Reading This May Save Your Life (And Your Family)

Been reading Meditations on Violence by Rory Miller. Lots of good stuff in there about the reality of violence and the best way to handle violent situations. This advice about home invasions is counter-intuitive:

Home invasions are crimes where a criminal or criminals deliberately choose a house they know to be occupied and enter in force to rob, rape, and/or murder. Home invasion crimes have many of the elements of a secondary crime scene. Your home is private and secure, exactly what a predatory criminal may want. In addition, threats against family members can be used as leverage to force cooperation with the predator. This cooperation will not be to the victim’s benefit.

If someone holds a gun to your child’s head and orders you to go to the garage and get duct tape and a hammer, you have two choices. (1) If you run from the garage and call the police from the neighbor’s, the invader will have to choose whether to stay or run. He may kill your child, or decide not to risk the murder charge. (2) If you cooperate and return with the duct tape and hammer, what is he going to do with them? Whatever it is, he will do it to your child and make you watch, and then he will do it to you.

In short, running away at the first opportunity gives you and your family a better chance of surviving a home invasion. In a more general sense, it’s advisable to do everything in your power to resist a threat who tries to control you physically. Because once you’re restrained or moved to a more private location, the odds that you’ll survive the ordeal are significantly lowered.

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    1. i think i read once somewhere that criminals who pull a gun to you almost never use it or don’t intend to… they really just want to intimidate you. so based on that, i would say this counter intuitive advice is smart and spot on.

      • Hi Janet. I’ve read that too… BUT is your life, or a loved one’s, really worth that gamble? Niall’s suggested course of action is actually assuming they intend to kill you, otherwise he’d say just let yourself get tied up and wait it out. The bottom line is that if someone has a gun on you, by the time you figure out their intention it may be too late. So always assume they intend to use it.
        Amy 🙂

        • I’d say you always need to assume they intend to use the knife/gun. The hope that they’ll tie you up and then let you go later is pretty naive. By the time you find out for sure, it’s usually too late to get away or fight back. I’d rather not take that chance.

          There’s a lot in the book about preemptive striking, advising you to run/attack as soon as you suspect the other person has the intent to harm you. Because if you let them attack first, it’s unlikely you’ll get a chance to respond.

          • Hey Niall. I think it’s great you’re discussing this on your blog. In the police academy we did an exercise where two people both had dart guns pointing at each other – like in the movies. The goal was to shoot your opponent when you perceived them as a threat. Well the only way to save your life is to be pre-emptive, like you said, and shoot right away. If you wait until they shoot first and then try to shoot them, it’s too late.

            What to do in a mass public shooting is another scenario I’d like to bring up. We had two of these this week here in the US :'( These “active shooters” tend to aim at still targets versus moving ones, so you’re more likely to survive if you RUN. Otherwise lockdown somewhere, as they tend to move on when stopped by a locked door.

            Lt. Col. Dave Grossman is also a legend on the topic of violence,, and goes into depth about training against “chemical freeze.” There are clips of The Bulletproof Mind on youtube.

      • Good question. And it’s hard to answer because while I’d like to imagine myself being proactive in such a situation, chances are I’d succumb to the “chemical cocktail” and freeze up or be slow in my response.

        But ideally, I’d try get out of the house as fast as possible. First option is always escape, put distance between yourself and the threat. If that isn’t possible, you need to preemptively strike, with intent to disable the threat so you can then make your escape.

        Of course, if they don’t know you’re even in the house, hiding might be better second option.

    2. Really wondering what motivated you to make this post. Does Rory Miller say anything about attracting what you talk about or give energy to? Have you encountered violence like this in any of the 16 countries you’ve visited?

      • Nope, haven’t experienced any violence on my travels thus far. I think I’m pretty good at taking precautions and talking my way out of potential scuffles.

        And I’d rather read about this stuff and have some idea how to effectively respond in a violent situation than to just think happy thoughts and hope violence doesn’t come find me. As Miller writes in the book…

        “Rule for life: You don’t get to pick what kinds of bad things will happen to you.”

        I tend to agree. You can take precautions and avoid bad neighborhoods of course, but ultimately there’s an element of luck in all of this.

        As for the motivation for writing this post, I figured it may save a few lives.

    3. Yes, probably the solution I’d opt for.

      However, it’s very hard to try and put yourself in that situation… when you don’t look with both eyes into a gun barrel 🙂

      Related to what Janet said.. well it depends on many factors. An important one would be whether the one you’re dealing with is a serial killer or a sociopath. If he’s killed before, he’s much more likely to do it again without hesitation.

      Sociopaths don’t have feelings like guilt. I recently read somewhere that the part of the brain that makes us have this type of feelings is underdeveloped at sociopaths, which is why they can kill without secondary emotional effects on their part.

      • Yeah, easy to speculate on all this stuff from behind our computer screens. Miller really emphasizes the impact of the “chemical cocktail” when we find ourselves faced with such threats, and says the hardest part is usually beating the default freeze response. Pretty much impossible to train for.

        As for trying to determine the threat’s intent, I think it’s always best to assume the worst if someone breaks into your home and takes a family member hostage.

        It would be different say in a mugging scenario, whereby I believe the best thing to do is to offer no resistance and just give up your wallet. Only if the threat tries to control you physically (e.g. “Get in the car!” or, “Down the alley, now.”) should you actively try to resist.

    4. I have heard this before, it does make a lot of sense although I am sure it would be hard to do in practice, as it would be hard to leave loved ones in that situation.

      I have heard that Filipino Kali is a great fighting style to learn if you are under attack. It is the same one Jason Bourne uses and is very realistic as they train to defend against weapons and to be able to use any tool at your disposal from a magazine or a pen.

      This book sounds pretty good.

      • Definitely much harder to do in practice. You could read a dozen books on this stuff and still end up freezing and doing the wrong thing in the moment. Hard to train for such a life-threatening situation.

        I still highly recommend the book though.

        And thanks for the Filipino Kali recommendation. I’ll have to look into that.

    5. This is a rather timely post, given what just happened in Connecticut, USA. However, I doubt that any of the children or adults killed there had the sort of choices you discuss here. Frankly, there are situations in life where there are no good options and no good courses of action.

      Sometimes I wonder if it’s even productive to think about them. It’s perhaps better to pray or hope (or whatever you do) that you never face such a situation. Or, do your best to put yourself in a situation where such situations are less likely to occur.

      Rationally speaking, I am sure there are countries where home invasions almost never occur and others where they are daily occurrences. Thus, thinking about where you live might be more productive than pondering god-awful and depressing situations.

      Oh, and speaking of Connecticut, USA, there was a famous home invasion case there in the town of Cheshire that was very similar to the actual hypothetical you are discussing. The details are too horrible to go into, but you can Google it if you want.

      By the way, you’re in a Buddha park. What are your thoughts on karma and creating your reality? Surely, giving this some thought is at least as important as imagining dreadful crime-related hypotheticals.

      • “do your best to put yourself in a situation where such situations are less likely to occur.”

        Miller emphasizes this first and foremost in the book. To paraphrase: Violence happens in bad places and with bad people. Avoid bad places and bad people and you minimize the likelihood that you’ll have to deal with violence.

        As regards karma and that, see my response to Jon-Paul above. I believe in creating your own reality to an extent. But does wearing a seat belt make it more likely that you’ll end up in a car crash? I don’t think so. Educating yourself and taking smart precautions is much different than obsessing about violent crime and inviting it into your life.

    6. G’day Niall, what miller states is good advice unless you have the state of mind and skills to take the perpetrator down and out.
      I was brought up in (Reservoir) a pretty rough tough area of Melbourne Australia during the 1960’s 70’s. My hero dad was himself a champion fighter and man of great courage who trained me initially in boxing and from there I trained myself in MMA for the purpose of self defence on the street.
      I have had a ton of experience with aggressive idiots out to dominate and hurt those they think are weaker than them and the only language they understand is pain and fear (As in most cases they are in fact cowards with very low self worth with a victim mentality) so the absolute best defence in those situations is attack. If you are a woman and your opponent is a man then she should focus on his weak spots. A good kick to the balls should inflict enough pain for her to then run to safety. Another tactic for ladies is to go for his eyes with finger nails or to pick up whatever is handy and heavy and hit him with it preferably on the head to at least stun him and then run.These predators rely on the fact that you will fear them and believe them so do not do either and forget the rules of fair play get angry, get even, think kill and never comply. Cheers hope this is helpful to your readers.