Process Predators vs. Resource Predators

I mentioned a few posts ago that I was reading an excellent book, Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected by Rory Miller. I’ll do a fuller review of this book soon, but for now I wanted to talk about one of the key distinctions Miller makes, and how understanding that distinction informs our responses to violence.

According to Miller, predators can be divided into two categories: resource predators and process predators. A resource predator uses violence to get a resource – something you have that he wants, such as your purse, your car, or the TV in your living room. Burglary and armed robbery are examples of the sorts of crimes committed by resource predators, and a pure resource predator will use violence only to the extent necessary to convince his victim to hand over the resource he wants. Once he gets the resource and gets away, the attack is usually over.

For a process predator, on the other hand, violence is the point of the exercise. A process predator wants to hurt his victim. That’s what he’s all about. Assaults, rapes and murders are crimes committed by process predators. A sexually-motivated serial killer is perhaps the purest form of process predatory behavior humans can manifest. And, with a process predator, there’s nothing you can give him that will end the violence except for your life.

There are, however, a couple of nuances here. The first is that a resource predator may, after getting the resource, decide to target another resource. “Give me your wallet,” he might say, and if you comply, “give me your car keys” might be the next demand. So, complying with a resource predator will end the attack some percentage of the time, but it’s far from a sure thing. The other is that a resource predator may escalate into process predatory behavior, like the burglar who’s surprised by a female at home alone and decides to escalate into rape. Resource predators may also escalate into murder – to eliminate witnesses, for example.

Compliance might be a viable option for some resource predators, but it’s much less likely to work for a resource predator. Once the attack has begun, the only sure-fire way for you to stop it is to die. Resource predators also tend to escalate in violence over time, both within an attack and between successive victims. This is why we often see a history of fire-starting and peeping/indecency in the pasts of serial killers. Peeping leads to lewd conduct leads to rape leads (sometimes, but distressingly often) to torture and murder.

The other thing Miller makes very clear about process predators is this: They will often try to get their victims alone, and this never ends well for the victims. Miller writes, “The fact that he is attempting to move you to a second crime scene or has invaded your home is a solid indicator that you are probably dealing with a process predator. If you do not end the situation it can and likely will escalate to rape, torture and murder. Any risk of escape is worth the price.

The key lesson I walked away from this part of Miller’s book with is simple but has profound implications for how I would respond to an act of violence: Compliance and submission are rarely surefire ways to end a violent encounter. I simply cannot count on the old conventional wisdom to “do what he says and you won’t be hurt” to work effectively. Compliance is, at best, a temporary strategy to buy time for a more effective response.

This is why I train and practice awareness, to stay out of the path of predators. This is why I project confidence and awareness and strength, to tell the predators that I am not suitable prey. And this is why I train to defend myself and to use the tools at my disposal to do that, so that I have a more effective response than submission at my disposal when avoidance and deterrence fail. Because at the end of the day, the one thing you can take to the bank is that predators will act predatory, and the unwary and unprepared will become their prey.

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