by Bruce Felton
Early in December, Dayton police officer and Ohio Crime Prevention Association President Chris Pawelski came to Solon to conduct a presentation on Personal Safety and the “Run, Hide, Fight” strategy for mass murder situations. It was an excellent seminar in both content and delivery, and everyone in attendance seemed to benefit. Listening to Officer Pawelski speak about the two topics caused me to ponder what has changed in the past several years, and what has not.
In the late 1990’s Patrolman Jason Bender and I began conducting a series of self-defense clinics together, working with women to create their own unique plans to prevent and, int the event of an attack, craft a response. For my part, I quickly became aware of just how women in our society are victimized, largely by people they know and too often by are intimate partners. We taught about prevention, what to look for and how to be vigilant, and how to physically react in the event of an attack. We taught several classes over the years, and in every class there were women who had already been victims. Sadly, this is one of the things that has not changed; women are still victimized in a multitude of ways, physically and emotionally. Recent publicity surrounding women who have come forward to reveal their victimization by men in positions of power are a reminder of the depth and scope of this problem.
Something that has changed is equally troubling. Shortly after we began teaching these classes, the mass murder in Columbine occurred. It was not the first mass killing of this nature, but was certainly one of the more disturbing and publicized crimes in modern history. Sadly, these sort of senseless events continue today, and those responsible are determined to increase the devastation left in their wake, in some bizarre attempt to achieve notoriety, to forever link their name to violent moment in time.
Finally, terrorism has become a familiar term for those in our society. Certainly, terrorism has been a tactic used by fanatics for centuries, but on 9-11 it took on a whole new meaning for us with the realization that we were not immune to massive terrorist operations on our own soil. While we have been spared an attack of that scale, those responsible for spreading terror have shown remarkable tenacity and creativity in their attempts to harm us on our own land. The same people who show a proclivity towards active killing are being targeted through social media to carry out attacks here. Known as “Lone Wolves,” these individuals have a desire to commit violent acts against others and, triggered by radicalization through social media, present a new danger as solitary terrorists.
Looking back, the common thread through all of this is and has always been violent behavior (and yes, the coercive behavior by men in power against women is absolutely a form of violence).
While there are many aspects to consider, and numerous conversations that should be had about all of these subjects, one of the most immediate and personally achievable goals is developing a day-to-day self awareness. Having a better understanding of violent behavior and the signs that violent behavior is imminent, (pre-incident indicators), trusting your instincts, and “living in the now” can go a long way to making you and your loved ones safer. An excellent book on this subject, and one that everyone should read, is The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker. In this book, De Becker explores violent behavior and goes in-depth about how to identify indicators that may signal violent behavior is going to occur. The book Left of Bang by Patrick Van Horne is a great follow up. Based on the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Hunter Program, this book helps individuals develop situational awareness skills that can be used in any environment.
Despite the prevalence of media stories about random acts of violence, these acts are still, relatively speaking, rare. That they are random is perhaps the most alarming part because that makes them unpredictable. This does not make us helpless, nor should we feel powerless. Don’t try to predict when or where violence may occur: Establish your own baseline readiness; be aware, be vigilant, be purposeful and, above all, have a plan.