SURVIVING VIOLENT CRIME
Living in the 90s (and later)Random, senseless, violent crime occurs with frightening regularity.
- Port Arthur - nowhere is safe
- Backpacker Murders - Does anyone still hitchhike?
- Kicked to Death in Bondi
- Home Invasions in the Asian community
- Small Business - a tough (and dangerous) way to make a buck
Martial Arts and Violent Crime - Myths and FactsSome see the typical self defense situation starting with trading of insults, perhaps in a pub or nightclub, gradually escalating until one or the other of the antagonists snaps into a fighting stance and something similar to a sparring match ensues. The prelude to violence is a series of steps or phases which occur in a predictable sequence, and which an aware, intelligent person can avoid.You are attacked, but using a few practised techniques you are able to subdue or knock out the agressor and leave the scene in an orderly fashion with honour and body intact.
THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN IN THE REAL WORLD.
You will be attacked in an isolated place, perhaps while asleep in bed in your own home. The attacker will be armed, possibly with a knife from you kichen drawer, maybe a sawn-off. If all he wanted was your possessions or cash, he would have taken them by now. Your spouse, your kids are in the house. Shoving the weapon in your face, he says: "Do what I say or I'll kill you."
You're in a bank, jeweller, bottle shop, petrol station, two guys with weapons burst in, shouting, clubbing staff and customers with guns.
You're walk back to your car alone at night As you get in. A guy opens the other door and jumps in, shoving a knife at your throat. "Drive."
You break down on an isolated section of the freeway. A man stops. Quickly you discover he is not there to help.
The FactsViolent crime is random, senseless, and explosive. Reasonable precautions will not guarantee your safety. You probably will have no time to prepare yourself, take a deep breath, or adopt a guard position.
It is a highly probable that an armed robber or rapist has done this before, and that he already has a criminal record. Criminals start small and work up. He probably has a record, so you can identify him. Armed robbery and murder are not that far apart sentence wise, in Australia. In some states of America, kidnapping is a capital offence. He can let you live, or eliminate a witness. Even if capital punishment were brought back, some psychopaths would not care if they lived or died. Some get their kicks from hurting others; they can act pleasant and compassionate until they get you where they want you - then the injuries begin.
There are no honourable criminals, sympathetic rapists or merciful killers. If he has overcome the mental restraints which prevent most of us from threatening, injuring, or killing strangers with weapons, lying to you about leaving you alive or unhurt is of no consequence to him whatsoever.
Whatever you do, obey or resist, you will probably be injured and hurt. If he has a knife, you will be cut or stabbed. If he has a gun, you will be shot. And, if you allow it, you will be subject to whatever other plans the criminal has for you - rape, torture , vivisection, slow death...
Under the extreme duress of a physical attack, your heart rate will soar. Above 150 beats per minute, even trained fighters lose their fine muscle control. Attempting an intricate sequence of complex movements relying on timing and sensitivity under such conditions is tantamount to suicide. Your only chance for survival depends on simple, fast, direct and explosive moves. Learning martial arts can increase your chances of survival by increasing your speed, power, tolerance for pain and exhaustion, and will to survive. But only the core of the system, stripped down to simple, explosive movements designed for escape and survival, coupled with hard core mental concentration on survival, will move the odds in your favour.
The male myths of apprehending bad guys or administering justice and punishment to wrongdoers kill many husbands and fathers each year, sometimes in front of their wives and children. If you want to fight crime, do it properly and join the armed forces or the police, become a prosecutor, or take up security work.
If violence erupts with you in the middle of it, the most important objective for you and your loved ones is your survival. ESCAPE is your prime, indeed your only realistic, objective. Do not take a violent crime against you as a wrong which must be set right or a contest to be "won". Instead, treat it as what it is, a deadly dangerous situation that you MUST survive - NOT win, SURVIVE.
Even professionals don't take unnecessary risks.
I was at the Paragon Hotel at Circular Quay in Sydney one night after an office Christmas Party. There were four or five bouncers there, very good, low-key, very professional. An occasional lone punter came in and got obnoxious, the bouncers had them in a rear choke and off balance before you could blink; out the front door, two on one, the guy was released and refused further entrance by the 2-3 guys manning the door. Not beaten up, just outside ASAP. Outside, you could see a bunch of ten drunken yobbos fighting. The bouncers watched this carefully, but did not intervene. Their job, risky enough already, was to keep the Paragon violence-free; the fight outside was not their lookout, they just called the cops and made sure none of the brawlers attempted to enter the Paragon. A large number of cops came and broke it up.
Professionals don't take unnecessary risks. The necessary ones are dangerous enough. You don't have to "beat" or apprehend your attacker - just ESCAPE.
Most oriental martial arts have principles, creeds, codes of conduct, which are based on various religions, doctrines, and philosophies. These principles usually counsel the avoidance of conflict and consideration for others.
Once the crime goes down, the time for these principles has passed. Your life is at stake. The only principle you can afford to live by is DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO SURVIVE.
Gadgets - Pepper Sprays, Alarms, Noisemakers, etc.Sprays - you have to have them in your hand, ready to go, pointed in the right direction. Many, including cops, spray themselves by mistake in the heat of the confrontation - not a good thing to do while facing a violent attacker. See this article regarding the limitations of sprays.
At time of writing, it is illegal for a citizen to carry such a spray in Australia. A recent publicised case involved a woman being charged for carrying such a spray for self protection. This woman had been attacked before and was terrified of further violence against her.
Noisemakers - the fables about "piercing noises that break eardrums, cause violent nausea and muscular dysfunction" are rubbish.
Alarms - judge for yourself - every couple of weeks we hear at least one in class. How many times have you heard an alarm and not rung the police?
Doing Nothing, Wait and See - The criminal shouts at you "Do as I say or I'll kill you!" or "Do as you're told and you won't get hurt!"
We are brought up to be reasonable beings, to resolve situations through reason and logic, to be polite, to follow orders. For society to function, we must sublimate our primitive urges for fight or flight during a normal day; society cannot function if we explode with berserk rage when someone cuts in front of us in the sandwich queue or the a teacher yells at our kid. The criminal relies on this when yelling orders at us, short circuiting the massive survival response we most need in a life-threatening situation.
The threat of a weapon, with orders being barked at you, makes obedience seem the safer option. BUT in doing so, you are putting the criminal in control of your situation, in control of your life. Remember, a criminal has been lying,, cheating, hurting others all his life, integrity and truthfulness mean nothing to him. He will say whatever he thinks will most quickly exact your compliance and make it easier for him to take or do what he wants.
US crime statistics indicate that compliant victims are injured about as often and as severely as those who resist.
Biding your time, deciding what to do, waiting for an opportunity, for the odds to turn in your favour, are terminal strategies. Every second the criminal is in control will assist him to ensure that it gets better for him and worse for you. If you let him move you from the original crime scene to a place of his choice, or tie you up, the odds are all his. Game over, you lose. Rest in Peace.
What WorksYou must take steps to PREPARE yourself to survive a violent crime. While we can certainly do some training in the Kung Fu school to prepare for a violent assault, it is not possible to adequately duplicate the fear, distress, pain and injury, and general life-threatening, frenzied chaos of an actual violent crime.
The way to prepare for a potentially fatal encounter is through the use of mental rehearsal and visualisation based on actual violent crimes. Review the crime itself, what the criminal did, what the victims did right and did wrong, then rehearse the scene as vividly as possible in your own mind under the following guidelines:
Visualise yourself in the crime scene - not watching from some detached vantage point, but IN it, so you must react.
Act immediately and explosively. Scream, run, explode away from him, or through him if you have to.
Fear is a very real part of the equation. Visualise yourself channelling that fear into rage. Fear and rage turn on all your body's emergency systems. Blood flows into the muscles, it thickens to slow bleeding from wounds. Endorphins are released to reduce our threshold of pain. Glucose and adrenalin flood our systems, our perceptual abilities increase, everything around us seems to slow down. The fight or flight response gives us enormous strength and power in a crisis. We reach our maximum potential.
See yourself switching in an instant from a civilised person to a ferocious wild animal fighting to survive in the jungle. Visualise yourself immediately "turning it on" to the MAX in a crime situation.
Expect to be injured. Fear of injury is what paralyses victims at the scene of a crime. Generally in visualisation for sport and martial arts training , we try to see ourselves winning, succeeding, jubilant, easily overcoming our opponents.
However, for crime survival it is ESSENTIAL that you visualise the pain and shock of being hit, cut, stabbed, shot, breaking bones, but continuing the fight to survive.
You must accept, deep down in the core of your psyche, that being injured is the price you must pay to survive violent crime. Getting injured is a lousy outcome, but face it, in a violent crime, ALL YOUR OPTIONS SUCK.
You must decide UP FRONT, before the crime takes place, that you fear the control of a violent criminal and the potentially deadly consequences more than you fear pain and injury. This must be a fundamental decision you make on your own BEFORE the crime goes down - it's too late to consider once you're there.
Take a hard-line approach. Consider absolute worst-case scenarios and decide how you will survive them. Murphy's Law will always apply. Sugar-coat nothing in your plans and rehearsals - only a totally uncompromising and hard-line approach will give you the preparation you need.
Study newspapers ant TV reports of violent crimes. Ignore the sensationalism. Analyse what the victims did right and did wrong. Formulate your own escape plans and strategies. Visualise them until they are part of you.
- VISUALISE YOUSELF IN THE CRIME SCENE
- ACT IMMEDIATELY - MORE EXPLOSIVE THAN YOU'VE EVER BEEN!
- EXPECT TO BE INJURED
A Streetwise AttitudeDevelop a new attitude towards people and situations. Cops learn to quickly assess people and situations, reacting on a hunch. Some say they are too cynical, paranoid, rude, that they overreact. Cops act this way because their survival depends on it and because they are regularly confronted with the results of violent crimes perpetrated against more trusting souls.
Trust your instincts.
If you are about to use a cash machine on a street deserted except for one person or group who you feel uneasy about, find another in a more public place.
If you are alone and see a man beside the highway beside an apparently broken down vehicle signalling you, it may be better to drive on - if you wish to be public spirited you can drive to the emergency phone, call the NRMA at the next open business, or call them on your mobile. Maybe it's genuine, maybe it's a soulmate of Ivan Milat looking for some fun, with his two buddies hidden out of sight behind the car.
[Note: Ivan Milat was recently convicted of the sensational serial murders of a number of hitchhiking backpackers in remote bushland near Sydney]
If you have an uneasy feeling about a person or situation, trust that feeling. If you need to be short or rude to that person to feel safe, do it. Always, SAFETY FIRST, COURTESY SECOND. If they appear to be broken down or in need of assistance (other than emergency assistance), you can tell them (from a safe distance inside your car) you will call the NRMA or whomever if you wish to be public spirited.
Develop an awareness of what is going on around you. Most crimes of violence occur in or near the victim's home, place of work, or regularly travelled routes or places (shops, malls, etc.). As you go about your business, ask yourself questions like:
If an intruder appeared through that door, how could I escape? What if he came from the other door?
What objects here could I use to defend myself if I had to?
How could I attract the attention of others to the crime?
- TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.
- SAFETY FIRST, COURTESY SECOND.
Sanford Strong's Four Rules[Sanford Strong is a San Diego cop who specialises in teaching other cops how to defend themselves and survive, and teaching SWAT police how to use and defend themselves against guns. His book "Strong on Defense" (Pocket Books, ISBN 0-671-52293-0) is one of the best I have ever read on subjects related to crime survival]
1. Act ImmediatelyGive up your property immediately. "Here's my wallet, here's my keys, there's my car, I'm out of here." If he is holding you, tell him where it is, "you can have it all." Give it up immediately, then ESCAPE. Don't get smart by throwing things in opposite directions - annoying an armed attacker is a poor strategy. Forget zigzagging, that's for the movies, forget diving for cover, some cover won't stop a bullet. Just concentrate on ESCAPE by putting as much distance between you and the criminal as possible as fast as you can.
If the guy is just a robber, he'll pick your property up and run the other way. If he wants more than your property, you're better off running anyway.
If the criminal tells you to stay where you are, you're still better off taking action.
2.ResistSCREAM. Screaming will help with the adrenalin, help you to concentrate, prepare you for action, unsettle your attacker, attract the attention of others. Rather than the pathetic efforts of the love interest in an action movie, make it a lion's roar, a battle cry, a kiai.
Yell, break windows, do everything you can to draw attention to the crime. Attention is the last thing he wants, and the best chance you have of interrupting his execution of the criminal act.
Practise screaming, LOUD. Alone in your car is a good time - probably you've done this already, but for other reasons.
CONCENTRATE on ESCAPE. The supposed "life flashing before my eyes" really does happen, under extreme duress the mind tends to float, often thinking of loved ones, family, etc. You must CONCENTRATE on your attacker and your ESCAPE from him.
3. Crime Scene #2Rape, torture, violation with foreign objects, ritualistic murders, etc. require the victim to be isolated and controlled. You may be moved only a few feet, down a hill or behind a fence, or miles away. The purpose is to get you out of sight and reduce the chance of intervention.
Do ANYTHING to avoid being tied up, imprisoned, or moved to a more isolated spot.
If he's prepared to bash, stab or shoot you in public, what's he prepared to do when he's got you in an isolated spot?
If all he wants is to rob you, he doesn't need to move you.
Your chances are as good as they are ever going to get when the crime starts. Time RAPIDLY works against you. If he moves you or ties you up, it's going to get MUCH WORSE. Sometimes all you have are lousy options, and it will only get worse.
Your only option is to ACT IMMEDIATELY.
If you are abducted in your car, CRASH IT.
If you're not driving, make the driver crash.
If bikers abduct you, claw the rider's eyes and make him drop it. You may be hurt, but you won't be raped, tortured, or left for dead - or dead.
Risk injury. Risk being shot. Poor options now are better than no options later. DO ANYTHING to avoid Crime Scene #2.
4. Never, Never Give UpChurchill won World War II this way.
While you're alive and conscious, you can still resist. You MUST still resist. Whatever damage you take, you must not give up. This is not a sparring match, this is life and death. There really is no choice. NEVER GIVE UP.
If you're injured, continuing fighting to escape helps stop the pain. You expect to be injured, pain is just a signal from the body that this has taken place. Other than that, it serves no purpose. Either ignore it or use it to drive you into a berserk rage. Whatever happens, concentrate on the fight and ESCAPE.
If you have to FightRemember that your primary objective is to ESCAPE. You want to IMMEDIATELY, or as fast as possible, incapacitate the criminal to the point where you can escape. Prolonging the fight, attempting to capture the criminal or administer "justice", or turning it into a contest are potentially DEADLY strategies. Take NO chances. Immediately you are able, ESCAPE.
IMMEDIATELY turn on your MAXIMUM response - be a principled, civilised, nice person in the rest of your life, but when you are fighting for your life become totally ferocious and totally ruthless. Become part animal, part machine, a cross between the Terminator and an enraged lion. The criminal is not an opponent to be overcome, but a target to be destroyed.
There are no rules - NEVER fight fair. The criminal, may be faster, more skillful, a better boxer, kicker, grappler, stick/knife/gun fighter than you - but you MUST win the fight whether you are the best or not. When there are no other options, fight fire with fire and more of it. Use any tactic, the dirtier and more damaging the better. Be cruel, be terrifying. If you are being victimised, make your enemy into the victim. If he is bad, be badder. If he is a mean, vicious, remorseless individual, take him to a whole new level of fear and pain. Do everything in your power to make certain that his attempt to hurt you will be the most difficult, painful, damaging and dangerous thing he has ever tried.
Be ruthless. Your primary target is the eyes, then the throat. Stick your thumb in his eye in a second. Bite. If you're struggling and he puts ANY part of his anatomy in your mouth, clamp down hard and chomp right through the bone. If he forces a deep tongue-kiss on you, BITE. If he rapes you orally, BITE. The violence may not be over, but the oral rape certainly will. Be RUTHLESS. Finish the fight as quickly and completely as possible. NEVER GIVE UP until you have the advantage or can ESCAPE,and once you have the advantage use it IMMEDIATELY and COMPLETELY to stop the criminal from committing further violence. Then ESCAPE. Don't try holding him for the cops unless you have adequate assistance with superior numbers to make such action completely safe.
Forget taunting the criminal, or drawing out the fight to impress him or your girlfirend. YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO TAKE CHANCES WITH A VIOLENT CRIMINAL. If he tries to demoralise you with such tactics, use the advantage he has given you to TAKE HIM OUT IMMEDIATELY. If you must impress anyone, do it by hurting him, injuring him, or knocking him out IMMEDIATELY and EXPLOSIVELY and not stopping your attack until he ceases to be of any danger.
He may start the assault, but make sure you control it. Remember, it's either you in control of your life, or a violent criminal. Don't fight to his "rules" or at his range. Capitalise IMMEDIATELY on whatever advantages you may have, terrain, carried or improvised weapons, reach, strength, etc. Your object is to IMMEDIATELY incapacitate the criminal so you can escape.
Criminals try to get what they want with the least resistance possible. Very few are prepared for a "victim" who meets them with total commitment, total ferocity, and complete ruthlessness. If you're fully switched on, you're ferocious, right on top of them, and nothing they can do seems to hurt you.
Intervening in Violent CrimeDirect intervention by confronting a criminal directly during an armed crime is a good way to die. However, it is possible to provide aggressive assistance by following these principles (once again from Sanford Strong):
- Keep them in sight
- Keep your distance
- Keep the pressure on
If you think such a response is too extreme, you shouldn't be trying to intervene.
Use your mobile phone to call the police.
GunsSome people believe they can buy a gun and some ammunition, and they are then protected from home intruders. This is dangerous fantasy. Others believe they can buy a gun and 50 rounds of ammo, go to a range, get some basic instruction, fire 40 of the rounds leaving 10, and then be prepared for a gunfight in their living room. More fantasy.
Effective self defense with a firearm requires specific combat training from experts using simulation training and practice weapons. Such training is not practically available in Australia except to police and defence force personnel.
You also have to be certain, UP FRONT, that you have what it takes to shoot a person to death. The apparent nonchalance with which TV cops blow hundreds of bad guys away bears no relationship to the shock, self-doubt, and deep revulsion that most people feel when forced to live with the realisation that they have killed another human being. This feeling may never leave you, and life may never be the same.
On the other hand, you ARE still alive.
Some facts. In America:
- 83% of gun suicides occur with a weapon kept for home protection
- 10% of loaded guns kept in homes get used to kill a family member during an argument
- One child per day is killed playing with a loaded gun.
On the other hand, in 1980 in the US about 2000 criminals were killed by citizens defending themselves; between 1967 and 1984, only 20 criminals were executed. 60% of criminals interviewed said they feared running into armed citizens more than running into cops; certainly they are more likely to die at the hands of an armed householder than at those of the justice system.
But the law (particularly in Australia) is ambivalent regarding the killing of intruders. There have been several Australian cases recently; all the defenders got off, but in all cases charges were considered. There is no guarantee that if you shoot an intruder you will not be charged with manslaughter or murder.
If you arm yourself in public without authorisation, you are committing a crime. If you arm yourself expecting trouble, and actually shoot somebody, whatever the circumstances, you may be charged with murder (arming yourself constitutes premeditation). You cannot legally carry a knife or chemical weapon (like Mace or pepper spray) for self protection in Australia.
Australian law is also very stringent regarding gun ownership, storage and transport. It is not at all easy to effectively have a gun available for home defense and at the same time remain within Australian law. Put simplistically the law says you are allowed to have a gun for sport or shooting pests, etc. in rural areas, but you are NOT allowed to keep a gun solely for defense purposes.
Mobile TelephonesThe single most useful crime prevention tool you can carry. People blow them off as yuppie fashion accessories, but they can save seconds or minutes, summoning the cops immediately. Remember, violent crimes go down FAST - the seconds or minutes you save having the phone RIGHT THERE rather than looking for a pay phone fumbling with change, dealing with householders, etc. may mean a life saved (maybe yours), a criminal who would have escaped apprehended, or a violent crime stopped. Your teenage kids need them, too. Your seventeen-year old can call you if she gets a flat tyre in a bad area, or if she finds herself being taken "somewhere where we can be alone" by a new boyfriend about whom she's having second thoughts.
If it saves you or someone else even once, it's worth much more than whatever you paid for it.
Armed RobberyThe criminal's main objective here is usually: get the money and get out.
If you are justy entering the shop or bank and find a robbery in progress, duck back out. Sounds simple but lots of people freeze.
If you are already inside, but right next to an exit door, duck out if you can do it instantly. Scream and yell as you run, putting pressure on the criminals and helping the people inside.
If you are inside, not near a door, obey their directions as long as their focus is on robbery. If they are robbing customers, give up your property right away.
If they start shooting, stabbing, tying people up, or imprisoning them, react immediately - ESCAPE. There's no guarantee they'll stop the violence before they get to you.
NEVER let yourself be tied up, imprisoned in a back room, safe, locker, etc., or be taken hostage. Hostages only have value while criminals are attempting to escape or bargaining for demands. Some may also be raped. AS time passes, hostage value diminishes, until at some point they are just a nuisance and a threat as a potential witness. When this happens, you as a hostage are at Crime Scene #2, your life is in their hands. Goodbye.
Before they take you hostage, you still haver a chance. If they stab or shoot you while you resist, you can expect the same would have happened later when you have no value to them and they have all the control.
Family, Friends, Other Potential VictimsCriminals manage to control a superior number of victims during home invasions, etc. by using each victim's concern for the others(s) to control and immobilize them. A criminal will train a weapon on a child, while ordering a wife to tie up the husband who may be more than the criminal's equal in a one-on-one situation.
Developing a family escape plan will be time well spent. Such a plan, in essence, is not dissimilar to a fire drill. Each family member should have their own set of escape routes worked out, with places of refuge. such as known neighbour's houses, determined beforehand. If the subject is approached sensibly and not hysterically, children will treat the subject sensibly and may well participate with creative ideas. You need one escape plan for the home, two for the car - one where everyone gets in IMMEDIATELY and you take off, another where you all leave the car IMMEDIATELY and ESCAPE - in Australia, make sure you run to the left to avoid traffic. Even a plan for the work area may not be out of the question if your colleagues are like-minded, especially for small businesses.
If the worst happens, and your spouse or a child is held by a criminal and threatened with a weapon, the same rules still apply. Always ESCAPE. If one or more of the family can escape and summon help, this will place extra pressure and the criminal and limit the damage he can do to those still inside. Do NOT allow the criminal to tie you up, and do not cooperate with him by restraining or imprisoning others. Offer your property readily, and allow the criminal to escape. If he ignores this, do not cooperate with his demands to incapacitiate yourself or others. Remember, it will be a lot easier for him to rape the females (and maybe males too) and then kill everyone if you are all tied up. As terrifying as it may be, your best chance is still to resist; tell the criminal that the person he is holding is your best friend, blood brother, or love of your life, and if the criminal hurts them you will have nothing else to lose and will immediately kill him - say you've killed before, and you'll do it again. Then tell him once again he can take your property and go. If you are lying when you say this, you still need to sound totally convincing and totally committed. Cops rehearse what they are going to say to armed criminals when apprehending them, you should rehearse your speeches to prepare for the worst.
If you are with a group, in a bar, restaurant, etc. and armed violence erupts, ACT IMMEDIATELY. If you act, others will follow suit. Shout "GUN! RUN!" or the like as you escape, warning others of the danger and urging them into action themselves.
The body count in the McDonalds massacre in San Ysidro, California, by James Huberty on July 18, 1984 was twenty-one dead and nineteen wounded. He walked into the restaurant with three powerful semiautomatic weapons and began shooting at random. He reloaded all his weapons twice as he curcled the room, killing anyone he found still alive. He was finally killed by a police sniper on a rooftop.
The death toll in another massacre in 1991 in Killeen, Texas, was reduced because one man immediately threw his table at the plate glass window, and when the window refused to break he charged it full force and dived through. He and those who followed him lived, while others who huddled under tables were picked off at the killer's leisure.
The death toll in a train massacre in New York was reduced by one brave man breaking through his fear and shouting "Grab him!" while tacking the killer as he reloaded his weapon. Several others immediately followed, and the killer was overcome.
No training or course of action can guarantee that you will survive violent crime, which is random, senseless, and goes down very, very fast. But following some simple rules, and PREPARING yourself to ESCAPE and SURVIVE, can greatly improve your chances.
I hope your life remains happy and violence free, but I urge you to plan and prepare in case the worst happens.
References and Related WWW SitesStrong on Defense; Survival Rules to Protect You and Your Family from Crime. Sanford Strong, Pocket Books, ISBN 0-671-52293-0.
Fighting Back; A Woman's Guide to Self-Defence. Eddie McGee with David Lowen, Sphere Books Limited, ISBN 0-7221-5792-4.
Index: Assault Prevention Information Network
Sexual Assault Information Page
Last update: 10 January 1997