Empowering Survivors: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Defense Training
A couple in Loveland, Colorado is on a mission to empower survivors of sexual and domestic violence through defense training. And, they’re using principles and practices they learned through Wellpoint Care Network’s Trauma Informed Care training to do so.
One of the co-founders, Andrea Person, is a survivor of childhood trauma, both sexual abuse and domestic violence.
“The impact of PTSD, it really controlled my life,” she said. “It was devastating for me. I felt like it had robbed me of a chance to be happy, to have a relationship, to be at peace with life.”
In her mid 20s, the PTSD was so bad that she decided to take self-defense classes to gain confidence.
“I reached out to the owner of the gym ahead of time and I told him that I’m a survivor and that there might be things that I couldn’t do, things that I feel uncomfortable doing,” said Person. “At first, he sounded like he was accepting of that, but I feel like he took it as a challenge to force me to do things that I wasn’t comfortable doing.”
Person says she’s found that to be a fairly common theme in many self-defense courses.
“They truly believe that they are teaching people skills that will save their lives. So, there’s that sense of urgency and you can read it in their marketing. But, when you’re a survivor who’s experienced that trauma already, it’s incredibly victim blaming. On many websites, it says, ‘Don’t be a victim, learn self-defense. Women should not be a statistic.’ Okay, but I already am. Is it my fault that I didn’t know self-defense when I was three years old?”
Person continued to take classes only because she found an instructor who made her feel comfortable.
“He cared about me, and he respected me enough to value my voice and my input.”
That instructor turned out to be her now-husband, Lonnie Person.
“He’s from Vietnam. When Saigon fell, he was part of the 600 children that were rescued from Vietnam, also known as Operation Babylift. So, coming from a war-torn country, he very likely has the impact of historical and generational trauma.”
After helping each other on their healing journeys, the two wanted to do more. That’s when the idea of defense training rooted in Trauma Informed Care began.
“I’m always learning. I’m always digesting. I’m always reading about the brain. I just love it. I love the topic of trauma-informed care and I love self-defense. I was like, ‘There’s got to be a way to combine the two.’ I started researching and found that nobody else was doing what we wanted to do.”
And so, Cor Defense was founded in 2020.
“Our end goals are always going to be different. A lot of studios, their end goal is, ‘I’m going to teach you these skills so that you will survive an attack.’ But, our end goal is, ‘We want you to heal.’”
Person had taken Trauma Informed Care training in the past, but wanted to continue to learn new concepts and ideas. She researched several agencies, and in 2021, decided to take Wellpoint Care Network’s Train the Trainer course.
“I remember feeling like I needed to write everything down, everything felt applicable,” said Person. “A lot of the Trauma Informed Care training that I received talked about adults and yourself, but it wouldn’t talk a lot about the application of it, the practical things that you can do, the tangible takeaways to make an environment feel trauma-informed.”
That was the Wellpoint Care difference.
“It’s just so comprehensive, and I was able to really apply it to what we’re doing. This training empowered us and gave us more creativity.”
Now a few years in, Person says at least 13 people have been trained in Trauma Informed Care.
“Cor Defense wants to be a trauma-informed organization through and through. Lonnie and I use our Train the Trainer skills to train our board members and all staff members. Anybody who works for Cor Defense will receive Trauma Informed Care training once a year.”
Person hopes to one day also be able to offer Trauma Informed Care training to all parents and guardians of children who go through the Cor Defense program.
“I remember one parent talking to me about the impact on her child and I remember saying something to the effect of, ‘We’re here for you too. It’s traumatizing to watch your child go through this.’ And, she just started crying. So, there’s a part of me that wants to be more supportive to them as well.”
Cor Defense offers defense training for both adults and children. And, the price may surprise you.
“It’s a suggested price, so it’s whatever you want to pay,” added Person. “Some people pay more, some people don’t pay at all. It’s about allowing survivors to have complete control. Some people want to pay, they want to invest in their healing. Other people can’t afford it. I just want to provide an environment that allows people to heal.”
For Andrea and Lonnie Person, Cor Defense is a passion project.
“Lonnie and I volunteer our time and have for three years now. It’s hard. I wish we could quit our day jobs and pour everything we could into Cor Defense. But, it’s worth it when I think of the kids and the families that we’re impacting. It’s changing lives.”
To learn more about Cor Defense, click here.
To learn more about Wellpoint Care Network’s Trauma Informed Care training, click here.
To sign up for an upcoming training, click here.