Personal Protection – Whose Job Is It?

(It’s a rhetorical question)

I’m always puzzled when people can’t see the benefit, understand the rationale, or get on board with the concept of taking personal responsibility for the physical safety of themselves and/or their loved ones.  These are the same reasonable and responsible people that put their child in a car booster seat, wear safety glasses when working with power tools, buy the car with the highest crash safety rating and don’t stand next to trees or flagpoles during thunderstorms.  People will do all of these things, yet never undertake the learning of any skill that will help them avoid, prevent or survive a violent encounter with another human being.  Why is that?

I believe that one of the reasons is that real violence is totally abstract for most people.  No matter how many times you’ve watched UFC gladiators punch each other in the face on TV, it doesn’t give you the same perspective as having a real fist collide with your own face in real time.  We like to think that stuff always happens to the other person or at least live in denial about it happening to us.  This is why people can with seeming impunity smoke cigarettes carrying a big warning on the package that says “this will give you cancer and you will die.”

Something I hear a lot from the uninitiated is “I refuse to live like that – I refuse to live in fear” inferring that learning how to protect oneself is somehow selling out or admitting some philosophical defeat.  I will tell you that some of the most dangerous and well trained people I know are full on pacifists.  And any law enforcement professional will tell you that calling 911 and waiting for help when your life is in danger is a strategy for failure.

I’m not saying that everyone should carry a weapon or learn how to kill a man with their bare hands.  What I am saying is this – we are each and every one of us personally responsible for our own safety and security and, if you are responsible for another human being who cannot protect themselves (read, child), you do not have the luxury of not having a plan.  I recently watched a surveillance video of a woman who ran away and abandoned her six year old daughter in the face of a male assailant, not because she’s a bad person or a bad mom but because she was wholly unprepared, even to simply scream at the guy or swing her purse at him.

We all like to think that we will rise to the occasion.  Truth is, we fall (or fail) to the level of our training and planning.

So what can people do short of becoming Chuck Norris?  Take baby steps.  If a person did nothing other than reading The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker (ISBN-13: 9780440226192) and then, taking that information give themselves permission to set boundaries, to say NO, and to recognize predatory behavior that would be a really good start. After all, it is everyone’s job, right?

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