The Spectrum of Self-Defense

CAE’s Power Action Self-Defense Rainbow provides a visual representation of the full range of self-defense principles, from personal safety strategies to community empowerment. The concepts and strategies presented in the rainbow overlap and reinforce each other, highlighting the many facets of self-defense in this wider sense. By actively engaging these strategies, we strengthen ourselves and build power to make changes in our lives and communities.  

Reflecting our pride and our diversity, the Power Action Self-Defense Rainbow is made up of the six colors of the rainbow, with one key term for each color, and two columns of sub-topics.  The larger self-defense principles are in the centers of the stripes; the terms running down the left side of the rainbow are strategies with an internal focus, while the terms on the right are action steps with a more community-based or external focus. It is important to think about how we can increase our safety both individually and collectively. The Rainbow is intended as a guide. There is no one “right thing” to do in every situation, and we assume that whatever anyone did to protect themselves was the right thing for that person at that time.  Following is a brief description of each color of the Power Action Self-Defense Rainbow: 
  • Stay Aware: This underlying self-defense principle emphasizes paying attention to what is going on around you and the importance of trusting your own feelings and perceptions. Staying aware is the foundation of prevention.  It helps you decide how to act on your own behalf and on behalf of others.   
  • Use Your Voice: Your voice is a powerful self-defense tool in any circumstance, including in relationships, on the street, or in any other dangerous situations. By using your voice, you can build assertiveness to set boundaries and say what you need and want. Using our voices together makes our communities stronger as we speak up for our rights. 
  • De-escalation: Often situations can quickly get out of control depending on our reactions. We are able to negotiate better if we are coming from a centered place and are not driven by strong emotions. De-escalation is a key part of violence prevention. 
  • Get Away: This refers to people who put you down or put you in danger as well as to street violence. To take some of the steps needed to change or leave a relationship, it is helpful to tell someone and get support. Sometimes, to get away, it is necessary to use physical techniques like blocking and striking. 
  • Connect: We are always stronger when we connect with others. Breaking isolation and silence is an important part of healing from past abuse and building pride in ourselves and our communities. By breaking isolation we can connect to others who are at risk of violence and support them.  
  • Build Power: Using strategies presented in the rainbow, you can strengthen yourself to meet challenges and navigate the complexities of an often violent and disrespectful world. We want to build our strength so that we can to come together as a community to work for equal rights and justice for everyone. Only when all people are treated equally and with respect will we all be able to live safely, free from violence.