In an environment of newfound societal emphasis on empowering women, a Port Jefferson resident has some useful tips.
Kathy Greene Lahey, who has lived in the village for 13 years and founded the political activism group Long Island Rising, published her first book titled “Taking Flight for Girls Going Places,” which she bills as a guide “to help keep independence-bound girls safe, empowered and free.”
A survivor of gender-related abuses as a teenager from catcalling to stalking to sexual assault who also required a stint in addiction recovery at age 24 to deal with alcohol and drug abuse, Greene Lahey said she feels like she was put on earth to work on this project. She also played a leadership role in establishing the 2017 and 2018 women’s marches that took place in Port Jefferson Station to coincide with national marches in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. The mother of three said she got the idea to author a manual for young women six years ago.
“Last October I said, ‘Either you write the book or throw it in the garbage, because the universe will give it to somebody else.'”
— Kathy Greene Lahey
“My daughter, when she was a teenager, started to get into a lot of trouble and she was running away,” said the licensed social worker, recalling events that occurred more than a decade prior with her daughter, who is now 30. “At the same time, I started taking karate with my sons and earned my black belt, and then I got certified in a couple of other self-defense programs. I realized I was learning all of this great information and I wished that my daughter had it, so I ended up starting to do ‘taking flight’ safety programs for adolescent girls at libraries [and] workshops.”
The program eventually transformed into a book idea, which got off the ground in October 2017.
“Last October I said, ‘Either you write the book or throw it in the garbage, because the universe will give it to somebody else,’” she said, explaining that a divorce and life getting in the way sapped some of her focus on the idea. “This has been really cathartic [for] me.”
Her timing ended up being perfect. As society has drastically shifted in a relatively short period of time in the way it responds to credible accusations of sexual abuse, a by-product of the global #MeToo social media movement that organically materialized as a way for survivors of abuse to share stories and show solidarity, Greene Lahey’s message is being delivered at an ideal moment for mass receipt. It also coincides with a staggering number of women set to take their first run at political office this November.
“I’ve been active trying to get things going for a long time, so I’m in my zone right now because people are responding and taking responsibility for their vote, their citizenship,” she said. “It’s so empowering when people are coming out and saying, ‘Yes, this happened to me.’ But the thing is that I’ve spoken to a lot of young women who are like, ‘Oh great, you showed us the problem, but what’s the solution?’ And this book is part of the solution.”
The book has more than 1,600 tips for preventing violence, from advice about abusive relationships to tangible self-defense strategies for violent situations.
“It’s so empowering when people are coming out and saying, ‘Yes, this happened to me.’”
— Kathy Greene Lahey
The author also said now is the perfect time to keep the focus on empowerment going. Greene Lahey, whose book can be purchased on Amazon, said she is also available for groups who would like for her to share her message with young women.
“In order for it to last, we need to teach the next generation to do that, and that’s what ‘Taking Flight for Girls Going Places’ is,” she said. “It’s really about teaching girls to take responsibility for their safety and their life.”
Her friends shared a similar sentiment that, based on her life experience, Greene Lahey seemed born to publish this book in this particular moment.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Barbara Lyon said about the book during an event to celebrate the publication at Port Jefferson Village Center April 15, while recalling something her friend of 15 years said to her. “‘I’m writing all this stuff down because I think it’s important,’ and to put it all together as a book — it’s a great time for it to come out.”
Lyon, among several other friends of the author who attended the event, expressed excitement about being able to give the book to the young women in their lives.
“I bought it for my niece,” said Mary Balslove, a friend of Greene Lahey’s for 25 years. “She’s in college and I thought, ‘It’s the perfect thing for her.”’