Arts & Culture News

Kacie Freer Isn’t Just a Survivor. She’s a Fighter Building a Fitness Army.

Mike and Kacie Freer are building a fitness space for fighters of all kinds.
Mike and Kacie Freer are building a fitness space for fighters of all kinds. Kacie Freer
Kacie Freer is a victim of sexual assault. For 15 years, she didn’t tell anyone, not even those closest to her. Her own mother was surprised when she finally came out with her story.

“I didn’t talk about it at all," Freer says of the assault. "For years, I repressed it pretty far back. It wasn’t until about four or five years ago that I was in a situation that was kind of a déjà vu, and it all came flooding back.”

Frequently, both well-meaning and skeptical people will ask a variant of the same question: "Why didn’t she say something sooner?" The answer is often overwhelmingly complex.

“The truth of the matter is ... if I had told her at the time — it was in high school the first time — because there were multiple, and it would have been them against me,” Freer says. “We would have had to move, there would have been a long drawn-out court case, the impact would have been so devastating. … And more often than not, the female doesn’t win.”

But after starting to talk about her experiences, Freer began to see a rape trauma counselor, and even started connecting with people on Facebook who'd had similar experiences.

One day, a girl was attacked on a running trail in North Carolina where Freer and her husband lived. That's when a friend of Freer’s invited her to join a self defense-class at her boxing gym, and she went.

The gym was called Fast Fit, but it later turned into RockBox. Freer was hooked.

“It was a way for me to take my power back and to feel like I was in control again,” says Freer. “That peace … Anything that happened throughout the day, you can come in here and feel like it’s a safe place to take it all out on the bags and leave it here. To me, it was therapy. It was just as much mental as it was physical.”

Soon, Freer was dragging her husband, Michael Weaver, to classes. At the time, Weaver worked for a fiberglass and composites manufacturer, and Freer was busy with her job in the medical field. But both of them had a huge love for fitness.

This past June, the couple moved from North Carolina to Texas. They bought the rights to four locations for RockBox fitness, opening the state’s first location in Frisco.

“We wanted to be able to help people, and the only way we saw to do it is to open our own and make it ours,” Freer says of their fitness centers. “And we were able to build our own community and do things the way we wanted.”

“Women, like myself, who are victims of anything, we have a tendency to look back and think, well maybe it’s a little bit my fault." — Kacie Freer

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The location has signed about 300 members since opening in October. Freer still has her job in the medical world, but her spare time and her weekends are devoted to running the new RockBox studio alongside her husband.

“It sounds like a cliché, like ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life,’ that thing,” says Freer. “Now, whoever said that was probably not in their first six months of owning a business. But it’s been super rewarding.”

Freer repeats some of the favorite messages she's gotten from clients, like, “I thank God every day that he put you guys in my life,” and “Thank you so much, I’m finally at a point where I learned to stop hating myself.”

“This is a community," Freer says. "A lot of lives have already been changed, and that was our goal. You have literally all shapes and sizes. All fitness levels. All backgrounds. I mean, the diversity is what I love.”

And though 300 members in the first couple of months might sound like a lot, Freer says they had to cap how many new people they accepted. RockBox isn’t a typical fitness experience, or even a typical boxing experience. Classes made up of 40 members come in to participate in timed movements, with music and lights that go with every section of the workout. Everyone going through the initial challenge gets a coach and help with meal plans. But now, RockBox is ready to handle more and is hoping to double in size in the near future.

When you sign up as a member, you go through orientation and you have to answer some questions on a sheet.

“One of the things we ask is, what’s your why?” Freer says. “And you get some interesting answers. And we explain, a why is not ‘I want to lose 10 pounds.’ A why is not ‘I want to be a size 6.’ A why is, ‘I just got out of a bad relationship, I let myself go and I want to feel like me again.’”

One of the member's answers referred to his experience with Type 2 diabetes and wanting to be healthy to provide for his family. There are stories of breast cancer survivors and victims of domestic violence and rape victims.

“And another one, she said, ‘This is for me to stop hating myself,’” says Freer. “She came from an abusive relationship and she came in here. She’s lost 30-something pounds so far; her goal is to lose another 100. She’s in here every day.”

Freer’s top priority right now is to get the self-defense program up and running at RockBox starting in the new year.

“Women, like myself, who are victims of anything, we have a tendency to look back and think, well maybe it’s a little bit my fault,” says Freer. “Or perhaps I could have done something different. If I didn’t cross that street that day. Or if I didn’t wear something, or if I didn’t go into that bar or if I didn’t do this, that or the other, that this would never have happened. Well, we can’t ever play that game. There’s no excuse for someone doing that to you.”

It's all about controlling those things that one can control, Freer says.

“We cannot change what’s happened; all we can change is how we react to it,” says Freer. “You look back on these situations on the news, and there’s nothing you could have really done to stop it. But you have to understand that there are things like warning signs.”

But though the RockBox community provides a safe space for victims of abuse, it’s open to everyone.

“Obviously sexual assault is something that’s near and dear to my heart and helping people come back from that, but it’s anything,” says Freer. “Nobody out there doesn’t have a story. Everybody has a story. It’s about coming in here and feeling like you’re in a place where you’re safe and you have other people around you who have got your back in more ways than one.”
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Isabel Arcellana has been writing for the Observer since spring 2018 and has been creating fake newspapers for her mom since she was 8. She graduated from SMU with a double major in journalism and fashion media. Her five guitars are named after High School Musical characters.