Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Contact 90.5 WESA with a story idea or news tip:

Pittsburgh Nonprofit Teaches Self Defense To Those At Risk Of Gender-Based Violence



SETpoint is a Pittsburgh-based group offering specialized self-defense training for those who experience the threat of gender-based violence, serving groups both nationwide and here at home.



Lisa Nakamura is the organization’s founding director and also a six-degree senior master in Shaolin Kung-fu.


“The set part is Strength and Empowerment Training and the point is the point at which we believe in our strengths and we defend what we value,” Nakamura said.


According to Nakamura, targeting SETpoint’s service to communities most at-risk of suffering sexual, physical and mental trauma, the organization aims to prevent potential violence from happening.


“Communities of color, communities of immigrant families, people within the Islamic faith. We're working a lot with the LGBTQ community,” she said. “We're also supporting survivors of previous sexual violence and domestic assault, as well as working with persons in recovery.”


Executive Director Michele Montag is a third-degree black belt in Shaolin Kung Fu. Both she and Nakamura are also trained in sexual harassment and rape prevention.


Montag says the vision involves participants developing the skills vital for all aspects of self-preservation.


“When we founded SETpoint, one of the things that was really, really important to us is that this training be accessible,” Montag said. “This type of self-defense training shows that people that go through it come out with greater levels of confidence, and a lot of that is really the coupling of the physical skills with skills around situational awareness and skills around boundary setting and using your voice.”


Montag says the statistics of assault against women is shocking.


“About one in three women worldwide is the victim of domestic violence,” she said. “We know that colleges and universities all across the country now that say somewhere between 20 to 25 percent of young women in colleges are sexually assaulted during their four years. It is something that cuts across social classes, that cuts across genders, that cuts across races, across cities, religion."


Molly Pascal is an active participant in SETpoint’s ongoing sessions and says she has greatly benefited from the programming.


"It's intimidating to walk into a workshop like this and there is a degree of fear," Pascal said.


Speaking from her own experiences, she also speaks on behalf of many women who are overcoming the stereotype that women are unable to protect themselves.


"I don't think I even knew how to throw a punch when I walked into this workshop,” Pascal said. “I learned where to put my thumbs on a fist. I learned how to hold my hand. There are so many things a woman can do to go for the eyes with the throat or the instep of the foot and it doesn't take necessarily a lot of physical strength to do those things."


So far, more than 1,500 women and men have participated in SETpoint’s ongoing training and sexual assault counseling sessions.

Brian Cook is an award-winning multimedia journalist.
To make informed decisions, the public must receive unbiased truth.

As Southwestern Pennsylvania’s only independent public radio news and information station, we give voice to provocative ideas that foster a vibrant, informed, diverse and caring community.

WESA is primarily funded by listener contributions. Your financial support comes with no strings attached. It is free from commercial or political influence…that’s what makes WESA a free vital community resource. Your support funds important local journalism by WESA and NPR national reporters.

You give what you can, and you get news you can trust.
Please give now to continue providing fact-based journalism — a monthly gift of just $5 or $10 makes a big difference.