Making the Choice Not to Carry

1070609_65995437On a recent trip to Seattle for business, I had a chance to have lunch with the inimitable Kathy Jackson. As you might imagine, our conversation touched on all sorts of topics, including armed self-defense. At one point, I commented about how I think it’s important to encourage other women to become responsible for their own safety, but that it’s also important to let women come to that decision on their own and not be pushy about it.

Kathy said something which surprised me, but which on reflection I totally agree with. “I’d go farther than that,” she replied, “and say that I think it’s irresponsible to pressure women into making that decision.”

Though we didn’t talk in depth about Kathy’s reasons for feeling that way, I’d like to talk about the reasons why I wholeheartedly agree with her sentiment.

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Explaining Our Mindset

20130227-193210.jpgI had a difficult conversation with a friend a couple of days ago. Thinking about it, I’m not sure I gave her a very satisfactory answer, though I’m unsure what I could have said that would have been better.

“I looked at your blog,” she told me during our conversation. “I just don’t understand how you can be so VIOLENT!” When I asked her what she meant, she referred to this post, and to how I’d looked at the situation and lessons learned. “How can you go through life all day thinking about the world that way?” she asked me. “Like everyone’s out to get you and you have to respond with violence!”

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A Conversation About School Violence

20130110-125219.jpgIn recent days the politicians have been calling for a “conversation” on school violence and gun control. Apart from the fact that a one-sided lecture isn’t the same as a conversation, I personally find it a little odd that the people most affected by the issue of school violence and mass killings in schools don’t have a voice in the conversation.

So, I decided to have a conversation about school violence with my nearest subject matter expert. I’ve talked before about my daughter, “Nutmeg”, but for the newcomers, she’s seventeen years old and attends a special school program that provides her extra supports with emotional and behavioral challenges caused by past trauma in her birth family. (Before you start screaming about her privacy, she read this post before I made it and doesn’t object to what I’ve said here.)

We talked while out running errands today, and the conversation went something like this – I’ve tried to reproduce the flavor of how she talks as faithfully as I can:

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Betting Our Lives on Pieces of Paper

Let’s face the unfortunate reality: Restraining orders are not printed on sheets of kevlar. They won’t stop a knife or a gun. You can’t use one as body armor, and legal paper isn’t even absorbent enough to make a really decent bandage. Restraining orders also don’t magically disarm the violent ex or unbalanced stalker.

And if restraining orders do nothing to protect the innocent would-be targets, they do even less to protect the innocent bystanders — her co-workers, the customers in her workplace, the guy behind her in the line at Starbucks when the angry, hate-filled, predatory monster comes calling. At least the woman who took out the restraining order knows that trouble is gunning for her, but the collateral victims don’t even have that edge.

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Criminals Don’t Think Like You

I was listening to the latest of Ben Branam’s Modern Self-Protection podcast today, and wanted to underline something Ben talks about that’s important to understanding how to respond to a violent attack: The criminals don’t think the way you do.

When we try to imagine what a criminal will do, and how we can respond to it, it’s only natural to think about what we would do in a similar situation. People tell us “talk about yourself to make the criminal empathize with you”, or “give him what we wants and he won’t hurt you.” I’ve heard some people tell rape victims to urinate or vomit on their attackers. These seem like natural suggestions on the surface. After all, we don’t deliberately hurt people we care about. We don’t deliberately hurt people who give us what we want. We find throwing up a turn-off. If that’s how we would feel, that’s how the criminal would feel too. Right?

Wrong. What would work on us if we were criminals doesn’t work on actual criminals, because actual criminals don’t think the way we do. This is the gap between “the reality of violence” and “the fantasy of violence” that Rory Miller talks about, and wrapping our heads around it is hugely important if we want to stay safe.

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IANAL: Ability, Opportunity, Jeopardy, and “Good Shoots”

First of all, let me clear something up: The acronym in the title of this post stands for “I Am Not a Lawyer”, which is true. Please don’t construe anything I write here as legal advice. Although I am trained as a paralegal, that isn’t the same thing as being a lawyer, and since the laws of every jurisdiction vary, it’s up to you to check what I have to say with a lawyer who’s licensed to practice law in your state.

With that said, this is the first of what I hope will be an occasional series about aspects of the law as it relates to self-defense. I know, I know, “I’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six” and all that, you may be saying. But really, if you survive your tangle with violence but end up incarcerated and/or in bankruptcy court to satisfy a civil judgment, it’s a bit of a hollow victory, no? Saving your life is good, but so is not bringing financial ruin down upon your family.

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What Do You Fear?

I was talking with a friend of mine the other day. She shares my desire to be able to be responsible for her own safety and the safety of her family, so the conversation turned eventually to topics of self-defense. In the course of our conversation, she mentioned that a question she often got asked when she was training in martial arts on a regular basis was “what are you so afraid of, that you’re learning combat?”

Her question got me thinking, partly because I’ve been asked it too (usually combined with insinuation that I’m paranoid and unstable), and partly because a piece of this personal safety and self-defense pie is, for me, making my fears and doubts conscious so that I can protect myself and my loved ones despite them. So, what am I afraid of?

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