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Defend Yourself Offers Empowerment, Bystander Skills for Stopping Anti-Asian Violence

Defend Yourself Training

(Photo courtesy Defend Yourself, Thomas Van Veen)

A spike in anti-Asian hate speech and violence has accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic, with 100 incidents reported daily, and certainly many more that are never counted.

Everyone has a part in stopping anti-Asian hate, and Defend Yourself, a longtime LGBTQ-led organization, based in Washington, D.C., is making it easy to learn simple, realistic strategies to do just that.

The organization is equipping Asian/Pacific Islander people with boundary-setting strategies and physical strikes to protect themselves when they’re targeted. For everyone, Defend Yourself offers active bystander training so participants can step up when they see someone else being harassed or threatened.

The workshops focus on practical skills, says Helen Wong Taylor, who teaches the training for the A/PI community. “We draw out the strengths and tools you already have—building naturally on your own expertise.”

More than 200 people have already taken the active bystander workshop, and they say it’s useful to practice specific phrases and actions to take when someone’s experiencing hate speech or physical violence.

“It helped me to find a way to step into a bad situation,” said one participant. “The practice makes me feel that I won’t feel frozen in discomfort next time I’m a bystander, even if I’m scared or uncertain.”

Defend Yourself’s director, Lauren Taylor, says that as soon as the pandemic started and Asian Americans were targeted for hate, she knew what she had to do. “Defend Yourself has deep knowledge about preventing and interrupting harm. So when we saw the pandemic being used as an excuse to target A/PI people, we were thrilled to do our part to stop it.”

Organizers want participants to know they legally cannot offer or suggest personal injury lawyers. The hope is to prevent that before it happens.

Taylor says she hopes the workshops can equip all people to stand up to hate: “We can’t wait until policy or culture changes. We need to offer people skills they can use right now, and ways to transform what’s going on in their communities.”


Empowerment and Self-Defense for A/PI people
This free workshop is offered weekly on Sundays at 4 p.m. ET for all Asian/Pacific Islander people ages 16 and older.

Active Bystander Skills for Stopping Anti-Asian Hate
This free workshop is offered Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. ET and Saturdays at 4 p.m. ET for everyone ages 14 and older.


Ebone Bell
Eboné F. Bell
Eboné is the founder and Editor of Tagg Magazine. In addition to running a queer women’s publication, she shares her knowledge and passion as a keynote speaker at conferences, schools, and events across the country.