Our Philosophy

Since our founding, CAE’s has been driven by a set of core principles that inform our work even as they evolve to meet the needs of the day. Following is a descriptions of CAE’s cornerstone values.

Building the voices of women, LGBTQ communities, and youth is our foundation. Founded in in 1974, Brooklyn Women’s Martial Arts – which then became The Center for Anti-Violence Education in 1989 – grew our of the protest movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s. We are a feminist organization with a commitment to building leadership and fostering activism.

We are multi-racial, anti-racist, and anti-heterosexist.Always guided by a commitment to addressing the different forms of oppression that lead to violence, CAE has long used trainings, discussions, and special programs to turn our anti-racist anti-heterosexist commitments into reality to create an organization that is truly accessible to people from diverse backgrounds and identities.

LGBTQ issues are central to our work. Lesbians and transpeople have always played central leadership roles at CAE, and we are committed to working in alliance with the broader LGBTQ community. Our programs are uniquely sensitive to the needs of different LGBTQ communities, and in the last few years we have expanded and deepened our work in LGBTQ communities throughout New York City – most recently through a new program to reduce violence in the lives of LGBTQ homeless youth.


Our Power, Action, Self-Defense Rainbow visually represents the full range of self-defense concepts from personal safety to community empowerment. Larger self-defense principles are in the centers of the stripes. In general, terms on the left side are strategies with an internal focus while those on the right are actions steps with a more community-based on external focus. By actively engaging these strategies, we can strengthen ourselves and build power to make changes in our lives and communities.




Our programs are uniquely sensitive to the needs of survivors. Our programs empower survivors to regain a sense of power and wellbeing, while breaking through the shame and isolation caused by violence. We stress the right of each individual to protect themselves if they are being disrespected, threatened, or abused. At the same time, we stress that if you are experiencing violence, it is not your fault.

Our youth programs are dynamic. Our programs for pre-teen and teen women and transyouth nurture their leadership development and provide opportunities to become teachers within CAE’s programs. We encourage youth to find their own voices and to realize their own individual potential and community connections.

Our programs are economically accessible. Sliding scale fees and free childcare reflect our bedrock commitment to women, teen women, girls, LGBTQ communities, and families of all socio-economic backgrounds. Workshops and courses for organizations are also offered on sliding scale fees, making our work in the community uniquely accessible as well.

We promote the leadership of all participants. We teach and learn from each other and create generations of new teachers and leaders. Over the years, we have trained more than 200 new self-defense teachers and have encouraged thousands of young people to actively participate in their communities.

Our programs impact people throughout New York City and nationwide. Over the past 38 years, we have offered violence prevention, self-defense, and empowerment workshops at schools, workplaces, shelters, rape crisis centers, domestic violence groups, youth agencies, after-school programs, and countless other community organizations. We are an invaluable resource to groups in every New York City neighborhood and to communities beyond our own city.

We are a community. From the youngest children to seniors, we honor each person and the rich tapestry and power of our collective strength. Together, we create a community that supports the healing and strengthening of our minds, bodies, and spirits. Our power derives from our diversity–across ages, racial and ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation, gender expression, and socio-economic status–and we know that our organization is most vibrant and effective when we all work together.

These principles are reflected in the ways we teach and learn: with deep respect for ourselves and each other. This creates seriousness, compassion, strength, and integrity in all aspects of our lives.

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