Why: Project Goals
The purpose of this project is two-fold: to observe and determine the validity of the self-defense for women model as a significant component of a school-wide primary prevention program and to make recommendations regarding the inclusion of self-defense for women in primary prevention approaches.


Comprehensive Violence Prevention Model Case Study

Peace Over Violence: Agency and Targeted Programs Overview

Established in 1971 by pioneering feminist activists, Peace Over Violence (formerly known as LACAAW) is a sexual and domestic violence, stalking, child abuse, and youth violence prevention center headquartered in Los Angeles.  One of the longest standing violence prevention centers in the country, POV has been committed to social service and social change for over 40 years. Peace Over Violence is a non-profit, multicultural, community-based organization providing intervention and prevention education services.

 Peace Over Violence’s instructional programs are designed to empower women and children to prevent crime and victimization, break the myths surrounding violence against women, and develop simple, easy-to-use self-defense techniques. These classes are part of an inclusive model adapted to serve divers members of the population; including those who are deaf, disabled, and elderly.

One of the first groups in the U.S. to provide self-defense instruction for women, POV’s classes were first conducted in 1974 using a program developed by Betty Brooks. In 1983, Patti Giggans (a black belt in karate and Master Self-Defense Trainer, who founded the first women’s martial arts school in Southern California in 1978) was hired under a grant from OCJP as a self-defense coordinator, establishing POV’s first full-time self-defense project.  This position enabled the agency to begin to codify, formalize and document the program; a multi-cultural training project focused on training women from a variety of backgrounds to become instructors.

In 1986 they created Self-Defense: Women Teaching Women, the first widely distributed rape crisis center self-defense model. Basic instruction included in the video/manual addressed able-bodied women, elderly women, women with physical disabilities and women who are Deaf.

In 1987 Peace Over Violence wrote and published Women’s Self-Defense:  A Complete Guide to Assault Prevention.  This comprehensive instructional manual remains a key resource within the field of women’s self-defense.

Since 1975, thousands of women and girls have received awareness, assertiveness and physical self-defense training provided by POV’s certified instructors. The organization’s pioneering Self-Defense model has been widely implemented by agencies such as the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CalCASA), who has adopted the model in statewide training for several years.

Peace Over Violence has also trained hundreds of women in the rape crisis movement nationally through its “Train the Trainer” self-defense program.

Peace Over Violence self-defense program include:

  • Children’s Self-Defense and Safety
  • Deaf Children’s Self-Defense and Safety
  • Youth Self-Defense Specialists Training
  • Personal Security Awareness Training
  • Workplace Violence Prevention Education
  • Women Warrior Weekend & Women Warrior Day
  • Statewide instructorship trainings for women from rape crisis centers across California
  • Introductory and Advanced, Regional and Statewide “Train The Trainer” trainings for CalCASA  (California Coalition Against Sexual Assault)

Peace Over Violence also developed nationally recognized violence prevention curriculum, In Touch With Teens (ITWT) in response to the growing awareness of violence in teen relationships. Since its inception in 1991, ITWT has been implemented in high schools, middle schools, and other community-based youth organizations.  The curriculum may be taught in its entirety, broken down into groups, or presented as individual units according to need. The program has given rise to youth-driven groups Students Together Organizing Peace (STOP Clubs), YouthLEAD leadership development project, Peer 2 Peer counseling, My Strength (for young men) and Be Strong (for young women).

Why: Project Goals

The purpose of this project is two-fold: to observe and determine the validity of the self-defense for women model as a significant component of a school-wide primary prevention program and to make recommendations regarding the inclusion of self-defense for women in primary prevention approaches.

Where: Pilot Site Characteristics

The San Gabriel Valley, located in Southern California to the East of Los Angeles, consists of 31 cities and 5 unincorporated communities spanning approximately 374 square miles. The area is home to 2 million residents comprised of significant percentages of all major ethnic groups. However, the majority of people residing in the San Gabriel Valley are Hispanic and Asian American, and the San Gabriel Valley has the largest concentration of Chinese American communities in the United States.

The percentage of residents aged 10-19 (15.5%) is higher than the County average of 14.8%. Most cities have their own local mayor, city council, police and fire departments.

The Alhambra Unified School district (site of the pilot project) is based in Alhambra, and serves the City of Alhambra, most of the City of Monterey Park, and parts of the Cities of San Gabriel and Rosemead.

The district includes five high schools. Among these is San Gabriel High School, with a total of 2,431 students from grades 9 to 12. (White: (28) 1.2%, African American: (5) 0.2%, Hispanic (956) 39.3%, Asian (1388) 57.1%, American Indian/Alaskan Native (4) 0.2%, Hawaiian Native/Pacific Islander (3) 0.1%, two or more races (47) 1.9%)

Like other schools in the district, SGHS participates in the federally funded “Gateway to Success” program, which provides wellness resources to serve the needs of students and parents through: Staff Training in Bullying Prevention; Life Skills Training; Primary Intervention; Parenting Classes; and various workshops and presentations throughout the school year.

“The mission of San Gabriel High School is to ensure that all students acquire the academic, vocational, thinking skills, and personal qualities essential to becoming responsible, contributing members of our multi-ethnic, democratic society.” –SGHS Mission Statement

When: Project Development

Peace Over Violence began teaching the In Touch With Teens curriculum and Self-Defense courses at San Gabriel High School in November 2009.  Originally slated for a single 50-minute presentation to one of the Physical Education classes, the ITWT program rapidly expanded to include instruction of the entire curriculum to all mixed gender Physical Education classrooms. Simultaneously, a total of 497 female students participated in the first four-day session of Self-Defense instruction. There were a total of four Peace Over Violence instructors; each class of 100 female students was conducted by three instructors.

During the second two-day Self-Defense session in March 2010, 506 girls received further instruction. Again, there were three instructors per 100 students. In addition, several students were selected to co-teach alongside POV representatives. At the conclusion of this session, all female students on campus had received Self-Defense training, and several girls had participated as co-instructors alongside Peace Over Violence representatives.

By November 2010, the complete ITWT curriculum had been taught to both male and female students in all Physical Education classrooms, and the students’ initiative to organize additional violence prevention efforts led to the formation of a Students Together Organizing Peace (STOP) club on campus. The club grew from 30 members to 60 in less than 6 months.

Peace Over Violence’s relationship with the Alhambra Unified School District school district expanded to include a memorandum of understanding and an invitation to begin programming in two more of their five high school campuses: Century High School and Alhambra High School.

Methodology of Evaluation

Written Surveys & Post-tests A total of 1,003 questionnaires consisting of multiple choice questions and a write-in section (Appendix A) were distributed to Self-Defense Class participants after both series of workshops. In November 2009, there were 497 written surveys collected. In March 2010, there were 506 written surveys collected.

Key Informant Interviews were conducted with three physical education teachers and the school principal via email using a questionnaire (Appendix B) and via video interview ( by the Program Director.

Instructor Observations were collected by the Program Director om all four participating Peace Over Violence Self-Defense Instructors via email, using a set of written questions (Appendix C). Instructors’ Observations are informed by their own experience, as well as focus group discussions with students following the series of classes, with a total of 488 students who were able to provide valuable feedback. The written reports/questionnaires were



Continued commitment to a high level of training for instructors

Due to the volume of disclosure during classes, it is imperative to continue to provide Self-Defense instructors with advanced training on intervention methods. This will ensure that they are able to respond to crisis in the most appropriate manner; offering support and validation, providing resources, and maintaining a safe learning environment.

Conducting a future case control study

In order to fully determine the efficacy of a comprehensive approach such as the one provided through implementation of the ITWT curriculum paired with Self-Defense courses at San Gabriel High School, a control study should be conducted comparing the results of a comprehensive program to an approach lacking the self-defense program.

Continued, expanded classes at the request of Alhambra Unified School District

Through the classes held at SGHS, Peace Over Violence established a relationship with the Alhambra School District that has grown to include a memorandum of understanding. Plans for the immediate future include expansion of POV’s comprehensive prevention program into at least three additional schools within the District.

Accommodating cooperative efforts between Schools and Community Based Organizations

Introducing the subject of violence prevention to students often leads to high levels of disclosure.  Partnership between Schools and Community Based Organizations ensures that school counselors, teachers, and administrators will be prepared to continue education and support of students.  Rape counseling support groups can support faculty by providing follow-up, resources, and education on topics such as sexual assault and Rape Trauma Syndrome.

Other School Districts creating their own policies to interface with youth on these issues

In October 2011, the Los Angeles Unified School District passed a resolution to prevent teen dating violence, expanding the programs of Peace Over Violence. Each school in the district will have a violence prevention coordinator, and students will learn about healthy relationships. Board member Steve Zimmer stated, “We’re funding teacher evaluation reform; we’re funding contract reform; and we’re funding all types of reform. You can’t reform anything if kids aren’t safe. This is not words on a piece of paper, this is about changing things on the ground at school.”


Self-Defense as part of a Comprehensive Primary Prevention Program

The Self-Defense series conducted at San Gabriel High School measurably increased participant’s feelings of confidence, self-awareness, assertiveness, and ability to execute physical techniques. In these ways, the courses factor into Primary Prevention by:

  • Contributing to an empowered community of women, who in turn affect men and boys.
  • Creating an environment that is not conducive to assault, harassment, and discrimination.
  • Building protective factors that women will carry into their social, family, and workplace environments.

Increased and continued partnership between schools and community based organizations offering comprehensive programs provides a multifaceted approach to violence prevention that, implemented completely, offers an approach greater than the sum of its parts.



A) Student Questionnaires

B) Key Informant Interview Questionnaire

C) Instructor Questionnaires

D) Complete Results of Student Surveys

E) The Ten Principles of Self-Defense



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