of women don't fight back, leaving them more vulnerable to being raped or murdered. Twenty percent of women fight back and I knew that I wanted to change those stats. And at first I thought it was only that self-defense was just purely a physical self-defense but quickly after my attempted murder and my recovery, I knew that self-defense was equally spiritual, mental, and emotional as it was physical. And it's something that should be practiced everyday and that's something for you, I think that it's not just learning the physical techniques which I support and I'll continue to teach - in fact I just got certified this week as a core instructor for self-defense which I'm really looking forward to.
Karne Ortman [00:43:40] Congratulations.
Bre Lasley [00:43:41] Thank you. It actually took me - I mean, I've been going to different self-defense trainings but I've never wanted to certify until now, because of my mental and emotional health. I wasn't in a place where I wanted to be held on the ground like I was held on the ground before - it was too triggering I wanted nothing to do with it, but I found a safe place and someone I trusted. And the day before yesterday was one of the most empowering days of my life because I was held in those positions and I was able to get out. And I think that girls need to know that self-defense is for you and it's not for the creeps out there. No, like practice self-defense so you are stronger so you can have more confidence and so you can live the happy life that you deserve to live. But practice it emotionally and mentally too and not just physically.
Karen Ortman [00:44:30] The certification course that you went through, that was in New York City, correct?
Bre Lasley [00:44:33] Yeah it was, yeah.
Sabah Fatima [00:44:36] Where was it?
Bre Lasley [00:44:38] It was in Hawthorne.
Karen Ortman [00:44:39] And what is the name of the course?
Bre Lasley [00:44:39] So it’s Jane Jujitsu. Yeah. With Defend Universities, Steve Carradine is the founder and CEO and trainer. So after I knew that self defense wasn't just a physical defense I wanted to raise that awareness too. And I knew that, OK, if 80 percent of women aren’t fighting back, let's change that. But then as soon as I started dealing with anxiety and depression, I have never dealt with those before until after my attack and those have been so much harder in so many different ways than the physical fight in the basement that night. There are times where I would do anything to go outside and run mountain trails like I used to run by myself or like, just to go get the mail without thinking that someone's going to get me on the way down or someone's going to kill me while I'm outside. I would do anything to buy a plane ticket and go explore like a new city with a new friend or learn about a new country or whatever I did. It's hard for me and it's like really debilitating and I think that anxiety and depression aren't -it's getting better. I think the communication, the dialogue is getting so much better. But there's a social stigma of not talking about it. And I think that is re-victimising in a way, I felt like people were always quick to ask “How are you doing, how are your wounds healing. How are you, how's your body doing after being stabbed.” It took six weeks to full recovery. I mean, it was kind of a long six weeks, but they're fine. But like, I didn't know what was happening, like I felt, yeah it was just like the emotions that I was feeling - I felt like I was a totally different person. My thoughts were really cloudy. I just didn't feel the same. I was so anxious. I had panic attacks constantly but I wasn't, I didn't know what was happening and I just wasn't educated on it. And I think that until I got to a point where I was like, I want to know why my mouth is getting dry, why I'm getting shaky, why I feel like I'm having a heart attack, what is this. Like someone please teach me about it. I was like, oh that's anxiety. And it was heartbreaking for me because I've grown up with people telling me they had anxiety my whole life and I just kind of figured, like, oh they get nervous. And kind of left it at that. And it's so so much more. And those fights are just as hard and just as scary. Yeah and they don't go away, and they require us to keep fighting just as much as my six foot two, two hundred and ten pound attacker did. They're trying to take the happy lives that we deserve, living, away, just like he was. And unless we stand up to them, find resources for them, help address that, talk about, get medicine if that's what - whatever you want to do, whatever works for them. People need to feel confident in doing that. So when I'm fighting those fights I just knew that I wanted to create something to help girls keep fighting, and I created a platform or organization called Fight Like Girls where I share my story and teach about physical self-defense and to share resources that I've gathered from my own personal healing, from EMDR therapy to art therapy to pottery therapy to music therapy. I've been trying all different kinds of therapies because everyone's going to heal differently. Everyone's going to need different help. And sometimes I’m like, music therapy, I don't play any instruments, but I went to music therapy and that was one of the most healing experiences of my life. Or like an art therapy, I can't draw a stick figure straight, like I am not an artist at all, but going to that art class was so therapeutic and so neat and it takes your mind completely off of the trauma or the triggering thoughts. So there's so many resources and I just wanted to create a place for people to find those resources more easily than I was able to find them.
Karen Ortman [00:48:35] Good for you.
Bre Lasley [00:48:36] Thank you.
Sabah Fatima [00:48:36] When did you start that?
Bre Lasley [00:48:38] In 2016. Yeah. So I've kind of met - it's been developing and up until now, actually, it's kind of just been the platform where I'm sharing my story and giving different advice or whatever it is from my own learning experience. I focused a lot on public speaking but now we're about to rebrand Fight Like Girls and and make it into the business that I've hoped it would become for a while now.
Sabah Fatima [00:49:02] Where do you see it going in the next five years?
Bre Lasley [00:49:04] I think it can go a lot of ways. My biggest plan is just to create a digital online platform where people throughout the States, dependent on their location, can find help in different categories from different corners for kind of taking a Muhammad Ali vibe. So Fight Like Girls is like the boxing ring. I'm like acting as the corner woman to every viewer’s fight’s fuel, so they come and each corner of the fight ring has a different type of self-defense. So you have a mental resources, physical resources of self-defense, emotional and spiritual resources as well.
Sabah Fatima [00:49:40] I'm so proud of you.
Bre Lasley [00:49:41] Thank you, thanks. It's healing. I think it's healing and I think it helps. I don't think if people don't want to talk about their story, they're entitled not to talk about it but I do encourage listeners to find a safe place to talk about it, whether it's with the best friend, whether it's in the mirror, or whether it's with a therapist, whatever it is to say it out loud. Because I think, not only, I remember as weird as this sounds, but before I knew who to talk to, what to do, I remember telling my story in the mirror and just saying, like, “I'm alive, I'm telling it, this is me now, I am standing. He's the one that didn't make it out of the basement, not me.”
Karen Ortman [00:50:23] And you need to celebrate that.
Bre Lasley [00:50:24] Yeah and celebrate it. And I think that just talking about it and then talking about it to somebody else and seeing something light up in somebody else is like, oh, if she can do it, I can too. That is one of the most healing feelings of all and it's probably a little selfish of me to tell it but it's like, it's super, super healing to see.
Karen Ortman [00:50:41] It's a win win.
Bre Lasley [00:50:42] Yeah. And so I came to like speak up.
Sabah Fatima [00:50:44] You’re changing so many lives and so many people’s lives as you guys are giving people a platform to do so. What do you want victims to know about survival as a result of your experience on September 23rd 2015.
Bre Lasley [00:51:00] First of all, I love this question. I think is so thoughtful. And thank you for even asking. I would say it's not a one time event. It's ongoing. Find a safe place. Find a trusted place. And know what you need to help you. I think you need to be your first priority, and love you. Be proud of your progress. Have your own back. My sister tells me all the time, and just know that it gets -you get stronger making your fight lighter and it gets better and you're not your fight. Define it before it defines you. I think that's really a powerful statement and a powerful lesson that I had to learn. If we don't define what happened to us, acknowledge it. We don't have to accept it. I will never accept what happened to me, ever. It's not okay. I will never accept abuse. I will never accept rape. Obviously it's not Okay but I think acknowledging it, that it happened, there's nothing I can do to take it away but not making - it's not me. It's just something that happened as part of my story. It's a chapter in my story, a sucky one, but also that led to a more powerful one, to a stronger one. And just making sure that I'm in control of the happy life that I get to live. And ultimately it's up to me, as it's up to you and to everyone listening. So my biggest advice is to love you, give that same love for you and just know that this isn't it. There's something, someone, somewhere, I don't know whether it's energy, whatever it is, that there's something bigger. Find hope in something bigger than you, no matter what it is. Find help for yourself, help others and you'll heal.
Karen Ortman [00:52:52] Wow. You're a special person.
Bre Lasley [00:52:55] Thank you.
Karen Ortman [00:52:57] Is there anything else that you want to share with our listeners today?
Bre Lasley [00:53:00] I would just recommend that taking self-defense as a top priority, as a confidence booster, not out of fear, out of confidence and love for you. I think looking into self-defense, there's a lot of different things, a lot of different resources available for self-defense, no matter what it is. Take a class, be educated on that, follow Fight Like Girls and we can help you with that too. But really just know that you are your first line of defense, you can't really depend on anybody else, and I just think that it's really important for girls to be, for everyone, really, to be educated in their surroundings, to be aware of their surroundings, and no matter what to keep fighting.
Sabah Fatima [00:53:45] Thank you.
Bre Lasley [00:53:46] You're welcome.
Karen Ortman [00:53:47] Thank you so much for taking time out of your visit here to New York City to do this podcast. Oh I would be eternally grateful to you because I know your message is going to be heard by so many who need to hear it.
Karen Ortman [00:54:04] So thank you and thank you to all of our listeners for joining us for today's episode of you matter.
Sabah Fatima [00:54:11] If any information presented today was triggering or disturbing please feel free to contact the wellness exchange at 212 443 9999. You can also get in touch with NYU used department public safety and their victim services unit by calling 212 998 2222. Make sure to rate, review, and subscribe for more podcasts like these on Apple podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify.