Self-defense training helps abuse victims break free
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06-23-16 Category: Empowerment, Recovery, Trauma

Self-defense training

On average, 20 people per minute are victims of intimate partner violence in the United States. For men and women who have a history of physical and/or sexual abuse, learning how to defend themselves can be an important step on their path to recovery. Self-defense training is particularly beneficial for boosting self-confidence, assertiveness and self-esteem among individuals who have been physically abused or sexually assaulted. People who learn how to physically protect themselves can be empowered to be in more control of their own lives and to protect themselves against further victimization.

Women, in particular, are encouraged to take self-defense training to reduce their chances of physical and/or sexual victimization. Self-defense training compliments the psychotherapeutic treatment for trauma and can help female trauma survivors experience less shame and fewer symptoms of depressive disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to Gianine D. Rosenblum, Ph.D., and Lynn S. Taska, Ph.D., psychologists at Rosenblum & Taska LLC.

Self-defense training to reduce re-victimization

Studies have also shown that people with a history of physical and sexual assault may reduce the incidence of subsequent attacks by learning how to effectively identify threats and how to protect themselves against an attack. A 2014 study conducted by Jocelyn A. Hollander, Ph.D., a professor and head of the department of sociology at the University of Oregon, compared 117 women who participated in a 30-hour self-defense class and 169 women who were enrolled in other classes.

The self-defense training course met for three hours per week, over a 10-week period, and included a small group discussion for one and a half hours a week. Women who participated in the self-defense training course received training and education in physical and verbal self-defense. Women who were in the self-defense class had significantly fewer assaults in the following year compared to women in the comparison group.

The findings indicated that women who participated in self-defense training had greater confidence in their ability to defend themselves against an attack and were less likely to experience subsequent sexual assaults compared to women who do not participate in self-defense training. Three percent of the women who did not participate in the self-defense class had been sexually assaulted during the one-year follow-up period, while none of the women who took the self-defense course reported that they had been sexually assaulted. Women who participated in the self-defense course were also more confident in their ability to defend themselves against an attack.

Hollander’s study is only one of the many studies that found self-defense training to have a positive effect on women’s ability to protect themselves against subsequent sexual re-victimization. Other studies have shown that self-defense training is beneficial for teaching both men and women effective strategies to resolve conflict before it can escalate as well as protect themselves from physical and sexual assault.

As a leading provider of addiction treatment, Sovereign Health of California provides evidence-based, individualized behavioral health treatment services to patients with mental illnesses such as PTSD, substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. Patients are provided holistic treatment services so they can overcome trauma and take back control of their lives. To find out more about our behavioral health treatment programs, please contact our 24/7 helpline to speak to a member of our team.

About the author

Amanda Habermann is a writer for the Sovereign Health Group. A graduate of California Lutheran University, she received her M.S. in clinical psychology with an emphasis in psychiatric rehabilitation. She brings to the team her background in research, testing and assessment, diagnosis and recovery techniques. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at

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