The Elephant In the Room
October 27, 2011
How the heck are you? We have lots of things to talk about today, some exciting news but also some serious issues to address. Guess I'll start with the most serious topic, but if you want to just skim down to the more cheerful bits, I understand. Ready? Here we go...
Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I wanted to start today's newsletter by talking about the realities of domestic violence (DV). Domestic violence is the elephant in the living room when we discuss self defense strategies for women. After all, it's a lot less threatening to think about dealing with an impersonal "bad guy" than it is to consider ways to protect yourself from someone you have loved.
To put the domestic violence issue in perspective, around 40% of male murder victims are killed by people they know, most often by casual acquaintances. That statistic is much higher for women: around 64% of female murder victims are killed by people they know, and somewhere between 22% to 35% are slain by intimates (a boyfriend or ex-boyfriend, husband or ex-husband).(1) Any woman who carries a gun to protect herself from violent crime really needs to grasp and grapple with this harsh reality. For a guy--especially a straight guy--it might be a distant, unlikely possibility that he will face deadly violence from someone he has loved. For a woman it's a bit more likely than that.
Whenever a woman is killed by an abusive mate, the common response is, "Why didn't she just leave?" I know I've wondered that sometimes myself! But it's not often that simple.
Here's a little-known factoid for you: the victim of an abusive mate is much, much more likely to be killed while she's trying to leave than at any other time. Her danger goes up during the time frame immediately surrounding the breakup, at the issuance of restraining orders, and when a divorce is finalized. In other words, cutting ties with an abuser is not just necessary--it's also very risky. The victims need a lot of support from the outside to make it work, and they typically go back to the abuser six or seven times before they are finally able to leave for good.
Defining intimate partner violence to include victimization committed by spouses or ex-spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends, and ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends, the USDOJ says that in 2008, around 552,000 women in America were attacked by an intimate partner. That includes rape and sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated or simple assault. There were 4.3 such attacks for every 1,000 females age 12 or older. In 2007, intimate partners committed 14% of all homicides in America. Around 70% of their victims were female. Most victims of domestic violence are female, and women are five times more likely to be abused during their lifetimes than men are.
When an abused woman decides to leave her abuser and takes steps to do that, she enters a very, very dangerous phase of the relationship. Statistically, she is at less risk of being killed by the abuser before she files papers or tries to leave. The danger goes up when she leaves. This does not mean it's a good idea to stay; it does mean that she needs to be very careful in crafting her exit strategy. She needs to work very hard at staying safe during the time frame while she is breaking free, immediately after she leaves, and any time there is a change in the paperwork status of the case.
What about restraining orders? Here's what I wrote about restraining orders in my first book, Lessons from Armed America: "A restraining order helps you establish a paper trail of offenses. It gives police what they need in order to arrest the stalker. It gives the DA what he or she needs in order to bring charges against the stalker. And it gives the jury the information they need in order to convict the stalker. But that's all it does. It does not keep the stalker away from you. It does not lock your doors or bar your windows. It does not physically protect you from any sort of attack... A restraining order may lead to an arrest, a charge, and--if things go right--a conviction with serious jail time. All of these things are desirable, but not one of them will keep you safe. Your choices and your actions will keep you safe. A piece of paper will not." Use restraining orders as the legal tools they are, but do not expect them to help you stay physically safe.
The danger during the breakup period is one of many reasons why DV victims find it so difficult to "just leave." Because domestic abusers are good at preventing their victims from building up resources (financial or emotional), the victims are extremely unlikely to break free unless they have a safety plan and good support from others who are outside the situation. Even with that support, the situation is often more complex than outsiders appreciate.
Cornered Cat in Arlington, WA
On Saturday, November 19, I will be teaching a 4-hour women's holster seminar at the Norpoint Shooting Center in Arlington, WA. The class runs from 10 am to 2 pm, and costs $50. Please contact Norpoint at (360) 386-8832 if you are interested in attending.
Think of me as your personal carry method consultant in this seminar. We talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of various carry methods. We talk about fashion and function, style and sensibility, and how to fit concealed carry into an ordinary lifestyle. I bring about 200 holsters and carry devices with me, so you have a chance to compare all sorts of options to see what will work for you. This isn't a sales event--I don't sell holsters and I have no financial interest in talking people into any particular carry method--it's an opportunity to educate yourself about the choices and to see what's available.
Here's the fun bit: I will also be teaching a co-ed version of this same seminar from 3 pm to 7 pm that same day. Same cost, same location, but men are also welcome in the afternoon session. We had to add this co-ed session because so many husbands and boyfriends were complaining about missing out on the good stuff!
External safeties on carry guns
On Facebook, one of Cornered Cat's fans asked a question about external safeties for concealed carry. She pointed out, quite correctly, that external safeties can help prevent accidents and can briefly delay a bad guy who gets his hands on the weapon. On the flip side, she noted, an external safety can slow you down if you forget it's there, or if it gets pushed the wrong way during a scuffle. With these things in mind, she asked, which one is considered the least risky--a gun with an external safety, or a gun without one?
It's a great question, and deserves some thought. When I chose my first gun, I deliberately chose one without an external safety because I saw a lot of people, even experienced shooters, who occasionally missed flicking the safety off. I didn't want to risk that happening to me.
Also (this was something I realized later), new shooters tend to be a lot more cautious, careful, and responsible when handling a firearm that doesn't have an external safety. They are less likely to do something foolish and then dismiss it with, "Oh, well, the safety was on..."
One more issue for newer shooters: you're more likely to forget to put the safety ON than you are to miss taking it OFF. That can lead to serious danger because guns without external safeties tend to have shorter and lighter triggers than guns that have them. So you might end up thinking the safety is on when it is not, and that can be a problem--especially and most particularly when holstering the gun.
Based on these factors, I think a gun without that external safety can (counterintuitively) be a little less risky for new shooters. But safety is ultimately far more a matter of training, mindset, and basic awareness than it is which gun you choose.
Whichever type you choose, you should know that switching back and forth between guns that have the external safety and guns that do not can lead to some bad habits. Unless you have a lot of time to practice, I strongly suggest you focus on just one type and only carry that type. That doesn't mean you can't occasionally shoot one of the other type, but don't carry one type on Monday and the other type on Tuesday, especially if you rarely get time to practice with either. Choose one type and become very practiced in using it.
To build good habits, always practice doing the right things and avoid doing the wrong things even when you are just plinking around at the range. If you choose a gun with an external safety, you should put the safety on every time you load the gun. You should take the safety off every time you bring the gun up to eye level to shoot, and put it back on again every time you take the gun off target. It's tempting to get lazy in practice, but these important habits need to be part of your regular routine. That way they will be there for you if you ever need them.
Dealing with the "external safety or not?" question reminded me: if you're not already following Cornered Cat on Facebook, please do. You can find our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CorneredCatCCW.
If you might be interested in taking a Cornered Cat class, please visit the website at www.CorneredCat.com/Cornered_Cat_Training_Company to learn more. If you would like to host a Cornered Cat class in your area, please send me an email (pax at Cornered Cat dot com) so we can discuss details. I look forward to hearing from you!
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February 29, 2012—Shooting Practice -- In Your Home?
February 17, 2012—Women Making a Difference
January 14, 2012—Preparing For 2012
December 19, 2011—What Do YOU Carry?
November 3, 2011—Best Gun for a Beginner
October 27, 2011—The Elephant In the Room
October 13, 2011—Blame the Victim
October 5, 2011—Life is a Daring Adventure
September 29, 2011—We're Winning The Battle!
September 15, 2011—6 Must-read books
September 7, 2011—Protecting Yourself IS Protecting Your Family
August 31, 2011—Purse Tactics
August 15, 2011—The Cat's Meow