Much like the fashion from the 80s or wanting to ban interracial marriages, things tend to look ridiculous when we examine them 30 years later.
Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.
"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."
Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.
"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."
While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.
I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."
It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.
"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.
Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.
"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.
A lot of change happened at once. As a newly single mom, she ended up leaving med school and transferring to a tech school to learn a trade. And because she knew what her abuser was capable of, she took a lot of precautions to keep herself and her family safe.
"I worked and studied hard while my children were in daycare and school, spent the evenings cooking & cleaning, and studied again once the children were in bed. After two years of classes, months of clinical rotations, and becoming alumni at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN, I graduated as a Surgical Technologist and began working full-time," she remembers.
"It took a couple of years for my nerves to fully relax, but they finally did. It was so amazing to me how empowering it was to advocate for myself, I never stopped."
She moved back to the reservation in 2015 to work for the health service and to be around family again.
"Within my first week of being home, I noticed so much violence that I once thought was normal behavior," she says. "One morning, I got a phone call notifying me that my childhood friend was beaten and left for dead by her children's father; she was flown out to the nearest ICU and taken in for surgery for a hematoma in her skull."
"I knew something had to be done about this."
Domestic abuse is a big problem on reservations like Shanda's. More than four in five American Indian and Alaska Native women and men have experienced violence in their lifetime, and more than one in three experienced violence in the past year.
She spoke with several community members about the violence she was seeing, but she found they were quick to blame the victim. That's when it occurred to her: "What if I started a self-defense class for Native women?" Shanda says. So she called up her former instructor, found a group of instructors, and attended another class with her new team. And from there they founded their own chapter.
"IMPACT is being used all over the world, yet has never been available to Indigenous communities until now," she says. "Currently, our team consists of four core members; two suit instructors and two female lead instructors, all Indigenous members of our Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewas. All members are active in empowering our community in many ways."
"During the closing circles in our workshops, we all get to see the strength and transformation these women worked so hard for. We get to see them take their power back from those who hurt them."
And that is why Shanda is being named one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5000 donation will be made to IMPACT to help them bring IMPACT to more indigenous communities across the country and further their mission to help Native women recognize and protect themselves from physical violence.
"Empowering women should be as common as knowing how to perform CPR," Shanda says.
"Truth is, I know what it feels like to be on both sides of empowerment. I know the fear, pain, and humiliation that comes with domestic violence, sexual assault, trauma, and PTSD and I recognize it in my students," she continues.
"I also know what it feels like to step out of that proverbial cage. To be able to breathe freely. To speak freely. To walk the earth in a good and healthy way. I wish this freedom and empowerment for every person on earth."
To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!
The relationship that has developed between artist Maria Grette, originally from Sweden, and "Johnny," a former Nigerian scammer, has a very bizarre beginning. But, in the end, it's a heartwarming lesson about human potential.
Twelve years ago when Grette was 62, she was encouraged by her friends to start an online dating profile to get back into the swing of things after a divorce. "I received messages telling me that people had contacted me, but I never looked at them," she told the BBC.
Then one day she logged into the site and responded to an email from a man she refers to as "Johnny." "I still don't know why," she said. "It was like a sudden impulse happening before I could stop it."
He described himself as a 58-year-old from Holland, raised in South Carolina, currently working in England. His son was a student at Manchester University.
The two exchanged emails for a while and he eventually called her from a UK number. He had an accent that she couldn't place but didn't let it worry her.
Maria Grette was conned out of £8,000 by a stranger she met on a dating website! #LooseWomen https://t.co/itkkCmkrS3— Loose Women (@Loose Women)1477482606.0
After three months of communicating, he agreed to visit her in Sweden.
"I wanted to meet him because I liked him," she said. "He had a way and a sweetness I had never known in a man before. And he was innocent in a way that puzzled me." He told her that he would come to see her in Sweden after making a brief stop in Nigeria for a job interview with his son.
Johnny first called her from London's Heathrow airport. Then to let her know he had landed in Nigeria and met up with his son. The next time he contacted her, he claimed to be at Lagos hospital with his son who had been shot in the head during a mugging.
Johnny said that the hospital was requesting €1,000 for his son's treatment but he couldn't pay the bill because his bank had no locations in Africa. He asked Grette to wire him the money so that his son can receive treatment.
"I will never forget how I rushed to the Western Union office, trembling while I did the transfer," Grette said. "All I could think of was to get the two persons in Nigeria out of danger."
When Maria Grette met a Danish man through an online dating site, she was immediately smitten. But w https://t.co/of0wxWVrQ6— GinWayne (@GinWayne)1495493828.0
After the initial transfer, Johnny asked her for more money due to "complications" and demanding doctors. After sending €8,000 to Johnny, she began to believe that something was up. "I was angry, I sent some very angry emails when I realized something was wrong," she said according to The Mirror.
Three weeks later, something unbelievable happened. Johnny called her to confess that he was a 24-year-old Nigerian scammer. He had finished university two years before but couldn't find a job so he was forced into preying on people. "When he revealed everything to me I was past the point of shame. I felt so sorry for him," she said.
"He said he had never met anyone like me before, that he had been fighting his feelings for me for a long time," she said. "He said his scamming mates had warned him about falling in love with a 'client', that he had ignored them because he trusted me and did not want to lose contact with me."
"I wanted to meet him," she said. "I could not live with this relationship unless it was adjusted to reality in all senses."
In October of 2009, Grette traveled to Nigeria to meet Johnny. "When I saw him at the airport in Abuja, tears fell over his face, and I knew I had known him all my life," she said.
During their time in Nigeria, the two developed a strong friendship. After meeting some of her friends that were scammers she began to wonder how she could help get these men out of such dubious employment.
Maria Grette and the Nigerian scam artist: A case of innocent heroism or ‘default mode’ white saviour complex?-… https://t.co/S6kyxOlx8L— Ventures Africa (@Ventures Africa)1477044021.0
Two years later she began helping African artists visit Europe for exhibitions and workshops. She has also traveled to Uganda to give talks on art. She credits it all to meeting a very unique Nigerian scammer.
"Johnny has given me more than he took," she said, "Without him, I would not have met Africa."
Johnny has stopped working on scams and with the help of Grette, moved to America to get his education.
"He is very dear to me," she said. "He has asked me so many times to forgive him and I told him that the most important thing is to forgive himself."