After finally arresting her attacker and breaking free of him, Holly Reese recalls that an official handed her the papers for her Temporary Protection Order – aka the Restraining Order – against her husband.
âThey said, it’s a restraining order. Learn how to defend yourself,â Reese said. “It won’t save you.”
Her husband had bonded with the release from prison and made threatening phone calls and sending threatening messages. Law enforcement couldn’t find him for months and he repeatedly violated the order by contacting her, Reese said.
“As a survivor, not knowing what to do, I was so scared. You tell me to stand up for myself – this guy hurt me more than I can tell. I don’t know how to do that,” she declared. .
“When you come home you say to yourself, what am I supposed to do now? ” she said. “How am I going to defend myself from being out of shape and scared to death?” ”
Too scared to leave the house
Reese was afraid to leave her house and was unable to go to work.
For seven years, she felt trapped in her home. She would go with others, but not alone. She had a service dog, and she and the dog would drive, get food from a drive-thru, but she was too scared to leave the car unless someone was with her.
âI wasn’t working anymore, I really didn’t have a life. And one day my mom was driving and she saw this sign,â Reese said.
Reese had long adopted the nickname “DASmel”. Like a young lady, but a stronger version.
Find his life
Her mother told her she saw a sign with that name on it. It turned out to be a sign for Damsel in Defense, a company that markets personal defense devices through direct sales. Reese was intrigued and wondered if some of these devices could ever help her.
A few days later, she and her mother met the woman who was selling the products; then she and a friend saw her again at an event.
âI’m like – what’s that? Something tells me I need to talk to this person,â Reese said. So she told him about the products and Reese’s friend said, “With these products you can defend yourself.”
âThis is what started my journey to regain my life,â she said. She felt more confident with stun devices, pepper spray and non-lethal weapons. She now had the courage to go out alone in public again.
But Reese wanted to do more. âI wanted to learn to be a good fighter,â she said. She started taking classes in jiu jitsu, krav maga and karate. She soon realized that even if these martial arts had their advantages, the skills would take years to develop.
âPeople need protection now. To defend themselves, to help keep their children safe – they need it today,â Reese said. She wanted to learn “practical self-defense”.
So she looked for an instructor who would teach street fighting methods. She finally found one: Nick Drossos.
As she learned, she decided she wanted to teach other women.
Be your own hero
Reese is now a Certified Nick Drossos Tactical Self-Defense Instructor and Founder of Warrior Defenders. She offers classes for women to teach them how to defend themselves against attackers – and how to avoid attacks in the first place with things like situational awareness and de-escalation tactics.
Any woman can learn ways to defend herself, Reese said. “I teach women in wheelchairs, older women who have canes, women with disabilities.” She has students who probably couldn’t take traditional jiu jitsu or karate classes.
âI wanted everyone in my classes to feel welcome,â she said.
Situational awareness is our number one defense mechanism, Reese said. When people are outside looking at their phones, their situational awareness is low.
Many women’s self-defense classes are taught by men, where the men help out in a class by playing the role of the abuser. But Reese said some of the women she taught were so damaged by domestic violence or sexual assault that they wouldn’t be able to take a class where a man teaches.
âA lot of them will not go to the men to ask for help,â she said.
In one class, Reese will ask students about their greatest fears and concerns for safety, and she will focus on particular techniques for addressing those concerns. While you can learn several good techniques in one night, “you can’t learn everything in one lesson,” she said.
And people have to train. âYou have to train at least once a weekâ¦ You have to learn muscle memory,â she said. âThen try to find out what your abuser is going to do – because that’s real life. ”
She recalled a student who asked to be taught to take off if someone held her down and banged her head on the ground – because the woman had been in that situation.
She asks the students to bring their self-defense items that they may have in class and she will show them how to use them. Women who use canes or walkers can use them as a weapon of defense.
She also talks to the students about the use of firearms. âI’m not against carrying guns, but you have to be very good and knowledgeable at it,â she said, otherwise the gun could end up being used against you.
Reese has several educational videos on her YouTube channel, including one of a policewoman. âShe explains why it’s important to layer your guns the way they do and why a gun won’t protect you all the time,â she said.
She also teaches gun defense: “how to get away from the line of fire, how to make sure you don’t have your kids in the line of fire,” Reese said. She teaches how to escape if someone has a knife to your throat and someone comes up behind you, as well as car safety, carjacking prevention, and road rage education.
When it comes to conflict on the road, “you’re never supposed to stop by the side of the road and confront someone,” Reese said. Still, there are videos on YouTube that tell people to do just that.
Fewer casualties – and more fighters
âI’m doing my best to save as many lives as possible so that we see fewer casualties on TV and more fighters,â Reese said.
The recent case of Gabby Petito, who disappeared on a cross-country adventure with her boyfriend and was later found dead, has raised awareness about domestic violence issues considerably.
âThis story is horrible, but it happens so much,â Reese said. âA lot of people are afraid to talk about domestic violence. It’s not pretty, it’s not something people want to face. They want to hide from it.
âIt’s sad to think that a woman would stay in these situations. And a lot of people don’t understand why,â she said.
There is an overwhelming psychological effect that occurs with abusers and the women who care about them, Reese said. “They abuse that power and make you stay in so many ways.”
âPeople will say – you are stupid to stay,â she said. “But you don’t understand what’s going on until you’ve experienced it. You have to find a way to leave, to break that traumatic bond.” Some victims of domestic violence even develop Stockholm syndrome.
The bond between victims and their abuser can be a lot like drug addiction, Reese said.
Reese speaks very loudly about domestic violence and has decals on her vehicle to let everyone know that she is a survivor.
âWhen I drive I want the women who go through this to see that I am a survivor, that there are ways out of this,â she said.
And she said she meets a lot of people who see the stickers on her car and tell her they’re trying to find help for someone they know who is a victim of domestic violence.
Women who try to leave situations of domestic violence may feel lonely. “But as soon as you step forward and take that step, you will not be alone. There are people and places waiting to help you if you could just step forward and prove that you are ready to move,” she said. declared.
Often, friends and family of someone experiencing domestic violence begin to think that their loved one will never take the necessary steps to get out of it. Reese said she was in pain in silence.
Her family could tell something was wrong, but “they just couldn’t figure out what was wrong,” she said. “They didn’t know how to save me. I thought I could do it on my own.”
While law enforcement wants to help, “there’s not much they can do,” Reese said.
She also participates in a local women’s empowerment course that helps women recover from abuse and trauma. “We are doing our best to help as many people as possible,” she said.
The course takes place in a secure place. For more information, visit the âWomen’s Encouragement and Support Teamâ page on Facebook or email [email protected]
One of Reese’s mottos is: “Be your own hero”.
âWe don’t know we have our hero within us until someone shows us he’s there,â Reese said. “Anyone can be your own hero. I’ll show you how.”
For more information, check out the Warrior Defenders YouTube channel and Facebook page.