Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Three Principles of Self-Defense

Earlier this summer, a pair of very violent criminals, 31 year old David Joseph Pedersen and his 24-year-old girlfriend, Holly Grigsby , went on a criminal rampage through our area. They allegedly killed a young man who had attended a concert in Newport, his body was found in the coastal hills a few miles from where we live. The pair continued their killing spree until they were apprehended in California. [1]

In 2004, college student Brooke Wilberger was abducted from a nearby apartment complex. Her body was found in 2009, again, in the nearby coastal hills; her murderer was convicted and is serving a life sentence. [2]

These dangerous criminal surely had driven on the same road that passes just blocks from our house. Yet we don’t live in a crime ridden urban inner city; we live in a small university town known for it’s academics, science and engineering. Still, these crimes, and others just as horrid have happened here in the past, as they do everywhere in the country.

We tend to hold mythological ideas about our probability of being victims of violent crime. We may wrongly think that we are safe at home while or while on vacation, or that we are in danger of harm when we may be perfectly safe. We may also believe that we are safer by having a loaded gun in our home – though statistically, the overwhelming majority of gun violence victims were family members rather than the extremely rare (0.5%) unknown intruder.[3]

So I recently read with great interest a blog posting by Sam Harris titled The Truth about Violence. I believe this is very important information about the reality regarding our personal safety; so much so that I sent the link to my wife and children to read. I am now passing this on to my readers as well as I think it provides some very CRUCIAL and PRACTICAL information about how to survive personal attacks of violence. I urge you to read it and to pass it along to others.

Among the most important points of the article are:
Avoid conflict:
This is a tough one for adult males whose ego is often difficult to disengage from their self image and whose provoking words can quickly escalate into physical combat. In truth, there is nothing anyone can say to you that would justify instigating physical violence. Unless you are clearly defending yourself from physical attack, you could be charged with criminal assault and potentially civil lawsuit.

Do not defend your property:
Your stuff is only stuff. When I worked in bank operations we repeatedly advised tellers to hand over the money quickly and politely to bank robbers. There is nothing in your wallet or purse or in your home that is worth your life or injury or the life or injury of another person. Let it go.

ESCAPE at all costs:
This is a difficult one, if you are approached in a parking lot, for example, and someone tries to force you into a car, RESIST AND FIGHT WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT. Yes, you may be injured trying to escape, but if someone exerts their control and gets you to a remote location, you are probably going to die anyway and likely in a more horrible way if you don't do everything in your power to prevent being taken to an isolated location.

Lastly, and this is a very tough decision; but if someone takes a family member hostage and demands your compliance – ESCAPE, even if you leave the family member behind. If the criminal takes control of both of you, it will not end well. By one of you escaping, the criminal has lost control and knows now that help may be soon on the way.
Here is the link to the article. Read it, pass it on, and be safe!

The Truth about Violence - 3 Principles of Self-Defense
by Sam Harris.

1. Pair can face trial in Washington in three-state killing rampage, Los Angeles Times.

2. Brooke Wilberger Found: Killer Gives Location of Remains to Avoid Death Penalty, ABCNew.com

3. Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home, New England Journal of Medicine.


Rain said...

Good advice. I would also add, as I have to my kids and grandkids, be alert to what's around you. There was a book Ann Rule wrote some time back about the killer Ted Bundy and he usually took advantage of someone's distraction or their upset. Predators are good at that. Always notice what's happening near by, fast movement, someone where they normally are not. Another good thing to carry, especially for women is pepper spray if they must be out at night or go into isolated areas. You can apologize for being wrong when it's pepper spray but not when it was a gun. When I got my concealed weapon permit (I don't generally carry but could), we had to take a class where they said-- if you aren't willing to shoot a gun, don't pull one out. I think that's good advice as a weapon can as easily be taken from you as not by someone who is more used to violence.

My big thing is pay attention to instincts and notice what's going on around you-- big sounds too, like gun shots. Even with those preparations, we could be caught up in something violent. It's just the risk of life.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Rain YES, being aware of your surroundings is extremely important. What your gun instructor said was very true... more often the person hesitates and the criminal takes the gun away from you.

I have two friends now who kept guns by their nightstands for for self-defense. Both were burglarized when they were gone, resulting in now two criminals out there have two very nice handguns. Sad.

Rain said...

I don't like the idea of having a gun by the bed anyway just because if you really needed to use it, you want to be fully awake. Better elsewhere and hidden. When gone, we have a good quality, lockable gun cabinet, another necessary investment if you want to own guns. I have no fear of guns having been raised in a home with them, having one of my kids where they have guns in their home (the other doesn't believe in them), but there are things to teach children if you have them. Pioneer families had to have them, raising livestock with predators nearby, I have to have them but I do take precautions where I keep them.

Rubye Jack said...

I refuse to carry pepper spray or a gun. I don't think it is worth the emotional agony of having to always be on guard in life. This is just me obviously.

Have you every noticed how old ladies will fight to the bitter end over someone stealing their purse? This is because every penny they have may be in that purse and they worry much more about what would happen if they couldn't pay their rent or bills than what will happen if they get hurt. Not so for most people who can easily give up what they have on them.

Also, it is interesting how now the consensus is to escape however you can. Used to be, they would say go with whoever. I remember thinking no way would I go with someone so I am glad this is what they are now saying.

I think we need to remember that although crime has increased greatly and is indeed everywhere, that the odds are still in our favor, particularly if we remember to stay aware of our surroundings.

Thanks for this post!

Robert the Skeptic said...

Rain Good points all.

Rubye Crime overall has been decreasing, but your probability of being touched by some form of crime has increased. Include among that identity theft, credit card fraud, mail theft... lots of things can happen. As Rain originally pointed out, awareness is the best defense.

Elisabeth said...

Scary stuff, Robert, but useful to know.

DJan said...

These are all good things to remember. I will do whatever I can to escape if I am ever forced against my will. Just thinking about it makes my heart race.

I don't have a gun and wouldn't use it if I could. Pepper spray seems like a good idea but then again, rummaging around in your purse looking for it might not be very effective. :-)

Paul said...

Has Sam Harris ever been the victim of violence ?

Robert the Skeptic said...

Elisabeth Of course these threats exist whether we are mindful of them or not, the point of the article was not to frighten but to encourage mindfulness.

DJan Again, my fear with pepper spray is that it can be forcibly taken from you and used to subdue you instead. Mindfulness, being aware of your surroundings, and yelling and fighting like hell are your best defenses against being a victim of crime.

Paul I don't know Sam Harris' personal history, however, I can tell you I do know that Harris, like Hitchens and Dawkins, routinely receives death threats, mostly from people claiming to be Christians. A Fatwah has been issued for his death due to his public comments regarding Islam. When a friend of mine attended a lecture and book signing by Harris in Portland a couple of years ago, he noted that three armed security people checked the auditorium before the lecture. An armed security guard stood behind Harris during the signing. With that sort of background, it is not surprising that Harris would put a lot of thought into the subject of violence.

Rain said...

Your article was particularly timely for me since I had just been in Medford over Thanksgiving where in a nearby community, Ashland, a 23 year-old man was killed with a knife on a bike path. They have no clue as to why and the article here--http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20111130/NEWS/111300325 Pretty well says when it's stranger to stranger, it's hard to find the guilty party.

One thing on the pepper sprays. I don't generally have one in my purse, not unless I know I will be alone in an area that is dicey, but when I hiked alone in Tucson quite a bit, I bought one at an outdoor store that had a wrist strap. it made it virtually invisible to anyone passing but very handy to use if it had ever been required. I only had one scary moment when I carried it where I saw a group that for a moment I wasn't sure they were safe but I passed with no problem. When hiking out on the desert, you often are quite alone and could run into anybody. Women had disappeared from that park, which doesn't mean violence, could even be a woman wanting to get lost; but the pepper spray wasn't about feeling frightened. It was about being ready and a woman simply doesn't have the physical strength to match a man if he's got bad intentions. What happened though with the young man in Ashland, chances are, no weapon would have prevented as literally it happens too fast. Now it might turn out he knew who it was but there have been some other 'random' crimes in other Oregon cities; so it is possible it was a serial killer as the one who killed the girl in Corvallis turned out to be.

Tommykey said...

When I worked in bank operations we repeatedly advised tellers to hand over the money quickly and politely to bank robbers.

I get the impression from reading news articles that it is way to easy to rob banks. It seems like any loser can walk into a bank, hand the teller a note asking for cash and then walk out with it.

What are your thoughts on having a no sunglasses and hats rule when you enter a bank? Have a greeter near the entrance to make the request. That way they're easier to photograph.

Nance said...

Passing it on, Robert, by Facebooking this post. Thanks.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Tommkey Willie Sutton notwithstanding, bank robbery is not very lucrative. Tellers have drawer limits so the most a robber can get away with is a few thousand dollars. The great majority of robbers only hit one teller, robbing multiple tellers requires control of the bank, customers, etc. and the increased time required to do that greatly increases the intervention of law enforcement. As the single-hit robber only gets a couple of thousand dollars (usually to feed a drug habit) they have to rob repeatedly, thereby increasing their odds of capture.

There are a number of security measures which are not secrets; there are marks on the door so the robber's height is observed as they leave. (Check your bank next time for these marks). "Bait money" (bills of which the serial numbers have been recorded) is placed with the robber so, upon capture, there is no doubt where he got the money. The act handing over the bait money actually triggers the alarm. The teller window is sealed after a robbery and fingerpirints are taken. The prohibition regarding hats and glasses really is of little value.

So yes, it seems easy to rob a bank. But the probabilities usually catch up with the robber. I have never known a bank robber to NOT be convicted.

But you have given me some ideas about future blog topics: funny bank robbery stories that I know about from my former career.

Nance Excellent, I would love to see this information get distributed as widely as possible.

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

Awesome post with GREAT advice! Thank you!!

Tommykey said...

There are a number of security measures which are not secrets; there are marks on the door so the robber's height is observed as they leave. (Check your bank next time for these marks).

My bank used to have this color coded height tape near the door and I knew what it was for. For some reason, maybe about 6 months ago, I noticed it was no longer there.

When I did a post about bank robberies a couple of years ago, one commenter to the post suggested that the cost of implementing the security measures I proposed would cost each individual bank more money than they would lose to robbery.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Dawn Hope it's advice you NEVER have to use!

Tommykey Cost benefit analysis does play into the equation for sure. I am sure the video surveillance and alarm equipment have gotten much cheaper; it was 35mm film in my day and clunky electronics.

But your commenter was likely correct, it probably costs more to heat and A/C the bank each month than what might be taken in a single occasional robbery.

Paul said...

hI have fought off an attacker on a public sidewalk years ago. The scoundrel was a street a common street thug/ Fortunately I am a devotee of canes and know how to use them. He went directly to the hospital and from there to jail. You should not kowtow to hoodlums and thugs !!

Robert the Skeptic said...

Paul You commented: You should not kowtow to hoodlums and thugs !!
You COMPLETELY missed the core of Harris' message. You were lucky; your "macho" response could very well have gotten you injured or worse had he a more powerful weapon. Or this...

A story was related to me by a friend (so I cannot vouch for it's accuracy) that a young man he knew was attacked in Portland who responded with a punch to the attacker's face. I don't know if any criminal proceedings were later involved, however, the 'scoundrel' got an attorney who sued the victim. The attacker was given a settlement by the victim's insurance company because it wasn't worth their time, effort and cost to take it to court.

My mother used to tell me "discretion is the better part of valor".

Snowbrush said...

I've also read that people who are assaulted go into an almost dreamlike zone of unreality in which time slows dramatically, and decisions become hard to make. It's important that people recognize that this is going to happen so they can prepare themselves to push through it.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Snowbrush It is known that the body, when under immediate stress for whatever reason, experiences a rush of adrenaline - the increase in heart rate, metabolism, energy... gives the perception that time is slowing down. I experienced it profoundly one time during a near skydiving accident.

secret agent woman said...

I carry pepper spray in my car, and in my hand whenever I walk. But my bigger worry is dogs - around here hardly anyone obey leash laws and I know several people who've been attacked by dogs.

I don't know that I've had the discussion iwht my kids about fighting to get away, but I will.

Robert the Skeptic said...

SecretAgent I am not a big dog fan myself, pepper spray is very effective against dogs. Out west here people carry it backpacking to ward off bears in the event of an attack.

KleinsteMotte said...

It is highly recommended that one do ones best to flee first if at all possible. The law is not on the side of the victim as it once was. An insurance lawyers stretch out cases till one feels like giving up. Though we are taught self defence it's likely to just cause more harm all around.
It's shame that our system has become so full of mind games in the courts.

Robert the Skeptic said...

KleinsteMotte Insurance companies are reluctant to go to trial as it is expensive and, no matter how tight one's case may appear, it's totally arbitrary which way a jury will decide. I understand the strategy.

Tommykey said...

This post on Self-Defense is incomplete without this Bruno clip!

Robert the Skeptic said...

Tommykey Thank you. This is very timely information as we are planning a trip soon to San Francisco.