SALT LAKE CITY — Breann "Bre" Lasley said she thought the fight was over when her attacker lay dead on the floor in her basement of her Salt Lake home last September.
But after battling depression and anxiety following the attack, Lasley said, "I quickly realized how scary and debilitating fear is."
Lasley, 28, told her story to more than 300 women at the Fight Like Girls "Intro Night" on Thursday at the nonprofit entrepreneurship center Church & State, 370 S. 300 East.
The attack marked the beginning of Lasley's fight against anxiety and depression, but it also spawned Fight Like Girls, a nonprofit group devoted to providing positive resources to women.
Using her own life experiences, Lasley founded Fight Like Girls to empower women fighting depression, infertility, eating disorders, low self-esteem, abduction, addictions and every battle in between by matching girls with resources that can guide them through their personal fights in life.
Lasley was joined Thursday by featured guest speaker Elizabeth Smart. Both women shared their stories and offered advice on how to fight back.
Smart, president of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, told her story of how she fought against her abductors when she was kidnapped as a 14-year-old girl.
"I remember feeling that my soul had been shattered," she said. "I felt like I was well below rock bottom."
But then Smart spoke about her love for her family and the moment she realized she had something "worth surviving for."
She reminds victims — and women fighting any trial — to "be happy and live your life."
"We're not defined by what happens to us. We're defined by the decisions that we make," Smart said.
After feeling like her attacker had taken away her "dreams and goals," Lasley said she founded Fight Like Girls to spread hope to women recovering from and battling life's challenges.
After hearing Lasley's story, Beth Dean, who was diagnosed with an incurable heart disease five years ago, said Lasley has given her hope.
"If she can make it through what she went through," she said, "then why can't I?"
Dean, who said she encountered serious depression when she first tried to keep her challenges to herself, encourages others to reach out to loved ones and other resources to find support during hard times.
"I don't know why, but talking about it just makes it easier to handle," she said.
Lasley's mission at Fight Like Girls is to direct women to resources specific to the needs of individual women.
For Smart, it was horseback riding and a loving family that helped integrate her back into normality.
For Lasley, it was exercise and the launch of an organization devoted to saving the lives of other women.
And for Dean, hope comes from a place of belonging and a listening ear.
Email: [email protected]