Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Men, Come To My Rescue

An article has made it's rounds on my Facebook page via several instructor friends. It's titled Alpha Game: Protect Yourselves, Ladies and attempts to explain why women and children are being targeted more frequently in violent crime and why men are not coming to their aid.

The crux of the article can be summed up in these paragraphs:
"Men have been subjected to forty years of propaganda telling them that those old codes are outdated no longer apply. They have been taught from kindergarten that men and women are exactly the same. So, women shouldn't be surprised when bad men no longer treat them with kid gloves, but prey upon them as mercilessly as they do upon other men.

Nor should they be surprised when good men won't lift a finger or run any risks to defend them."
 After reading the article and feeling a little sad I started reading the comments to the article and even thinking back on my own experiences.

I've spoken against relying on someone else to save you. I've written countless blog posts about standing up for yourself and taking charge of your own self defense. I seek out the training that would allow me to better my chances against all aggressors--male, female, big or small.

But here's a little secret: I welcome help. I welcome protection. I embrace the kindness of a stranger or friend or spouse or family member who would stand up for me and say, "Leave her alone."

I won't wait for it. But I welcome it.

In the world of self defense things can get a little funny. Women train to fight off their most-likely and damaging attacker (a man) and that can often be translated into the idea that women are 100% equal to men or that she now no longer needs the assistance of anyone, even (or especially) a man.

Sometimes, that philosophy alone is what drives women to self defense classes. A woman, through the guise of feminism or equality, or whatever, decides the best way she can prove her superiority is to learn to defeat men in a physical match-up. Sadly, all too often, that drive comes from abuse or negligence at the hands of men.

Abuse at the hands of any man is enough to drive any woman to feel mistrustful of the gender as a whole. Abuse or neglect at the hands of a man that woman is supposed to have trusted to protect her can compound the issue even further.

I'm no stranger to such abuses and it was that abuse that drove me to the doors of self defense.

I made a decision that I was never going to rely on anyone else to save me ever again and if no one was going to help me then I'd help myself.

My drive for self protection was born out of hurt and bitterness, mistrust and anger. Yet the more I learned (the more I healed) the more I realized that my prejudices against men were planted in the shallow, infertile ground of perversion in a few.

Most men are not interested in hurting anyone. Many, in fact, want to be a protector. They want to be needed, relied upon or trusted to solve a problem. As much as men admire strong women there is a part of them that finds it perfectly acceptable for that woman to have her moments of weakness. Those men are okay being that knight in shining armor who comes to the rescue. If given the chance, many men would put forth the finest of efforts to fulfill that role and feel more like men because of it.

And yet, no one is asking them.

We're shoveling women into self defense classes and telling them that they don't need help. Worse, in many classes, women are being taught that the people they should be fearing the most are those they are invested in trusting. The domestic violence statistics are quoted. The rape statistics. The fact that most attacks happen by individuals the woman knows. And then the seed of mistrust is watered with words like, "Would you be ready to do this against your own husband?"

Don't get me wrong. A woman should very well know how to defend herself from anyone, including her spouse, if the need arises. She should be capable of standing up to the most aggressive and unlikely of foes. She should be able to do her best, with whatever tool is at her disposal, to defend herself. But I can't help but fear we're creating a much bigger problem by breeding that kind of mistrust and an attitude that she can always do it and do it best on her own.

We're breeding men who think they are irrelevant to the defense of women. That they don't matter and shouldn't help even if they are in a position to do so.

Worse still is that we may be breeding women who have a higher opinion of their own abilities than reality would dictate.

Women are plowed through self defense classes often paired up with other women or compliant male partners, given reassuring conditioning through defeating other non-skilled females or compliant males, told they are unbeatable, given a certificate of completion and told they are ready for whatever anyone can throw at them. The truth is that we women suffer a huge disadvantage when it comes to real world encounters with violence--particularly violent men--and we may not be able to conquer every foe out there without help.

Yes, many men can be deterred or fought off when encountering the minimum of resistance. Many women have fought off attackers using basic self defense skills. There are also some highly skilled women out there. Those skills should be taught. They should be learned and they should be applied when necessary. They have and will continue to be successful!

But those classes and skills should not be a substitute for an able-bodied, and preferably skilled individual coming to help.

My journey into self defense began on the premise that I never again wanted to rely on someone else to save me. I stand by that decision. I do not want to wait for someone to come to my rescue. But whereas I crossed the start line determined to resist all outside offers to help, I've reached a point of this unending journey with the realization that I don't want to do it all on my own anymore. Not only is it impractical, it's foolish. If the bad guys can embrace the need for assistance in victimizing others, why should I try to stand alone in defending myself? 

So, to those who would question whether or not I would ever want any assistance from a man, the answer is, "yes."

Help me. Save me. Rescue me. Protect me.

Encourage me to learn how to do it myself. Congratulate me when I take the next step in self reliance and self defense. But if you see me in a position of need, please, help me. I will thank you for it. I will appreciate you for it. I will not feel less of a woman because you helped me. I will not feel as though you are undermining me. I may be able to do it on my own but I know I have a better chance with your help. I welcome your help.

For those men who have felt like we women don't want you or need you anymore. I'm sorry. I can't speak for every woman but for my own part in shutting you out of my own defense I apologize.

We women will never be as good at defending ourselves from men like you men are.

For those men who have wanted to help but have been hesitant for fear you'd be seen as undermining us and our strength. I, for one, would like to invite you to jump in and help. Again, I can only speak for myself, but I want you to know I'd appreciate your help.

To those men who have never wondered and never asked but have thrown themselves into the mix on a woman's (or anyone's) behalf. Thank you! You are appreciated. Even if it wasn't by the individual you helped, I appreciate your spirit.

To the women who read this. Good for you for learning how to defend yourself. Keep at it. Don't stop and don't wait for someone to rescue you. But don't discredit the ability and desire that men have to help you and protect you, either.

In the world of self defense, it still counts as a win to be rescued.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Judged By Twleve, Carried By Six

The self defense community, like any I suppose, is filled with quips and clever saying. Eventually they all become trite but that doesn't keep them from being thrown around with little thought or consideration to what is actually being expressed.

One such phrase is, "I'd rather be judged by twelve than carried by six."

What is trying to be expressed here is that one would rather be judged in a court of law by a jury (twelve jurors) than die (six pallbearers).

This phrase is frequently used when there is a measure of confusion about a self defense law. Instead of searching for legal clarification someone will say, "Well, I'd rather be judged by twelve than carried by six," implying that they are okay being on the questionable side of the law than face dying at the hands of an attacker.

Firstly, ignorance of the law is never a good defense. 

Shaneen Allen, a PA resident, was driving in NJ when she was pulled over for a dangerous lane change. She handed her driver's license and PA-issued carry permit to the officer and informed him that she had a gun in her car. According to her lawyer she did not know what she was doing was illegal.

She is now facing prison time. As this article, by the Washington Post puts it, "But if she is denied [an amnesty] defense, she will almost certainly go to trial, and under New Jersey’s gun law, she will have no real defense. Unless her jury engages in a defiant act of nullification, she will be convicted, and her trial judge will have no choice but to sentence her to the three-year minimum."

Shaneen's only crime was having access to a firearm in her vehicle and having a specific type of ammunition. She is going through a legal hell because of it. How much more difficult might the situation be if said firearm had been used? What if someone were involved in a questionable act of self defense with a firearm?

If there is ambiguity about a law it is not time to throw up your hands and say, "I don't understand it so I'm just going to hope for the best." It's time to knuckle down and get to the bottom of that law. Your future and freedom may depend on it.

Read your state statutes. If you don't understand them, ask someone who does. Get a few books and start reading, compare what you know about your own state with the states around you. Attend a class geared toward self defense law. Do not leave your understanding of self defense law up to chance, especially if you carry a lethal tool. 

No trial is no picnic.
I believe a lot of people who throw out this phrase really don't think their particular case will ever make it to trial. They are somehow under the illusion that if they ever get into a lethal encounter it will be so black and white that their innocence will never be in question.

Many times that is the case. The evidence paints a pretty clear picture and charges are never filed. That doesn't mean life gets to go back to normal. Sometimes it does. A lot of times it doesn't.

Reading accounts of self defense accounts where shots have actually been fired and especially where there has been loss of life shows a grim reality. Sometimes there are injuries to recover from. Other times there may be a loss of a loved one's life or an injury. Many times there are still social repercussions wherein friends and family distance themselves, no longer wishing to be associated with someone who has taken a life.

There may be threats from friends and family of the aggressor.

Even if the situation itself was pretty clear in the mind of the shooter, however, that doesn't always mean that witnesses or evidence paints the same legal picture. In which case, a trial is at hand.

Finally, death may not be the worst outcome and there are many ways to die. 

What really irks me about this particular phrase is that it implies that death is absolutely the worst outcome and that putting your future in the hands of a jury is always going to be a better option.

This will largely depend on what an individual can handle and what s/he can take in the way of financial, emotional and personal stressors.

There are people out there who can genuinely say that death for them would be the ultimate, worst case scenario. They don't care if they are bankrupt, in prison with no friend, have failing health and no rights. They are breathing, therefor it's not as bad as it could be.

On the other hand, there are many people who would welcome death before they welcomed bankruptcy or a felony murder conviction, the disgrace of their name, the loss of their wife and kids (even if that loss is only emotional), a substantial prison sentence or the loss of their lifestyle as they know it. To some, losing everything might as well be death. It may not be a physical death but it's a type of death just the same.

That may happen to anyone who leaves his fate in the hands of a jury.

You don't have to look far to find cases of where self defense is used as the legal defense that have gone to trial. Two of the most well known and publicized trials were the George Zimmerman trial and the Michael Dunn trial. One ended in exoneration, the other in conviction and both lives will never be the same.

Court costs and lawyer fees leave individuals hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt if not millions. Homes are sold. Divorce is common. The social repercussions from neighborhoods push families out of communities often resulting in divorce and disassociation of children and loved ones. Jobs are terminated. The trial process is long and even if the verdict is favorable there is the stress of picking up those pieces and moving on. There can even be PTSD or living with life-long injuries. If the verdict is one of guilt (and it may be) you then have a prison sentence to serve and a criminal record for life and the subsequent struggle to find work and a future based on that record.

Very few people know with certainty what kind of pressures they can handle. Could you handle a 20-year prison term separated from your family and life as you know it? Would your family be there for you afterward? Could the person you are survive that? If you physically survived would you emotionally survive? Could you pick your life back up after a manslaughter or murder conviction? Could you find work with a felony record? Is the death of everything you knew something you have considered?

Because I can't answer those questions for myself I choose not to be flippant about the responsibility I have to make sure I don't put myself into a position where such an outcome is probable. Don't get me wrong, a worst case scenario is always possible, not always probable.

To paraphrase one of the instructors at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference, "When you decide you will take on [a lethal fight for your life] you agree you accept the bill and pay for [the trial and any outcome] no matter what the cost."

That's not something anyone should take lightly.

Know your local law. Know the law of any states you frequent or may travel into. Learn the difference between true lethal situations wherein lethal force is justifiable and less-than-lethal situations. Learn when lethal force is no longer justifiable. Seek out training that helps you identify those differences. Understand the gravity of what a trial would likely be.

Are you giving those things the respectful attention they deserve?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bad Info Prevails

A few weeks ago I went to a jewelry making event. There were a number of women there who didn't know me and I didn't know them. While we formed our pendents we started getting to know one another but I don't always disclose my interest and passion for self defense and firearms.

Somehow, however, the conversation turned to guns and self defense.

I tried to keep my mouth shut.

Someone said she didn't want to get a gun but she was thinking it might be good for her to get some pepper spray.

One of the other women said, "You know what's a great alternative? Wasp spray! It has better range and is more effective."

I couldn't hold it in any longer. I asked, "Would you like to know why that isn't necessarily true?"

She said yes.

After I was done explaining that wasp spray has never been proven effective against human beings like pepper spray has been I explained that modern pepper sprays have a great range and then left it be.

The conversation continued and one of the other gals said, "Well, that's why whenever I go anywhere I put my keys between my fingers so that I can punch with them if I need to."

I winced. "I'm sorry. But would you like to know why that's not a good idea?"

She said yes.

I explained that the keys between the fingers have no stability and punching someone with your keys between your fingers will likely do no more damage than just punching them. In addition, finger bones are not all that strong and if someone stronger were to grab your hand it's entirely possible to break a few fingers around those keys as they act as a sort of fulcrum. If you have any kind of key defense you're much better off getting a kubaton (careful to observe that in some states you need a carry permit to do so) or just swinging your keys on a key chain line a mace and chain.

I shut up again and eventually one of the other gals said, "What I don't understand about these shooting things is why the police can't just shoot people in the arm or the leg or something?"

I put my head on the table and said, "Would you like to know why that's not an option?"

She said yes.

I explained a little about deadly force and when you can and cannot use it and that there is no such thing as a non-lethal shot, not legally anyway.

The girl I came with happens to be one of my former students. She started laughing and finally spoke up, "Just in case you were wondering why she's so passionate about this stuff it's because she's a firearms instructor."

We eventually got the class back on a jewelry making track but this all got me thinking about why the bad information keeps circulating. Why, despite our best efforts, do people still regurgitate the same old myths over and over again? Why do they get shared with higher frequency than good information?

Is it because the information is novel and therefore sticks out as something to remember? Is it because the techniques seem easier or more accessible to common individuals?

Of course it doesn't help that we have national television programs spewing crap, either. Thank you, NBC, you just set us back seven years.