LGBTQIA+ Empowerment Self-Defense


Pitt Queer Professionals, a Pitt Community under the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, plans to organize a series of empowerment self-defense trainings on campus that are geared towards the LGBTQIA+ community, to be offered by local nonprofit SETpoint. (See for additional information.)

SETpoint offers a holistic take on self defense that diverges sharply from traditional notions of self defense. Grounded in academic research, the curriculum offers a multi-faceted perspective that provides a powerful, coordinated, and preventative approach to reducing sexual assault and gender-based violence. SETpoint’s coaching philosophy is trauma-informed, survivor-centered, and inclusive.  SETpoint’s broad view of “self-defense” does not focus solely on physical resistance skills, but emphasizes empowerment training that helps individuals:
· learn to recognize unhealthy behaviors and situations;
· find their voice through practice of vocal resistance and boundary-setting techniques;
· project confidence in their voice and their stance; and
· know that they have the right and the strength to act upon a situation, either for themselves or as bystanders.

On the 2019 AAU Climate Survey, University of Pittsburgh students who identified their gender as “trans man or woman, genderqueer or nonbinary, questioning, or not listed” reported high rates of experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact. Our goal is to prevent sexual misconduct by empowering Pitt’s LGBTQIA+ population to defend themselves through the use of a holistic toolset: situational and behavioral awareness; boundary-setting and de-escalation tactics; physical resistance skills; and self-care, advocacy, and empowerment resources available to those who may experience trauma. With these trainings, we have an opportunity for Pitt to make a friendly and empowering space for the LGBTQIA+ community to learn how to stand up to the dangers they face. These training sessions will be taught specifically with the LGBTQIA+ population in mind, and will be publicized widely so that LGBTQIA+ faculty, staff, and students from across the University will be able to participate.

Principal Investigator 

Briar Somerville 
Office of Diversity and Inclusion 

Select Collaborators 

Matthew Comito
Team Member 
Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management

Ron Idoko
Team Member
Office of Diversity and Inclusion 

Michele Montag 
Team Member 
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences 

Darren Whitfield 
Team Member 
School of Social Work and Department of Psychiatry 


Goal Area