Understanding violence from a situational perspective allows us to make realistic tradecraft risk assessments of situations and engage accordingly.
Our society is one where we want to be given the answers, rather than be taught to figure out the solution for ourselves. Personal safety is the same.
People either want a list of rules to follow (which they’ll conveniently ignore when they’re too inconvenient) or will convince themselves that personal safety is nothing more than formalized common sense.
There are five main reasons why following rules or relying on common sense are not reliable methods:
1) Our rules are based on situations that aren’t realistic.
2) Rules designed to work in one situation, can end up conflicting with other rules designed for other situations.
3) Predatory individuals know our safety rules and will use them against us.
4) Following a rule, may make us believe we are doing the right thing and so cause us to miss the real threat / danger.
5) We don’t follow the rules we set for ourselves.
At root, we as individuals have become so far removed from real life violence, that we don’t actually know what it looks like. The rules we create our based on situations that we imagine we might have to deal with, not ones that are likely to happen e.g. we plan to protect ourselves against muggings in deserted, dark alleyways not in crowded shopping malls.
To develop effective self-protection strategies, we must start to understand the situational components of violence, and how these will shape our risk assessments and our responses to violence.
There are five basic situational components to consider when trying to understand how dangerous situations can be identified, predicted and avoided:
1) Location / Environment
2) Relationship to the Assailant
3) Assailant’s Motive
4) State of Mind / Preparedness
5) Third Parties with You
Relationship and Location are two, very interconnected situational components. We often imagine violence only being committed against us by strangers, but many assaults (especially against women) are carried out by people who the target/victim knows; either as a friend, friend of friend, associate or co-worker etc. In these types of attack, it is more likely that an assault will happen in a very familiar location, such as the person’s home, somebody else’s home or a local bar / pub where they regularly drink etc. Where the assailant is a stranger, assaults are more likely to happen in more public settings, which are dictated by the attacker/predators familiarity with the location rather than the victims.
When we understand a person’s motive, we are better able to make an assessment of the likelihood of them using violence as a means to accomplish their goals. I initially try to assess, whether a criminal is “object-orientated” or “person-orientated” i.e. do they want objects/things I possess, or do they want me.
A burglar, is certainly Object-Orientated, as well as “Non Interactive” (meaning they want to avoid interactions / conflicts – which is why most burglaries happen during the day when people are out of their homes), whereas a mugger although primarily “Object Orientated”, chooses an “Interactive” method in order to commit their crime i.e. they have to engage with us.
Someone who wishes to abduct us for a sexual assault is “Person Orientated”, and has already planned to assault us and cause us harm. We can plot these on a spectrum, which demonstrates how likely an individual is to use physical force against us.
Our state of mind and level of preparedness takes two forms. Firstly are we accepting or denying the possibility of being assaulted? If we are in a state of denial, believing that we will never be a target of violence, we are much more likely to be in a state of shock than if we had accepted and come to terms with the fact that violence can happen to anyone.
If we believed that our common sense was what was keeping us safe, we might spend a large part of the assault, wondering and questioning why we are being attacked. There is also a level of preparedness within the assault itself i.e. were we able to recognize that we’d been selected as a victim a few minutes before the assailant was able to carry out the assault – did we have the time/were we able to get to a weapon of choice, physically position ourselves, use the environment etc.
Understanding violence from a situational perspective will allow us to make actionable risk assessments of the situations we face to form effective and appropriate solutions.
[OPTICS : TOKYO, JAPAN]