A Girl & A Gun (AG & AG) Director of Training, Tatiana Whitlock, and San Diego Chapter Facilitator, Judi Wells, hosted an informative and important conversation recently with Allen Sams and Paul Sharp. The group addressed topics that are relevant to women and women’s self-defense, particularly those facing a threat or impending harm and those who are seeking the skills and resources to protect themselves.
Tatiana introduced the discussion, which was inspired by this Facebook post from an AG & AG colleague:
“Had a woman in class yesterday who is getting ready for her husband to get out of jail next month. He’s doing 99 days for attempting to murder her in front of their daughter. She moved halfway across the country to try and hide from him but she knows he’s going to come find her. I cannot begin to imagine. They have every possible plan in place but this is her last resort, the one thing she didn’t want to have to learn. When she got the call that he was being released she asked what they recommended her do next and they literally told her to start planning her funeral.”
Judi shared a story of a student, who has a stalker that is making violent threats and demonstrated violence against another woman. Her student was surprised that police cannot do anything unless there is an imminent threat. Judi provided her knowledge and strategies to help her stay safe.
Giving Back Power
The first step to helping a woman in crisis is to let her have control of her training situation. This involves having a long conversation about the options available to her, her feelings about different tools and techniques, and addressing her fears. This gives her the ability to craft a journey for herself.
Judi’s student is in California, so less-lethal options were a good first step since firearms were foreign to her. The fact that she was given less-lethal options led her to be able to eventually take a firearms course. She had control over her journey and the options that she wanted to deploy.
Some women have to be faced with imminent death before they decide to take action for their own self-defense; however, the good news is that more and more women are pursuing self-defense options. The more we can expose women to knowledge and resources is the safer our communities will be.
An abuser wants to take control and take power. Give the woman back the power. Let her know: You’re not going to be in the range any longer than you want to be. You’re not going to shoot more rounds than you want to. You can ask all the questions. You are in control of this journey.
Some women pause and say, “Why do I have to think this way?” Accepting their new normal is difficult. Paul said, “If I could snap my fingers, I’d make it the way it should be. We have to survive in the world the way it is.”
The challenge is getting women to acknowledge their reality (yes, this is really happening; you’re not being dramatic), and then helping them take action!
Some women are afraid of escalation. Often a woman won’t get a restraining order because they don’t want to poke the bear and manifest the attack that they are afraid of. It is a delicate conversation, but the most important first step to her empowerment and safety.
The first conversation with a woman in crisis should empower her to take the next step of training (and not get decision paralysis). It includes exploring less-lethal options because some women may be too fearful, too young, or unable to have a carry permit.
Paul suggests hands-on training, such as BJJ, and also recommends pepper spray. The POM unit is convenient and easily carried. It has a heavy safety cap so it can’t be accidentally engaged. It has a clip so it attaches to a purse or pocket. Paul also discussed gadgets and gimmicks, and the importance of training with props so that you don’t waste response time or injure yourself trying to use a gadget.
Given that women sometimes arrive at the decision to train at the last minute, Tatiana asked, “What are the essential skillsets that women can learn in a limited time?” Paul suggested focusing on grabs and accessing personal defense tools, and the fundamental principles of BJJ of survive and escape. Keep your elbows and hands in to protect the core and minimize damage. Control their hands (attack the thumb) and control the space. Get a dominant position and transition to another space. Consider additional factors, such as the presence of children. Violence of men vs women usually involves throwing her down or pinning her against a surface, so she will need positions of escape.
After a women acknowledges her reality and is ready to control her journey, next guide her through her space (home, work, and transitional spaces in between). It’s important to read the space that you are in, so that you can successfully monitor and move through your space. Recognize places where you may be vulnerable. How do you move things that are a problem for your safety and place things that may impede an attack? Develop wide angle vision and be aware of transitional spaces.
Ancestors and cavemen knew when to hide and when to fight. It is a human instinct. Often female victims of violent crime have an instinct that something is going to happen, so women need to be encouraged to act on it. Awareness training for women has to begin in childhood to not require girls to have to “be nice.” Embrace your RBF. Trust your gut. “No” does not need any explanation. Read “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin DeBecker. Another good resource is “Creepology,” which addresses personal safety with regards to social media and dating apps.
Don’t enter a space that you don’t look into. Train yourself to slow down. Keep your head up and allow your brain the ability to process your surroundings. Always look for a secondary exit. Live in your new normal.
Illuminate dark spaces. Judi shared that her student was empowered by using a small tac light. It let her know that she can use tools to take control over the environment and use it as an advantage over an attacker. It works as a shield of light to gain time and perspective.
Another option is to create a safe room, and invest in door wedges and braces. There are choices that work for your environment. Do you have ¼” screws in your baseplates or can you reinforce your space? A fire ladder is an option to help create a secondary exit.
After introducing knowledge on awareness and tools, it can be time to introduce the firearm. Tatiana suggests field stripping the firearm to make it less scary, and showing a nervous student that it is just springs, metal, and polymer. Judi says, “When this woman was able to see it as a benign tool, the mystique of the firearm was dissolved.” The student was comfortable with the dry-fire session, and was empowered by the training and interested in learning how to send a projectile down range.
Tatiana emphasizes that transitioning from a geometric shape to a threat target should include a threat assessment. Close your eyes, open your eyes…. Who is this person? What’s in their hands? Where is my aimpoint?
There is a level of seriousness for women who have a limited time to learn. In the case of Judi’s student, she did not learn to shoot recreationally. She began shooting with a purpose and a clear motivation.
Give women the training they need with the seriousness that they deserve.