Bre Lasley still remembers the weight of her attacker’s body on her thighs and his knife piercing her stomach — not once, but several times.
The 6-foot-2-inch man weighed over 200 pounds and was high on meth. He could not feel Lasley’s punches as she fought to survive.
Lasley, from Syracuse, Utah, was just a normal, adventure-loving returned missionary who had traveled and lived around the world, started her own business and found joy in running outside.
But on Sept. 23, 2015, 48-year-old Robert Berger brutally attacked and nearly killed Lasley and her sister, Kayli, after climbing through Lasley’s bedroom window in Salt Lake City.
Although both women and several neighbors called 911 during that time, none of the calls was dispatched. Ben Hone, an off-duty police officer who noticed Lasley’s sister screaming in the streets for help on his way home, eventually saved the sisters.
Hone shot and killed the man while his knife was at Lasley’s throat.
After speaking to people in the police department following the attack, Lasley learned only 20 percent of women fight back against their attackers, leaving 80 percent of women to be raped, murdered or both.
Lasley said she fell into the 80 percent category in the beginning. She felt completely frozen while her attacker was beating her. It wasn’t until her sister came upstairs, screaming and swinging punches, that Lasley said she got the motivation to start fighting for her life.
This statistic became the foundation of Fight Like Girls, a self-defense program Lasley started with sexual assault survivor Elizabeth Smart to help women everywhere fight their physical, mental and emotional battles.
She originally started Fight Like Girls to teach about the importance of physical self-defense, but Lasley said the program took off when she started opening up about the mental and emotional pain that followed her attack.
Despite her attacker’s death, Lasley shares with others her fight is far from over. Depression, anxiety and fear have been the real battles for her every day since this traumatic event.
Fight Like Girls has now become a resource for women to fight whatever battles they are facing, whether that is depression, loss, bullying, illness, eating disorders, anxiety, addiction or abuse.
Lasley and Smart visited BYU’s campus October 2016 to participate in the Voices of Courage campaign to bring awareness to violence and abuse. They also hold “fight nights” around Utah where they share their stories and teach self-defense.
Each time she shares her story, people thank Lasley and tell her how she has helped them.
One such person is Ginger Parrish, a blogger and social media influencer who said Lasley helped her get through cyberbullying by helping her see she was more than her fight.
“She really helps you see that the way to heal is to help others,” Parrish said.
As her friend, Parrish said she continues to watch Lasley power through difficult days, but the more she struggles, the more she looks for ways to help others.
“It’s crazy to me that she can go through something so hard and make it a positive thing,” Parrish said.
Parrish is now helping Lasley with a new campaign she is launching this summer: the PowHer Project.
The PowHer Project is meant to be a place where people who are going through difficult trials can seek professional help or gain community support.
Lasley felt inspired to start the PowHer Project because of her own experience struggling to find the right help after her attack. She said she even started Googling things like “what to do after surviving an attempted murder.” Seeking help felt like a taboo subject for her, and she felt ashamed and embarrassed to get counseling.
Since then, she has tried many different therapies and anti-depressants. However, Lasley said therapy doesn’t have to be sitting down to talk with a counselor, and she has found the best therapy for her is exercising.
Lasley said the love she and her sister share for each other saved them that night, and loving herself is what saves her now.
“I think it is important to know for people that whatever their fight is – whether it’s a 6-foot-2 attacker, depression, infertility or whatever it may be – to have love for yourself and to keep fighting,” Lasley said.
Her number one piece of advice for victims of sexual assault or violence is to know what happened to them does not define them and it is not their fault.
“Guilt for me has been my hardest fight,” Lasley said, “There were times that I was convinced — and it didn’t matter what anyone said or how irrational my thoughts may have been — that it was my fault because I didn’t close my window.”
Lasley also said she has met victims of assault who told her they did not want what happened to them, but they were afraid to stand up for themselves.
“Don’t be afraid of hurting someone’s feelings in order to protect yourself. You need to be your number-one priority,” she said in regards to these victims.
Though her story is intense, Lasley thinks sharing what she went through will help people be more aware of the danger that exists, especially for women who are going to school and living on their own.
“As scary as it is, it’s real,” Lasley said.
Lasley also encourages women to lock their doors, be alert when walking to their cars at night and be aware of their surroundings.