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Main blog page » Archives » March 2013 » Read beyond the article, part 2

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03/06/2013: "Read beyond the article, part 2"


In one of our first blog posts - Read beyond the article - we talked about examining reports of attacks, and thinking about them beyond the basic information of "man attacked at ATM". In today's blog post, we'll discuss two videos, one of a woman being attacked in an elevator, and one about a woman who was groped while out jogging.

We've blogged about awareness and projection of self before, in the Strategy: awareness entry, and the Awareness and projection, part 2 one. The first video has points for discussion regarding awareness and projection of self, and also of self defense. (For a more detailed look at projection of self, refer also to this video (which we had linked to in the second Awareness post above).) The second video has points for discussion about self defense.

We'll also be discussing the moral, ethical, and legal responsibilities inherent in defending yourself. Further discussion after the jump.

First video:

Did you notice:
- She was facing the elevator buttons, even after the guy got on.
- She seemed to have an alarm go off in her head, as she turned around and looked at him.
- After she looked at him, she turned back around, which meant she couldn't see him.
- And she lowered her head, in an attempt to make herself smaller and pretend he wasn't there.
- Which probably made her more of a target.

She tried to leave, was attacked, and fought him. That's good. But watch the video again.
- How long did it take him to curl up into a fetal position and protect his head?
- What does it indicate when a person does that?
- Did she try to leave the elevator at that point?
- For how long after he curled up did she continue to beat and kick him?
- Did she try to smash his head into the ground/door?
- Did she yank him back in when the door finally opened and he tried to get out of the elevator?
- Does it look like she chased him when he was finally able to get out?


Second video:

- Was her initial response (probably grabbing the guy's hand) acceptable?
- What was his reaction?
- What was her response to being called names by the guy's friend?
- What happened after she and the second person exchanged blows?
- What common phrase do you often hear when that happens?


Let's look at the videos from a self-defense and legal perspective.

First video:

Q: How long did it take him to curl up into a fetal position and protect his head?
A: About three seconds.

Q: What does it indicate when a person does that?
A: That s/he feels at risk and is trying to protect vulnerable areas.

Q: Did she try to leave the elevator at that point?
A: No.

Q: For how long after he curled up did she continue to beat and kick him?
A: About 12 seconds.

Q: Did she try to smash his head into the ground/door?
A: Yes. Think about the possible end result of that.

Q: Did she yank him back in when the door finally opened and he tried to get out of the elevator?
A: Yes - and kept beating on him.

Q: Does it look like she chased him when he was finally able to get out?
A: Yes.


Second video:

Q: Was her initial response (probably grabbing the guy's hand) acceptable?
A: Sure.

Q: What was his reaction?
A: He was startled and taken aback, and apologized.

Q: What was her response to being called names by the guy's friend?
A: "It just made something snap in me - it's not OK. It's so disrespectful," Dang said. That's when her Kung Fu background really kicked in as she punched him twice in the face.

Q: What happened after she and the second person exchanged blows?
A: He pulled a knife.

Q: What do you often hear people say when that happens?
A: "I never saw it." Luckily, it appears that she had some distance from him when he pulled it, as she saw it and retreated; if there had been less distance, she might well have been cut or stabbed. She's lucky it wasn't a gun.


In both instances, the attackees did well to defend themselves. But once they stopped or countered the initial attack, their responses became much more problematic, especially from a legal standpoint. Going beyond what is needed to get free and leave the scene changes the situation from one of self defense to one of aggression, and can result in legal issues for the person who was initially the defender, but has now become the attacker.

When the attacker is under control or disabled, the defender should then leave the area, unless s/he has a compelling reason to stay (e.g. there are small children or an elder to defend). And if the defender does need to stay, since the attacker is under control or disabled, their welfare becomes the defender's responsibility.

In a broad context, for a situation to be considered self defense, the bad guy must demonstrate:
- intent
- means
- opportunity
And the good guy must demonstrate:
- preclusion (specifics of this may vary by state)
- justification

Intent, means, and opportunity were present in both videos; the attacks did take place. And the defenders did react appropriately in both instances - at first. But it's the "justification" part where the defenders' further actions fail. You must be able to articulate why you continued using that the level of force for that length of time on somebody who had curled up into a fetal position, and why you walked over and punched out somebody who called you names. In both cases the level of violence increased - and in both cases, to a potentially deadly level of response. In neither case was it warranted.


Defend yourself, yes - and do it to the level at which you need to do it. The attacker has already decided what s/he is willing to do to you, and you have to be able to at least match that level of violence, including taking things to the point of severely injuring or killing the attacker.

If the attacker keeps attacking, then you keep defending, and go as far as you need to. But when the attacker quits attacking - curling into a fetal position - or does not demonstrate all three elements listed above - calling names demonstrates intent and may demonstrate means, but he had no opportunity at that point - then it becomes much more difficult to justify the further actions of bashing someone's head into the ground or walking up and punching them in the face.

Our school teaches harsh techniques for violent situations, but we also remind our students constantly of the moral, ethical, and legal responsibilities - to themselves and to others - that come with this training and the use of it. Defend yourself to the level at which you need to do so - including to a very high level - but moderate or discontinue your response at the point at which it is warranted.


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