To understand personal security you need to understand what types of threats exist and the different types of violence. It’s difficult to know how to protect yourself when you don’t know what you are protecting yourself against.
Threats can come in different shapes and sizes and can vary quite a bit in terms of severity. The obnoxious drunk in the bar generally doesn’t present the same level of threat as the knife wielding mugger in the alley does. Being able to recognize and distinguish these different threats is critical to your personal security.
We are going to touch briefly on violence dynamics as there are some excellent resources available that can do a much better job explaining this in detail. I strongly recommend reading Rory Miller’s books Meditations on Violence and Facing Violence both of which go into extensive detail about social and asocial violence.
The aggressive drunk in the bar is a good example of social violence. This type of violence is usually fueled by ego, social status, etc. It’s also usually avoidable, or when it does begin to materialize, can often be deflected or de-escalated, at least sufficiently to let you get out of the area of the problem. To avoid encountering social violence, start by limiting the amount of time spent in places where it occurs. Places where alcohol and/or drugs are being used, places where young and aggressive males gather, etc. The next step is to be aware of the atmospherics and recognize when the elements are falling into place that may signal a situation turning bad. Generally speaking, when discussing bars and nightclubs this atmosphere tends to change the later into the night that you go. As patrons consume more alcohol and judgement becomes impaired and inhibitions are reduced, the potential for violence increases. When this dynamic starts to emerge, you should interpret it as a warning sign and consider leaving or moving to a safer location. This dynamic is also amplified by the type of establishment the type of clientele it attracts. This is also particularly common when there are groups and the group dynamic exists and the element of peer pressure may encourage a person to act in a way they would not under normal circumstances. While social violence is usually done to demonstrate status or superiority and is not usually intended to cause serious injury, this can still be the result. The group dynamic is particularly dangerous in this regard.
If you are in a location where social violence frequently occurs, watch for the warning signs and be prepared to leave early at the first sign of a negative change in the environment. If you can’t leave the location before a confrontation occurs, work on suborning your ego and use de-escalation and/or deflection techniques to change the conversation or take it in a non-confrontational direction.
Asocial violence is different and some of the techniques that work for social violence may have a negative result if utilized to confront asocial violence. Asocial violence is predatory violence and potentially much more dangerous than social violence. Predators don’t care about your well being and will not hesitate to use extreme violence to achieve their goals. In some cases, extreme violence may be their goal.
Predators typically fall into two categories: resource predators and process predators. Resource predators are generally more common and are typically driven by material desires. They want what you have and won’t hesitate to use violence to get it. Process predators on the other hand are motivated by the violent act itself. They enjoy inflicting pain on others and get their gratification from the process of the act itself. Rapists, serial killers and similar types of criminals fall into the process predator category.
Predators typically want one or more of three things from you:
As a general rule, predators cannot be de-escalated like social aggressors can. You may be able to deflect or redirect them if you can cause them to believe that you are not a suitable victim or that they are placing themselves at risk or injury or arrest if they attack you.
For both of these threat types, detection and avoidance are key strategies to keep yourself safe. If confronted however the response to a social aggressor may actually encourage a predator and an approach that may work effectively against a predator may serve to escalate the situation with a social aggressor.