Who We Are & What We Do

The Safety Team Team

About & History

The Safety Team is quite possibly the most experienced group of Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD) instructors on the planet.

The Safety Team was founded 20 years ago by a group of advanced female martial artists who also happened to be professionals with diverse expertise in the realities of violence against women. For example, team members include a clinical psychologist, middle school educator, forensic toxicologist, physical therapist, guardian ad-litem, childbirth educator, and business leader — all of whom met while training in the martial arts and many of whom have earned black belts and beyond.

Together, these women combined their professional expertise with their martial arts skills to develop comprehensive ESD violence prevention training programs, while also acquiring non-profit 501(c)3 status.

The Safety Team has collaborated with community groups, colleges, schools and other organizations to bring Empowerment Self-Defense wherever it is needed most throughout Vermont. Over the years, The Safety Team has run hundreds of workshops and served thousands of women. The result? Many people have reduced their risk of violence , and some have also experienced healing while doing so.

And they didn’t stop there.

The Safety Team recognized that some survivors understandably might not feel comfortable attending a community ESD class. Further, The Safety Team believed that a different format, approach and finely attuned curriculum might be helpful in promoting healing, while also expanding our reach to a broader range of survivors.

This led to our passion project of combining our professional expertise with Empowerment Self-Defense to create Therapeutic Empowerment Self-Defense (TESD™), a neuroscience-based trauma recovery therapy for survivors of various types of violence and trauma which combines psychoeducation, therapeutic support, and adapted ESD techniques.

What We Do

  • We offer public and private ESD workshops for women, girls and others at greater risk for violence.
  • We partner with mental health clinicians and other health care professionals to offer therapeutic treatment (TESD) to survivors of trauma.
  • We help businesses, schools and groups develop better safety strategies and practices.
  • We offer fun, interactive presentations that highlight the problem of sexual violence, encourage open dialogue, and promote a healthy and productive workplace culture.
  • We train and certify both ESD and TESD instructors so they can serve members of their local community  to promote safety and healing.


“Together we prevent violence, heal trauma, foster resilience and build safer communities.”

Mission & Approach

Personal empowerment is the centerpiece of all of our programs. While we work to change the societal and cultural factors that contribute to sexual violence, we also teach and encourage each person in our programs to claim their voice, discover their power and set boundaries that work for them.

Accessiblity, Inclusion & Diversity

The Safety Team believes that effective sexual assault prevention should be available and accessible to all who want it. Statistically, all women and girls face elevated risk, especially teenagers and young women. Age, income, language, race, ethnicity, income, sexual orientation, and gender expression can also magnify risk.

We deliberately offer a wide range of programs to promote accessibility while maintaining safe and productive spaces for workshop participants. Workshops include single-sex and custom options. We frequently bring workshops to school and college campuses to reach youth and partner with businesses to serve at-risk employees. You can contact us about customized training for your group here.

We also offer instructor certification and ESD program development consultation. These services allow communities, schools, colleges, and groups to develop their own internal ESD/TESD programming and leadership ooprtunities.

We recognize participants’ and The Safety Team team members’ wide range of perspectives and lived experiences. We firmly believe in learning from others and engaging in an on-going process of education, evaluation and revision of our programs with the intention of honoring the beliefs, customs, values and needs of others.

Statement of Cultural Humility

The Safety Team also acknowledges the non-Western roots of the martial arts and other body-based practices that are incorporated into our trainings. Many traditions from around the world rely on purposeful and powerful movement, rhythms, breathing, and dancing to restore well-being.


Your message of empowerment and healing is a powerful one. Working to end sexual and domestic violence has been part of my work since I was a prosecutor. Please know how much I value and appreciate the work you do to help survivors and empower women and girls.

— Senator Patrick Leahy

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