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SPARK Self-Defense

The Environment:

When the Rapist is someone you know described the following in 1993:

  • A woman is four times more likely to be raped by an acquaintance than by a stranger.

  • Most acquaintance rape victims are age 15-24.

  • One in four college women were victims of rape or attempted rape while they were students. Eighty-four percent of them knew the rapist. Fifty-seven percent of the rapes happened during a date. (Dr. Mary Koss, a researcher at Kent State University)

  • Acquaintance rape is rarely reported to police. Less than 2% of acquaintance rape victims report the assault;

Things hadn’t improved a lot by 2010: According to The national intimate partner and sexual violence survey: 2010 summary report,

  • Nearly 3 in 10 women and 1 in 10 men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner.

  • Nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3%) and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives

  • More than half (51.1%) of female victims of rape reported being raped by an intimate partner and 40.8% by an acquaintance; for male victims, more than half (52.4%) reported being raped by an acquaintance and 15.1% by a stranger.

  • An estimated 13% of women and 6% of men have experienced sexual coercion in their lifetime

  • Violence often begins at an early age and commonly leads to negative health consequences across the lifespan.

The need for self-defense training for both men and women seems obvious in today’s context, especially for college-aged and young adult women and men. Martial arts provide physical training and tactics to escape from physical altercations, often with an emphasis on awareness of danger from strangers.  However, the landscape of insecurity in which people, especially young women, find themselves today is much more complex and dangerous.

The potential for abuse and assault from family members and acquaintances as shown in the statistics above reveal a need for a complete self-defense curriculum. SPARK Self-defense aims at providing holistic training to heal from, escape, and prevent abuse and assault.


Self-Defense training should take into consideration the 1 in 3 women in any class are likely survivors of assault of some kind. So, every Spark workshop is delivered with empathy for the survivor in mind. If someone was involved in an abusive relationship or chronic toxic environment, his or her self-esteem can be seriously compromised. Shame from a previous traumatic experience can also lead people to make additional poor decisions or to blame themselves. Spark’s curriculum approaches self-defense from the perspective of motivating each one to grow into a more confident, secure, aware, assertive, and strong individual, whether they are recovering from a 10-year physically abusive relationship or simply preparing to go off to college for the first time. We recognize that in order for many people to have a realistic chance of defending themselves physically, they need to undergo a healing journey that will empower them to believe that they are capable and worthy of defending themselves, and then equip them with the physical tools for self-defense.


The Mental-Verbal-Emotional-Physical approach

 The Mental-Verbal-Emotional-Physical approach is designed to reach students where they are. If they are in a negative or abusive environment, it is designed to teach them to recognize that and give them tools for how to deal with it. If they are wondering if an assault that has happened to them was truly an assault, it will clarify the truth, so they can begin a path of healing. If they have no trauma in the past, it will galvanize them to recognize and avoid abusive behavior in future relationships. And it will train their awareness and intuition to stay safe in their environment in the future.


Spark’s goal is to truly empower people to get safe and stay safe, with the confidence and conviction to enforce their boundaries. This can actually prevent the need to defend one’s self physically. It also helps improve communication in any relationship and with strangers.


Spark’s network of partners includes mental health professionals, martial artists, and medical professionals because a holistic discussion of safety inevitably brings to light the need for healing in a number of our students. Spark is a doorway for them to go through to get help from qualified professionals in whichever field they need, as they grow from a victim into a survivor.

Spark Self-Defense is committed to ending physical, emotional, and verbal abuse and proudly partners with Omega Espresso Bar to enable some of Portland's most vulnerable to transition to a safe and stable life. Spark donates 10% of all profits to Omega.




If you are in crisis, contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or


Please visit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s website at for more fact sheets, membership information, and valuable resources.



Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J. & Stevens, M. (2011). The national intimate partner and sexual violence survey: 2010 summary report. Retrieved from


WHEN THE RAPIST IS SOMEONE YOU KNOW, U.S. Department of Justice National Institute of Justice, Published by the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Updated 1993.

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