Self defense and the reasonable woman

It’s sometimes not that easy to write laws that can be applied equally to all people. A law that’s equal on its face may not be equal when applied.

Let’s look at a commonplace example of an “equal” law: the law against murder. But it’s not enough to just outlaw murder: we have to define murder, and define what are the legal defenses to being charged with murder. What kind of model we imagine our laws applying to will affect whether or not they’re actually equal when applied to real people.

So our laws say that killing in self-defense can be legal, and define “self-defense” as legitimate when a “reasonable person,” looking at the situation, would have felt that “imminent threat or a confrontational circumstance involving an overt act by an aggressor” was taking place. (The language I’m quoting comes from the Kansas Supreme Court, by the way, but the law is pretty similar to this nationwide).

In other words, once Brad pulls a knife and begins advancing on Bill, it’s legal self-defense for Bill to pull a gun and shoot Brad. But before Brad pulled that knife – committing an “overt act” that made him an “imminent” threat – it would have been murder for Bill to suddenly shoot Brad.

Is that self-defense law equal? Well, it’s certainly equal in the sense of being possible to hold women and men to the same standard. It’s very unequal, however, in terms of what threats to life women and men are most likely to face.

The most likely murderer of a man is a male stranger or acquaintance, and if a man defends himself, it’s likely to be an instance of “mutual combat” – Bob pulls a knife on Bill, Bill shoots Bob. The laws on self-defense are written for a model of what kind of situations are likely to happen to men.

In contrast, the most likely murderer of a woman is an abusive husband or boyfriend. Does the “mutual combat” model make much sense in this case?

It’s interesting to note what this requires of a battered woman who, though years of intimate knowledge of her boyfriend or husband, has excellent reason to believe her life is in danger: in order to defend her life, she must wait until her abuser is awake, alert and attacking before it is permissible to defend herself.

In effect, the defendant must act in a way that puts her life at profound risk to defend herself without being convicted of murder. That this is all judged against a “reasonable person” standard is extremely ironic, since no reasonable person would choose to put their life at such extreme risk if a less risky alternative is available. To meet a reasonable person standard, defendants must act irrationally, and fail to protect their own lives effectively. Isn’t that bizarre?

Would a reasonable hostage, if he knows he is no physical match for a terrorist captor, choose to wait for the man-to-man confrontation? No, of course not; a reasonable hostage would attack while his captor was asleep or had his back turned, if at all possible. But a reasonable battered woman cannot legally act to protect herself until her life is about to end – when it’s least likely that she’ll be able to defend herself.

This is what happens when laws are designed to be enforced equally according to a male model. The truth is, “equal enforcement” isn’t the same as “equality.” If the laws aren’t written to account for the real circumstances of people’s lives (not just men’s lives), then they will be unequal in application – no matter how equally enforced they are.

Now, to solve for this, we don’t have to have one set of self-defense rules for women, and another for men. We do have to have rules for self-defense that are molded around the kinds of situations in which women are most likely to have to defend themselves, as well as the kinds of situations in which men are most likely to have to defend themselves. The “reasonable person” standard has to become just that; what reasonable people, of both genders, do, instead of just what reasonable men do.

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61 Responses to Self defense and the reasonable woman

  1. 1
    someone says:

    I am not sure what you are suggesting as an alternative…
    Are you saying that a woman should be able to kill her husban in his sleep, and then say that it was in self-defence because he was abusing her?
    Yeah, that’s really cool.
    I hope that you are intending to apply this law to a husband killing his wife in her sleep too, yes?

    Let’s just have completely fucked up laws, that will help everyone.

  2. 2
    Robert says:

    In effect, the defendant must act in a way that puts her life at profound risk to defend herself without being convicted of murder.

    But only after foregoing the opportunity to defend herself according to the “male” rules.

    If Jack starts beating on Sarah, then Sarah can, under the existing law, kill him. She might have a bruising court fight ahead of her, but most self-defense claims do. Where the law fails Sarah is in the circumstance where Jack beats her up, then there is a period of time passing in which no overt violence is experienced, and then Sarah decides to take care of things while Jack is asleep or otherwise disarmed/vulnerable.

    Since men aren’t allowed to do that either – no tracking your mugger down ten years later and killing him in self-defense – the law is non-discriminatory.

    The real injustice is that women are socialized not to fight – to not take the opportunity to kill Jack when it is legitimate to do so. The law is perfectly fair in theory, grossly unfair in practice. I do not believe that amending the law to adjust for cultural practices is generally a good idea; particularly, I can think of no possible emendation that would permit Sarah to kill Jack in his sleep that could not (and would not) be immediately exploited by people who were killing for their own interest and not in self-defense.

    Instead, the key is cultural change. Women should be encouraged to acquire and learn the use of firearms. They should be encouraged to defend themselves with deadly force as a first resort, rather than as a last resort. They should be encouraged to carry weapons and to become highly skilled in their use. Our culture should stop glorifying peace-at-all-costs approaches to problem solving.

    In a world where every woman has a gun and has been told “use this if you feel it necessary”, abusers live short and unhappy lives.

  3. 3
    ADS says:

    Well, let me ask you this: isn’t the difference between the situation of a hostage/terrorist and battered wife/abusive husband that the wife can leave? Yes, I know all the ways in which it’s hard for a woman to leave an abusive husband/partner, but I’m saying, in theory, a wife whose abusive husband is sleeping can, you know, leave the house, rather than killing her husband.

    For the record, I think that the reasons specific to each self-defense case that explain why the wife didn’t just leave (e.g., he said he’d kill me, he said he’d kill the children, I had nowhere to go without resorting to a life of prostitution, etc.) should be absolutely admissible in court, and I realize that the court system isn’t always as fair to women as it should be. But, is that necessarily a reason to toss the idea that “imminent threat” really only does mean “imminent?” There are other defenses that battered women can use; most obviously psychological trauma, resulting in a belief that the only way to escape is to kill, i.e. temporary insanity, basically. That, to me, makes more sense than changing the definition of “imminent.”

  4. 4
    armchair says:

    This is a tricky one. Id say yes in theory if there is absolutely no other choice for the abused woman, and if there truly was reasonable belief that the abuser will kill the abused, but in situation like this, what constitutes as an objective reasonable belief of life-threatening situation? Surely it would be better to empower women with more abuse shelters etc. than a knee-jerk “just let them kill the bastard while he sleeps” solution? Also more effective law-enforcement against abusers could be in order. I acknowledge there is a real problem in law-enforcement sometimes sising with the abuser, especially if, for example, the sheriff and the abuser are buddies.
    The self-defense clause is as it is now prone to abuse in the courts. Seeing a knife in hands of someone advancing towards you = right to pull a gun and shoot him/her is pretty extreme… Suppose there was a tomato behind you and the person with the knife was advancing toward the tomato to make some salad (Well, that is a ridiculous example)? Killing (or should i say using force that is necessary for self-defense even if there is high probability it will and in fact does result in the death of the assailant) for self-defense is and should remain legal and okay, but it is a problem if the evidence and witnesses arent plentiful, and sometimes even then, because we can never know for sure what the other person was intending… and if the assumed attacker is dead he wont tell. So I wouldnt probably support such a law…

  5. 5
    someone says:

    I will have to arm myself with a bulletproof vest and a portable grenade launcher to counter my wife’s deadly gun skills.
    But then, she will decide to equip herself with a high-tech biosuit and a device that shoots plasma beams mounted on her arm.

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    Robert: Why are you considering the “male” rules something that should be accepted without question, while “female” rules are to be dismissed without question?

    If it were a hostage killing a kidnapper while the kidnapper slept – because the hostage believed that he were no match for the kidnapper in a head-to-head confrontation – would you say the hostage should be brought up on homicide charges?

    Since men aren’t allowed to do that either – no tracking your mugger down ten years later and killing him in self-defense….

    With all due respect, the fact that you think this is a relevant analogy convinces me that you simply haven’t understood what I wrote at all, and therefore your ability to reply meaningfully is limited.

    No one is saying that a woman who is safe should be able to track down someone who abused her a decade ago and kill him. However, I am saying that a woman who has lived with an abusive man for years and recognizes his patterns, and who based on this has a reasonable belief that sometime in the near future he might severely injure or kill her, should be able to do what’s necessary to defend herself. What’s “necessary” varies according to the individual; for most individuals, it won’t be killing. But for those few for whom killing is the only means of self-defense available, they should still have the right of self-defense. And they should be permitted to defend themselves in a reasonable fashion, not an action-movie-star fashion.

    particularly, I can think of no possible emendation that would permit Sarah to kill Jack in his sleep that could not (and would not) be immediately exploited by people who were killing for their own interest and not in self-defense.

    There’s no reason our current self-defense laws can’t be exploited that way. For example, “I know he was reaching for a wallet, but we thought he was reaching for a gun, and we had to shoot forty-one times in self-defense.” Or, in a less extreme case, someone shooting his wife in the kitchen while she’s chopping meat and then saying “she was coming at me with a butcher knife, I had to defend myself.”

    Of course, in all these cases evidence has to be examined and experts have to testify; we have a trial to determine, as best we can, what the truth was. And the same thing would be true of a woman who said “I killed him because he was going to kill me any day now.” I’m not saying that we should accept anyone’s self-defense claim without going through the usual process of law.

    In any case, I can’t accept that allowing innocent people to be sent to prison (or executed) unjustly is a good idea, because if we allowed them to defend themselves than opportunistic guilty people might lie and use the same defense. “Better ten guilty people go free than one innocent be sent to prison,” and all that.

    As for firearms, a woman with a firearm in the home is more likely to be killed by her boyfriend or husband than a woman without a firearm in the home. So I’m skeptical about the conservative/libertarian tendency to consider guns as the cure-all for all ills.

  7. 7
    Ampersand says:

    I’d like to respond more to ADS and armchair, but I need to get work done today. So apologies for all for my lack of participation in this thread (or on the blog in general) for the next 18 to 48 hours…. Hopefully I’ll find time to respond more fully after I get some drawing and work done.

  8. 8
    NYMOM says:

    “Instead, the key is cultural change. Women should be encouraged to acquire and learn the use of firearms. They should be encouraged to defend themselves with deadly force as a first resort, rather than as a last resort. They should be encouraged to carry weapons and to become highly skilled in their use. Our culture should stop glorifying peace-at-all-costs approaches to problem solving.

    In a world where every woman has a gun and has been told “use this if you feel it necessary”?, abusers live short and unhappy lives. ”

    Although police statistics show MOST women who attempt to use a weapon in self-defense wind up having it taken away by perp and used against them…guns included…which is why most self-defense classes emphasize that if you pull a weapon you must immediately be prepared to use it…

    I think womens’ strength lies in other directions… (I know people hate to hear that) but even a woman in Atlanta last month was able to convince her captor to release her and give himself up, after he just killed 4 or 5 people. He did have various guns around the apartment which perhaps she would have been able to grab and get the drop on him, I don’t know, but I’m just not all that certain she would have been as successful if she tried that strategy anyway…

    Women are NOT as violent as men…and I see no reason why we should strive to be…why must we work to make women exactly like men with all this emphasis on sports, joining the armed forces, leaving our children, etc….

    Please…I don’t think most women fight for rights to be ‘lesser’ men…we need to build on our own strengths.

  9. 9
    karpad says:

    I’m not certain, as it’s been a very, VERY long time since I’ve seen any case law on the matter, but as I remember, preemptive self defense (not the original term, but the concept is there) is permissable in some contexts.
    an abused woman, for example, or the terrorist hostage, or what have you, are allowed a suckerpunch kill, provided they have some sort of proof that the situation is what they say it is.
    with hostages, this is fairly easy, since odds are, there’s a swat team and news 2-7 helicopters outside, establishing that a hostage has been taken, so any action the hostage takes to free themselves is considered reasonable.
    unfortunately, it’s harder for an abused spouse, since it’s frequently unreported. they would have to first, prove that abuse took place, and second, prove they could reasonably believe they had exhausted their options, which unfortunately, is proven much more frequently on Law & Order than in a real courtroom.

    self defense law is really difficult stuff, since by it’s very nature, it has to be handled on a case by case basis.
    the only real advice I can give anyone is “have records.”
    if someone is abusive, call the cops. even if the cops don’t do anything, it proves you tried. even if you don’t go to the hospital, if they leave bruises, take polaroids (I realize not all abuse, or even all physical abuse, leaves marks, but if it does, get proof that lasts.)
    treating domestic violence like a “private matter” is part of the problem here. domestic violence is a criminal activity. if someone breaks into your house and robs you, you don’t tidy up before the police arrive because you don’t want people to see your house a wreck. the same rules apply.

  10. 10
    armchair says:

    Robert, I agree with your post in general. But why on earth

    They should be encouraged to defend themselves with deadly force as a first resort, rather than as a last resort.

    I mean if you are reasonably skilled, how fucking hard is it to aim at legs etc. than going for the head shot as a first resort?! Dont get me wrong, im not saying shooting someone to kill isnt something women should do, its something no reasonable people should do unless absolutely necessary. As a last resort, definitely.

  11. 11
    Elena says:

    “Women are NOT as violent as men…and I see no reason why we should strive to be…why must we work to make women exactly like men with all this emphasis on sports, joining the armed forces, leaving our children, etc”

    NYMOM, are you seriously implying that “all this emphasis on sports” is bad for women? What do you do for exercise and what do you teach your daughters about exercise? I’m not even going to touch the other two “unwomanly” pursuits.

    Karpad has more relevant comments about pre-emptive self-defense, which is what Ampersand’s post was about. I think an interesting question is whether current police and societal attitudes and aid for DV victims are sufficient to always give them the option of leaving. As I understand the famous “Burning Bed” defense the victim truly had no family or community resource to help her escape her crazy husband. Is it different enough now? I suspect not everywhere. But surely it’s reasonable to expect that abused women should use available support to leave their aggresors instead of staying until things reach an ugly conclusion.

  12. 12
    Amanda says:

    Most women can leave. Some really can’t without being tracked down and killed. That the details from case to case are different is why we have trial by jury.

  13. 13
    Alex R says:

    Apparently a hot topic these days among NRA types and concealed carry advocates is what’s called the “duty to retreat”, which exists under the laws of some states but not others. The “duty to retreat” is a legal principle that someone who is threatened has a duty to retreat from the threat, if it is possible to do so safely, before they are legally empowered to use deadly force in self-defense.

    The state of Florida has just passed a law that repeals the duty to retreat in that state, allowing Floridians to “meet force with force”, even if they could run away from the threat. (From what I read apparently, Florida citizens may already have had this right in their own homes, and the new law extends this outside the home, but I’m not real clear on this…) The commentary I’ve read — and the language of the law about meeting force with force — seems all to be based on the assumption that the usual sort of criminal violence is what is being talked about, but…

    It’s clear how this sort of principle might apply in the case of domestic violence: if there is a “duty to retreat”, then a women who feels threatened by a partner would be legally expected to “run away” if they can do so safely. If there is no such duty, the women who kills or injures a partner in “self-defense”, even if not immediately threatened, would be on much firmer legal ground — particularly if the only way she could defend herself otherwise is to run away, which she presumably no longer has the legal duty to do.

    So: should feminists support repealing the “duty to retreat”? Or will this just increase the overall level of violence in our society, which benefits neither women nor men?

    To me, the idea of a duty to retreat seems like simple common sense and morality: you don’t kill when you have other ways to protect yourself. And it should apply to a woman in an abusive relationship just as it would to a man confronting a fleeing felon.

  14. 14
    Sarah says:

    The idea of women having guns for the purpose of using against their male partner if he should become violent – I can see that might be a deterrent (or maybe not since the abuser would also have access to the gun?) – but I’m just trying to imagine living in a relationship where I feel I need a firearm in order to feel safe with my partner. Or the flip side, imagining my partner keeping a gun handy whenever I’m around, because s/he is so afraid of me.
    I think if the relationship has reached that stage, you have seriously BIG problems, and need to seek help urgently. And here’s the problem, that such help is not always easily available, or it isn’t enough to help the abused partner get away from the abuser permanantly. But I think it’s there that the solution lies, better resources for people in abusive relationships, or even for people in problematic relationships that haven’t get turned violent. Not adding more weapons to the mix.

  15. 15
    Sarah says:

    I’m all for more women learning self defence though, not just women in abusive relationships, and not for that purpose, not as an alternative to real help and support for women in that situation. But martial arts, for example, are a great way to learn to defend yourself physically, and to build up the emotional confidence that comes with feeling confident in your body with it’s abilities. That inner confidence can, in itself, prevent you from being victimised, without the need to ever use violence.

    Of course abusive relationships are more complex than this, and the verbal/emotional abuse aspect is not to be overlooked. Physical competence and strength (and by extension, possession of weapons, I guess) is not necessarily enough to prevent you becoming a victim of domestic violence. Many abusive relationships occur where the abuser is not necessarily the physically stronger or larger partner.

    I agree with Amp’s thoughts about defence, not arguing with that. But the idea that women having guns, women learning to defend themselves physically, is the solution? I couldn’t disagree more. Why is the emphasis on the woman/the abused partner to prevent or stop the abuse, anyway? They’re not the one in control of it.

  16. 16
    Julian Elson says:

    In principle, what you say seems sound, but I’m having difficulty coming up with a situation in which the abuser’s asleep, and killing him is possible, but making a phone call and getting him arrested is not.

    The thing that seems to me to justify self-defense of the “response to imminent threat” kind is that there is simply little time for other solutions: there’s no time to contact the police, there’s no time to relocate, etc. I can come up with a theoretical scenario in which pre-emptive attack is the only remianing option for the abused wife: she has no phone, she’s kept literally locked in the house, etc. Alternatively, if the police are complicit in this abuser’s abuse of his wife, then she can’t go to the authorities, but in that case it seems that laws allowing this sort of self-defense would be of little use if she did kill her abuser.

    There is one scenario that seems possible in which the defense is necessary and the only choice: she somehow knows that he plans on killing her, but he has committed no other crimes against her, and she has no court-admissible evidence that he will do so.

  17. 17
    La Lubu says:

    Frankly, I have absolutely no problem with the idea of putting a few rounds in an abusive prick, preferably right in the chest (the head is harder to hit, but hey! that’s a good target too!). But there are a few practical matters involved here. As armchair and karpad brought up, the burden of proof for self-defense is on the defender. She may also be in the sticky situation of having to prove she was abused, or abused “enough”, since some folks seem to have a warped notion that if there is no disfigurement, there is no abuse.

    Then, you have the problem of carrying the gun. Most places do not allow civilians to carry weapons. Even in areas that allow gun-totin’, there are places where guns are prohibited, like churches and schools. Employers have the right to bar guns from the worksite, and the worksite is the prime place for stalking abusers to show up. After all, they know you’ll be there.

    Women with young children may be reluctant to carry a gun.

    Abusers tend to be cowards. They often wait ’till the dark of night to strike. Abused women are light sleepers. But still, if you are nearsighted, your ability to hit a target is going to be compromised in the middle of the night. Fumbling for glasses is enough time to give your attacker the time to get the drop on you. A shotgun could solve that problem, but then again there’s the kids to worry about. A little one coming in to check on Mommy could end up with holes blown through him or her, too. That isn’t a risk worth taking. And to get back to the carrying idea, not everyone has the hand-eye coordination to be a sharpshooter, or Quickdraw McGraw. Shotguns solve that problem, but shotguns aren’t a part of visible or concealed carry. Not to mention that employers are not going to dig employees showing up packing the Sicilian Solution. That innocent bystander thing, y’know?

    Speaking of innocent bystanders, has anyone considered that some abusers are packing heat? Back to the coward thing again. How do you think most of them are able to kidnap their victims away from a large crowd? They’re packing, that’s how. And women who have been abused for years, and are not yet safe, have often already assumed that they will be killed by their abuser. But they still feel the responsibility to protect the other people around them. Escalating the violence, particularly in a crowd, is not a good way to do that. Abused women will sacrifice themselves in order to save children, family, and friends.

    Having a gun, and knowing how to use it, and most of all, being willing to use it, can be an effective form of self-defense. But not for most women. A better form of self-defense is learning a quick-study martial art, like wing chun or the Filipino martial arts. Both are very effective, even for smaller people, and are easy to learn. You can become very proficient at defending yourself in a short amount of time with these forms, even against an attacker with a weapon (as long as that weapon isn’t a gun!). Filipino martial arts are especially good at developing quick reflexes (which most abused women have already developed, so this builds on pre-existing strengths).

    Now, as for cultural change. How about a cultural change toward long prison terms for abusers? Why do we feel the need as a society to lock up potheads, whose main danger to society is driving us crazy with too much Grateful Dead on the stereo, yet not abusers? Where’s the mandatory sentencing for abuse?

    Even further, where is the sense of disgust for abuse? You know what I’d like to see? I’d like to see an abuser walk into a roomful of other men, and have the entire room cease talking and put their backs to him. I’d really like to see other men start holding abusers accountable. The typical reaction is “well, you know, I’m surprised about that, about him. You know, he’s basically a nice guy. He just has this problem….” No. Abusers are not nice guys. Every time you give an abuser a break, it sends the message that abuse is ok; both to the abuser, and to everyone else. Let’s quit normalizing abuse, ok?!

    Oh, and I’d also like to see that once a permanent restraining order is granted, that the abuser be required to pay for an alarm system for the victim’s home, complete with video. The better to collect evidence with. That way, at least maybe the victim can have one safe place to be.

  18. 18
    Sarah in Chicago says:

    There are many countries that over the years have been looking at self-defense laws and admitting how badly they serve abused women. The fact is most women who are abused really can’t leave, whether it be one of a multitude of reasons, including being terrorised into believing that leaving will result in their death, or the death of their children.

    I’ve been looking at this issue for a little while, and honestly I think the problem lies in the ‘imminent threat’ definition within the self-defense law. Amp is precisely correct in that it does honestly rely on a masculine definition of violence, and we need to take into consideration when laws are being fashioned. Of course, some lawyers are trying this in trial situtions, but it’s really hard to argue given the excessively tight nature of these laws.

    I really think the “well, the woman should arm herself with a gun” suggestion is a BAD idea, up there with the “Brutus, would you stand behind me?” suggestion. If the best thing we can do in our culture is to say the way to protect yourself is with a bigger stick than the other person, then there is something seriously wrong with the culture.

    Not only do we need a cultural change (part of that is the wonderful non-abusive guys out there to step up to the plate and define a form of masculinity where this is not okay; to see abuse as a gendered issue, and not just a women’s issue) but really rework the legal organisation of self-defense. It can be done without it leaving the door open to a host of problems, it’s just going to take work.

  19. 19
    NYMOM says:

    “NYMOM, are you seriously implying that “all this emphasis on sports”? is bad for women? What do you do for exercise and what do you teach your daughters about exercise? I’m not even going to touch the other two “unwomanly”? pursuits.”

    Sports training, in our historic past, and I’ve seen nothing to show me it’s changed, has always been and still remains early preping for war…

    Thus, I see no reason for women to waste their time on sports…this is more nonsense put out by those who wish men and women to be the same…

    Most women I know could care less about these sporting events…many go actually to meet guys…

  20. 20
    Robert says:

    Why are you considering the “male”? rules something that should be accepted without question, while “female”? rules are to be dismissed without question?

    I’m not dismissing any rules that I can see.

    If it were a hostage killing a kidnapper while the kidnapper slept – because the hostage believed that he were no match for the kidnapper in a head-to-head confrontation – would you say the hostage should be brought up on homicide charges?

    No. Once a person crosses a certain behavioral threshold – such as by taking a hostage – their life is forfeit. If they can be taken out, they should be taken out.

    I accept the analogy to a woman in a DV situation, but as has been noted, women who have been abused by a man in the past usually have more options than someone who has been taken hostage. Not always, I grant.

    No one is saying that a woman who is safe should be able to track down someone who abused her a decade ago and kill him. However, I am saying that a woman who has lived with an abusive man for years and recognizes his patterns, and who based on this has a reasonable belief that sometime in the near future he might severely injure or kill her, should be able to do what’s necessary to defend herself.

    OK. Do you recognize that the instance of false positives (and false negatives, too) in this scenario is going to be many, many times higher than in the “male” case of someone advancing on you with a knife?

    I’m not saying that we should accept anyone’s self-defense claim without going through the usual process of law.

    But that process of law is largely dysfunctional when it comes to assessing intent – particularly the intent of someone who is now dead. How are you going to legally validate or disprove someone’s claim that based on their years of observing their abuser, they were sure that on Tuesday he was going to kill them? You can’t. Whereas you can often validate the nature of a more direct self-defense claim.

    In any case, I can’t accept that allowing innocent people to be sent to prison (or executed) unjustly is a good idea, because if we allowed them to defend themselves than opportunistic guilty people might lie and use the same defense. “Better ten guilty people go free than one innocent be sent to prison,”? and all that.

    But you can accept the idea that we can tolerate a higher rate of (mostly) men being killed because their partner decided they were a threat? I accept that most cases and most people will be serious about this and that there will not be widespread instances of husband-killing on the basis of trivial or silly beliefs. But people make mistakes all the time. You seem to be saying that it’s OK to allow the tragic consequences of erring on one side, but unacceptable to allow the tragic consequences of erring on the other side. People die or get imprisoned either way.

    As for firearms, a woman with a firearm in the home is more likely to be killed by her boyfriend or husband than a woman without a firearm in the home. So I’m skeptical about the conservative/libertarian tendency to consider guns as the cure-all for all ills.

    Uh huh. Think about this question: “which women are inclined to have guns in their house: women whose husbands/boyfriends are threatening and/or abusive, or women who feel completely safe and secure in their relationships”

  21. 21
    Robert says:

    Armchair:
    I mean if you are reasonably skilled, how fucking hard is it to aim at legs etc. than going for the head shot as a first resort?! Dont get me wrong, im not saying shooting someone to kill isnt something women should do, its something no reasonable people should do unless absolutely necessary. As a last resort, definitely.

    This shifts the burden of risk to the person defending themself, rather than the aggressor. Why do you think that an innocent victim should take on more risk to satisfy your ethics? Shoot to disarm when its your ass on the line. If I ever have to use force against another human being (God forbid) I will not be worrying about proportionality etc.

    Sarah:
    But the idea that women having guns, women learning to defend themselves physically, is the solution? I couldn’t disagree more. Why is the emphasis on the woman/the abused partner to prevent or stop the abuse, anyway?

    For the same reason that I counsel my children on how to handle themselves in a confrontation, rather than attempting to modify the behavior of everyone with whom they may come into contact with: achievability. To personalize it, if you’re being abused, you don’t have much, if any, ability to modify the behavior of your abuser. If you did, you presumably would have used it to get them to stop abusing you. So you don’t control their behavior. You have zero ability to control EVERYONE’S behavior.

    But you do control YOUR behavior. That’s the variable in the system to which you can assign a value. You can buy and learn to use a weapon and defend your bodily integrity by force. If that will improve your situation, then it might be your best personal line of action. Getting the world’s millions of abusers to change is vastly beyond your power; getting a Glock and learning to lock and load is eminently doable.

  22. 22
    NYMOM says:

    “I mean if you are reasonably skilled, how fucking hard is it to aim at legs etc.”

    To even suggest this would put many women in jeopardy…as IF a woman shoots, she needs to kill…we simply don’t have the physical strength to subdue a man, I think even a wounded one could be dangerous to the average woman…

    I actually, many years ago, had the experience of having a man attack me and try to snatch my pocketbook…Everyone at that time told women to carry mace…so I did. I had mace and sprayed him with it and guess what, it didn’t work…at least not right away…He had glasses on which deflected most of the spray from his eyes…and btw, he was madder then a wet hen after that spray hit him…I can tell you that right now…Fortunately another man parked in a truck cab nearby witnessed the exchange and came out to help me…otherwise I would have been seriously injured.

    I learned from this experience that these sorts of half measures are WORSE for women to use, then nothing at all…

    In my opinion, it’s either a gun, realizing you’ll probably need to kill with one shot, or no weapon at all…just relying on your own wits and psychological/emotional strength/skills…because for the average woman to believe that she can just shoot a man in the leg and that’s going to stop him is a serious mistake in judgment…

  23. 23
    Angie says:

    As the oldest child of an abused wife, I can speak from experience bout this topic. It’s not easy for women to walk away. Their is fear. Alot of it. Not only for themselves, but for their children. There is nearly daily threats on their lives. There is nearly daily emotional, physical and mental abuse. It’s not easy to walk away. And I can see how one will turn to the silence of the night to end it all.

    The laws to not protect women or children in these situations. Not then, and still not now.

  24. 24
    NYMOM says:

    “As for firearms, a woman with a firearm in the home is more likely to be killed by her boyfriend or husband than a woman without a firearm in the home. So I’m skeptical about the conservative/libertarian tendency to consider guns as the cure-all for all ills.”

    Exactly…having a gun in the house is not a protection for most women but a potential threat to her, even someone breaking in can take it and injure her…

  25. 25
    NYMOM says:

    “As the oldest child of an abused wife, I can speak from experience bout this topic. It’s not easy for women to walk away. Their is fear. Alot of it. Not only for themselves, but for their children. There is nearly daily threats on their lives. There is nearly daily emotional, physical and mental abuse.”

    Exactly…

    AND who’s to say, she’ll even be allowed to take the children with her???

    That’s not a given today, it used to be before feminism pushed gender neutral custody off on the courts…Actually today, some Judges don’t even allow evidence of domestic violence to be entered into the courtroom for a custody trial, unless you can prove that the violence was directed against the CHILD, as for a woman forget about it…it’s not considered important….

    So basically your b/f or husband could beat you up three times a day and four on Sunday and still get custody of your kids…

    Actually here’s a good example of the thinking: Sondra Miller, Appellate Court Judge in New York said in a decision a few years ago, “Sondra Miller, writing for the four-judge panel, noted that EXCEPT FOR THE ABUSE OF HIS WIFE, DAVID WISSINK APPEARED TO BE A ‘TRULY MODEL PARENT”?…”?

    Sigh…

    AND Miller is considered a ‘good’ Judge in New York…

    You know fair, wise, etc…

  26. 26
    bitchphd says:

    Actually (and I haven’t read the comments so someone else may have already pointed this out), it’s not even a question of whether or not its reasonable to wait until you are being attacked. Interestingly, in most states, the law (except in Florida) requires you to walk away from a fight if you can, *except* in your own home, where you can shoot someone and it’s considered self-defense. But there’s an exception for couples or people who live together. Then, you are *required* to leave. What this means in practice is that a level of violence that would justify a killing in public, or from an intruder, does *not* constitute an excuse if a woman kills her husband. The law requires her to walk out rather than to defend herself.

  27. 27
    jennhi says:

    It’s interesting that the “cultural change” Robert described had to do with changing the women. Are women the problem here? (Yeah! Damned pansies.)

    Wasn’t there another article on Alas about how laws were changed in other countries basically to take away women’s rights whenever violence was committed against them? Something about setting nighttime curfews for women in Israel “for their safety”, and about closing all women’s gyms in Iran because a peeping tom was caught near one. Robert’s solution, while not so discriminatory as these puritannical decrees, still follows those lines of “let’s fix the problem by fixing the women”.

    Instead of promoting violence among women (do we all don’t need guns in our hands?), wouldn’t it be more important to make a cultural change against violence?

    Elena, you wrote:

    NYMOM, are you seriously implying that ‘all this emphasis on sports’ is bad for women? What do you do for exercise and what do you teach your daughters about exercise? I’m not even going to touch the other two ‘unwomanly’ pursuits.

    I don’t often agree with NYMOM, but in this case, I should stick up for what she said. I won’t get into how not all sports are violent and competitive, but she only implied that military and sportsmanship are glorified in today’s society, whereas teaching and other nonviolent professions are impoverished labors of love. Her point only seemed to be that Robert’s solution talked about changing women to favor violence was not a solution to a problem of violence.

    My 2 cents.

    As for Ampersand’s analysis of the laws and proposed solutions, I agree with their need but think we should go a step further and increase options for DV sufferers who find themselves in these situations before it turns terminal for the abuser or abused. For instance, there are all those reasons the abused one can’t leave the abusers; there’s also the problem of proving abuse in court; and related to all of that, there’s the problem of unsympathetic courts and friends that tend to favor the abuser, as you all have been good at pointing out. Of course, all these need to be addressed while protecting the woman who’s been driven to the point that she feels the need to kill her abuser — I’m not ruling that need out. (It’s kind of like saying I don’t like affirmative action but I know that institutionalized racism means we still need AA.)

    As for anyone who feels that women are going to get special treatment for murder, I’m going to make a giant leap here and assume that those who kill their abusers are suffering from PTSD and really feel they have no other options. Honestly, I can’t imagine any other reason a woman would kill her abuser, and PTSD needs to be figured in. I don’t favor just letting the woman go free; she still needs psychological help because, well, she killed someone. What she doesn’t need is more abuse from the courts, her family, and society in general.

    Actually, I’d like to see statistics on PTSD being used successfully as a defense for any crime, and how it guilty/not guilty is distributed over genders.

  28. 28
    mousehounde says:

    NYMOM said:

    Thus, I see no reason for women to waste their time on sports…this is more nonsense put out by those who wish men and women to be the same…

    Most women I know could care less about these sporting events…many go actually to meet guys…

    Yes, we wouldn’t want to encourage young women to do anything that might raise their self esteem, promote a positive, active self image, or increase their self confidence. The only reason women should be interested in sports is so they can meet men.

  29. 29
    armchair says:

    It is very late for me but ill give it a shot (pun intented)
    Robert:

    This shifts the burden of risk to the person defending themself, rather than the aggressor. Why do you think that an innocent victim should take on more risk to satisfy your ethics? Shoot to disarm when its your ass on the line. If I ever have to use force against another human being (God forbid) I will not be worrying about proportionality etc.

    Im shifting nothing. I just got (perhaps overly) pissed by your (probably well-meaning) always use lethal force first -attitude. Im NOT expecting an innocent victim “take more risk to satisfy my ethics”, im merely saying: IF there is a choise between kill and disable take disabling. If, for example, its gun vs. gun situation or gun vs. knife very close then by all means take the fast and most efficient shot, or any number of shots with any caliber gun you choose, (probably chest and possibly lethal) or to put it differently: any means necessary. And please be honest: shooting to legs isnt “disarming”, Im not requiring anyone to shoot “just the weapon” with no bleeding or harm done at all! Suppose you learn that the person you thought was assaulting you or going for a knife was going for a wallet and you shot him in the head? The problem with defining self-defense in general? “Shoot to disarm when its your ass on line” : I sure wont be using deadly force as the first resort, more like 1) Nonviolent: if that fails OR im pretty sure it wont work 2)Subduing force: if that fails OR im pretty sure it isnt enough 3)Disabling force: if that fails OR im pretty sure it isnt enough 4)Lethal force: last resort. Stop trying to paint this straw man about that silly bleeding-heart liberal who is siding with the aggressors or pitying the aggressors more than persons defending themselves.
    NYMOM:

    “I mean if you are reasonably skilled, how fucking hard is it to aim at legs etc.”?

    To even suggest this would put many women in jeopardy…as IF a woman shoots, she needs to kill…we simply don’t have the physical strength to subdue a man, I think even a wounded one could be dangerous to the average woman…

    I actually, many years ago, had the experience of having a man attack me and try to snatch my pocketbook…Everyone at that time told women to carry mace…so I did. I had mace and sprayed him with it and guess what, it didn’t work…at least not right away…He had glasses on which deflected most of the spray from his eyes…and btw, he was madder then a wet hen after that spray hit him…I can tell you that right now…Fortunately another man parked in a truck cab nearby witnessed the exchange and came out to help me…otherwise I would have been seriously injured.

    I learned from this experience that these sorts of half measures are WORSE for women to use, then nothing at all…

    In my opinion, it’s either a gun, realizing you’ll probably need to kill with one shot, or no weapon at all…just relying on your own wits and psychological/emotional strength/skills…because for the average woman to believe that she can just shoot a man in the leg and that’s going to stop him is a serious mistake in judgment…

    I am very sorry for your bad experience and am quite relieved there was still a happy ending and you didnt get seriously injured. But… Ill have to say that mace, which is an irritant and simply hurts A LOT is quite different from a gun that shoots a lead projectile at a very high speed. Average man is stronger than average woman (if not by anything else then simply by virtue of being bigger), and I suppose an assailant or a would-be rapist will choose a woman that he thinks he can overpower easily. But average man with bullet wound isnt usually “just more angry” and claiming that it is absolutely imperative to get a kill right away otherwise the man will just shrug off any and all wounds (bullet wounds) isnt remotely realistic. And my original point was probably bit hyperbole but if you read my response to Robert you will see im not advocating for half-measures. Just no to overkill.
    La Lubu:

    Now, as for cultural change. How about a cultural change toward long prison terms for abusers? Why do we feel the need as a society to lock up potheads, whose main danger to society is driving us crazy with too much Grateful Dead on the stereo, yet not abusers? Where’s the mandatory sentencing for abuse?

    Even further, where is the sense of disgust for abuse? You know what I’d like to see? I’d like to see an abuser walk into a roomful of other men, and have the entire room cease talking and put their backs to him. I’d really like to see other men start holding abusers accountable. The typical reaction is “well, you know, I’m surprised about that, about him. You know, he’s basically a nice guy. He just has this problem….”? No. Abusers are not nice guys. Every time you give an abuser a break, it sends the message that abuse is ok; both to the abuser, and to everyone else. Let’s quit normalizing abuse, ok?!

    This is all very true. Also in abuse cases, there seems to be these “she was asking for it” type of comments that surprisingly reasonable-seeming (this probably doesnt surprise posters here) people throw around. Like “everyone knows she has such a scathing tongue” or “shes a pretty domineering woman sometimes”. Ive heard both type of comments when a woman was abused.

  30. 30
    Masculiste says:

    “It’s interesting to note what this requires of a battered woman who, though years of intimate knowledge of her boyfriend or husband, has excellent reason to believe her life is in danger: in order to defend her life, she must wait until her abuser is awake, alert and attacking before it is permissible to defend herself.”

    I’m sorry but that’s about the dumbest thing I’ve read in quite some time.
    We don’t live in the middle east. And to compare this to a hostage situation?!
    Women can and do leave. And the law affords battered women protection when they do. Threats of a terroristic nature can be and are prosecuted and convictions and sentencing for such crimes can be harsh, particularly where a history of physical abuse is involved.

    I can’t walk through a dangerous crime ridden neighborhood (even if I know it has the highest murder per capita rate in the country) and start blasting everyone I think is a potential threat. I can’t just walk up and punch a bully first.

    If the abuser is asleep or out of the house, a women can and should leave.
    Enough with the bullshit excuses…after the first slap, LEAVE! For good! And that goes for men as well. The first time she slaps you should be the last.

  31. 31
    Robert says:

    If the abuser is asleep or out of the house, a women can and should leave. Enough with the bullshit excuses…

    It’s a little more complicated than that. As others may note, economic or emotional dependence can be extremely difficult for an individual to overcome unassisted. That’s one reason why it’s so important to fund shelters for battered women, and the occasional man, who needs a safe place to land.

    The other difficulty is children. When you have kids you can’t just slip out of the house unnoticed. With some kids, it’s like herding cats. I couldn’t run out on my wife tonight after she fell asleep and get all three kids out with me – no way. And I’m a pretty capable fellow, and my spouse ISN’T abusive and controlling – imagine how much tougher it would be if my wife was suspicious, and didn’t do things like going to bed before me.

    There is often a big difference between what we OUGHT to do and what we CAN do.

  32. 32
    Snowe says:

    My grandmother was abused by my grandfather for about 20 years. When she tried to call the police, he fired a shotgun at her. He made it quite clear that if she left, he would come after her and kill her and possibly the children.
    She didn’t make enough money to get far enough away from him and still feed her four children. Grandma might have had the legal freedom to leave, but that didn’t really mean much. Although there are more resources available to abused women, I imagine that there are still women who live in the same sort of situation.

  33. 33
    someone says:

    La Lubu

    I’d like to see an abuser walk into a roomful of other men, and have the entire room cease talking and put their backs to him. I’d really like to see other men start holding abusers accountable.

    I hope that when a woman that abuses her husband or children, or a woman that throws around a few plates and screams and then calls police on her husband enters a room with La Lubu, La Lubu will cease talking and turn her back on her.
    Right La Lubu? Hah…

  34. 34
    noodles says:

    Altogether now: let’s not talk about problems that women have, because men have problems too; let’s not talk of how bad domestic violence against women is, because there are examples of abusive women too!

    Like, you know, they throw plates and then lie to the police pretending they were attacked. Or beat their children up. Yep, that’s just so relevant to the case of a woman being threatened by an abusive partner.

    I’m sure I’m just misreading…

  35. 35
    noodles says:

    On the topic, I agree with the two Sarah’s above.

    I seem to remember reading about an actress, what’s her name (sorry, temporary amnesia), the one who won an Oscar for Monster, her mother killed her husband (and actress’s father) after he abused her for years, and she was acquitted. Or so I recall, I may be wrong.

    I think it makes sense in cases like that to recognise a self-defense principle, but I also think weapons should really be the last option, and it’s only an individual decision after all. For a problem affecting society as a whole, focusing on suggested solutions only at individual level and only for the victims seems very short-sighted and wrong in principle. Abuse is not a natural calamity or an accident that can just happen and we can do nothing about it (what’s society for, then?). Social, political and legal efforts make more sense.

  36. 36
    Sarah says:

    To answer “someone” above – I can’t speak for LaLuba, but personally I have no more time for violent women than I do for violent men, except of course when the violence is self-defence.

    I’m not sure you used the best example though, because I don’t think smashing plates and screaming is really the same thing as hitting or kicking or otherwise injuring someone.

  37. 37
    noodles says:

    Charlize Theron, that’s who it was – actually her mother was not even charged, and she shot her husband during one of his attacks. So I guess it was seen as immediate self-defense.

  38. 38
    HC says:

    For fuck’s sake, why oh why everytime we talk about violence against women (on a feminist message board/blog), someone (the general and the poster) needs to turn it around and talk about the equivalent about men.

    Someone: Regardless of the many many statistics that will tell you it is nearly ALWAYS the woman who is abused by her MALE spouse/boyfriend, we AREN’T TALKING ABOUT VIOLENCE AGAINST MEN, WE’RE TALKING ABOUT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. I’m really sick and tired of your constant dismissals of women and their experiences.

    I have an idea…everytime a sheltered young, 18-year old, BOY says something ridculously stupid and dismissive, let’s just ignore him completely. That ought to get him to shut up.

    And after this post, I will follow my own advice.

    And, IF we were talking about female abusers (WE WEREN”T), I agree with Sarah who said she has no more time for violent women than violent men. Also, look at the way society treats violent women, I think we have pretty much socialized that right out of them. We seem to have that under wraps.

    Ugh. Go pick up a “SOCIOLOGY 101″ book or something.

  39. 39
    La Lubu says:

    Sarah, I’m with you. I have absolutely no time for female abusers either, and I agree that throwing plates and screaming isn’t abuse. It’s a warning sign of abuse, but it’s not the same as the abuse itself. My advice to the man who finds himself with a woman who throws plates is get out now, because it isn’t going to get any better.

    Masculiste: Benvinutu! And it should go without saying that I agree wholeheartedly that from the first slap, one should leave. However, you know a bit of my story, and I know a bit of yours. And what did we do, hmm?

    See, that’s why cultural change is so important. I didn’t leave at the first violent incident, or at the next one, or the next one. And it wasn’t because I was too broke or beaten down. There were powerful cultural constraints working within my mind that kept me there. It was wrapped up in God, Family, Tradition, Doing the Right Thing, Being Responsible, Being Strong. And definitely not putting my business in the street. My identity was involved. It had to get so bad, my actual life itself was at stake, before I felt comfortable crossing those other boundaries. I had to reach the point where I was ready to choose life, for myself, y’know?

    The cultural bonds that keep people hanging on to toxic others are very strong. When combined with a dysfunctional background, it becomes a headier mix. We’ve got part of the solution in hand already; we have laws against abuse and stalking (though in some instances we need better enforcement of those laws). We have shelters, though some areas have little access. There is better counseling available for survivors of abuse, and better anger-management programs to aid abusers (who want to) of unlearning that behavior. And slowly, there is more awareness of the dynamics of abuse: how it escalates, what the symptoms are, what some of the roots are.

    But we, as a society, could do a better job of creating lasting cultural change that will stop abuse. For one thing, as a society, we are more than willing to escalate the violence. In fact, escalating the violence both over time, and in each individual incident, is how abusers manipulate the outcome to their advantage. I believe in self-defense. But that doesn’t mean I have to mimic the strategy of the abuser.

    We already know that the roots of abuse begin in childhood. We spend a lot of time teaching prinicples of physical health to young children; we teach about the proper workings of the body, about proper eating, proper hygiene. We don’t teach about proper mental health, or positive ways of communicating. Why not?

    I think it’s important for those of us who’ve lived through this to tell our stories (although I respect the privacy of those who remain silent). If you can, talk about it. Demystify it, for those who haven’t been there. Put a human face on it. That helps change minds. It aids in creating that cultural change.

    And someone? Female abusers tend to not limit their violence to their partner. They tend to be very aggressive and escalate disagreements into violence with everyone; for the most part, they’ve already driven away any friends they would have had. That’s true of some male abusers, too. But a sizable portion of male abusers wouldn’t dream of getting into a fight with another man. They specifically seek out women to beat on. They are very un-aggressive and mellow around other men, which is why their friends find it so hard to believe that the same guy that helped them build a garage is the same guy that pounds the piss out of his wife at night.

  40. 40
    mythago says:

    Since men aren’t allowed to do that either

    Sure they are. If Jack and Bob are a couple and your example is otherwise the same, Bob can raise a ‘battered partner’ defense.

  41. 41
    NYMOM says:

    “Yes, we wouldn’t want to encourage young women to do anything that might raise their self esteem, promote a positive, active self image, or increase their self confidence. The only reason women should be interested in sports is so they can meet men.”

    There are many other pursuits that women have available to them. I see nothing particularly positive in team sports for either boys or girls actually; but we can’t break boys of them, however, I see no reason to worsen the damage by getting girls involved as well in the same type of stupidity…

  42. 42
    Crys T says:

    For fuck’s sake, why oh why everytime we talk about violence against women (on a feminist message board/blog), someone (the general and the poster) needs to turn it around and talk about the equivalent about men.

    Errrrrm, because that way we can shut down discussion on a topic that affects all of society by a) derailing it onto another topic b) riling up feminists and getting them on the defensive and c) minimising the extent of males’ abuse of females by creating a false impression about patterns of abuse along gender lines?

  43. 43
    La Lubu says:

    “I see nothing particularly positive about team sports for boys or girls, actually….”

    How about a more efficent cardiovascular system, stronger and more supple muscles, better reflexes, greater endurance capacity, increased coordination, greater range of motion and flexibility, better management of blood sugar, the natural high of endorphins, reduction of stress, a healthy outlet for aggression, comraderie, teamwork, and just sheer joy?

    Not to mention the fact that girls who participate in sports grow up to have a much better body image than girls who don’t, because they learn early on to focus on what their body can do as opposed to just what it looks like.

  44. 44
    NYMOM says:

    Anyone who believe that team sports leads to ‘healthier’ people only need go to either Madison Square Garden or Yankee stadium to see the average sports fan, who probably got involved as a child in team sports…

    They are no healthier then anyone else, actually many look far less healthy…

    I find that college campus intellectuals, who never saw the inside of a sports arena, look far healthier then the average sports fan…

    Americans, both men and women, are unhealthy because we overeat, not because we don’t participate in team sports…

  45. 45
    batgirl says:

    Most women I know could care less about these sporting events…many go actually to meet guys…

    I know that I participate in martial arts in order to meet twelve-year old boys. Wooh, baby.

    Anyway, I too am wary of the “women should carry guns” solution. It puts the burden of a problem of male behavior on women. The behavior of abusive males is wrong, and to adamantly suggest women packing as a solution can lead to blaming the victim. “She didn’t carry a gun, so she was asking for it.”

    However, I do believe that women should be encouraged to participate in martial arts. I think that learning to defend oneself and to react to violence could help women avoid being victimized – women who have self confidence are more likely to tell a guy with “abuser warning signs” to fuck off.

    Girls are just not taught to react to violence as children; I never realized I could fight back until I started in the martial arts. Now, though, I reflexively block a punch if someone tries to hit me, and I would have some real options if someone grabbed me on the street.

  46. 46
    La Lubu says:

    NYMOM, there is a tremendous difference between watching sports and playing sports. Actually physically participating in sports is what provides the benefit, not buying tickets and parking your ass on the bleachers. Sheesh.

    Oh, and girls who play sports can lower their future risk of breast cancer by up to 60%. I also forgot to mention a greatly lowered risk of osteoporosis.

  47. 47
    Elena says:

    La Lubu, excellent points. I still wonder what NYMOM thinks we should do for exercise. Childbirth and breastfeeding only? Walking to lectures on campus? And I’m trying to get a clear picture of her apparently inflexible view of womanhood.

    Once I watched four indigenous women farmers in Ecuador pull our car out of a muddy ditch, after me and four men in my husband’s family couldn’t budge it. Their husbands undoubtedly were stronger than they, but they were much stronger than me and four sports playing white men who didn’t work the fields ten hours a day. If sports are said to substitute men’s primal need for physical activity and accomplishment, what about ours? Plus, to get back on topic, that added confidence and strength might come in handy when our womanly wiles fail to protect us.

  48. 48
    NYMOM says:

    “Plus, to get back on topic, that added confidence and strength might come in handy when our womanly wiles fail to protect us. ”

    Yes, of course, make a joke about a real-life experience…instead let’s rely on statistics, movies and antedotes from people who probably never had a real hands-on encounter with a serious adversary since they were in grade school…

    AND an encounter with a man who is a total stranger to you and has NOTHING invested in keeping you alive is very different from one where you know your attacker, such as maybe you’re his wife, you might have children together, some distant good memories, etc., My encounter was a real-life experience that shows you the limits of conventional self-defense ideas for women…AS WAS the encounter of the woman in Atlantic against Brian Nichols…

    BTW, have you ever fought off a totally strange man with a can of mace that didn’t work OR convinced one that had just shot and killed four people to surrender…If not, then I don’t think you’re in the position to make fun of others who might have some insight to offer to other women…

    The average woman CANNOT beat the average man in any encounter…she can barely hold her own with special forces training…This was already made clear after the Gulf War and is the reason that Les Aspin made the exclusionary rule that kept women off the front lines although this is even being subverted now due to the influence of feminists and spiteful MRAs…

    My point being that women must build upon our own strengths, not a lesser version of what men do to protect themselves. As men and women are different in spite of your antedotes about women being able to lift cars with their bare hands… I would have LOVED to start flying through the air like Charlie’s Angels did in all their movies when I was being mugged, unfortunately we must play the hand we are dealt, not the one the media encourages all women to unrealistically aspire to…

  49. 49
    La Lubu says:

    Good grief, NYMOM. Educate yourself about domestic violence before making assertions about it, will you? Abusers are more likely than random strangers to kill their victims during an assault. Six out of every ten female victims of homicide were killed by someone they knew. In half of those cases, the “someone” was their partner.

    Meanwhile, 86% of women escape attempted assault by resisting and fighting back. Much better odds than cooperating with one’s attacker. Yes, Virginia, the average woman can successfully fight back against her male attacker. She just (in most cases) has to use different techniques than the average man would.

  50. 50
    Spicy says:

    My encounter was a real-life experience that shows you the limits of conventional self-defense ideas for women…

    I absolutely agree. Which is why women and girls need to be taught feminist self-defence which starts from the (factual) position that women are far more likely to be needing to defend themselves against someone they know – and more likely than not, trust.

  51. 51
    Elena says:

    NYMOM: FYI, those Andean women pulled a car out of a ditch, with rope, but yeah, it was with their bare hands. AND- if you can’t make ajoke about real life experience, what can you joke about? Anyway, I was sort of making fun of you (sorry) not that woman in Atlanta.

    As a matter of fact, twice I have fought off attackers, and once I had a can of mace! I don’t know if it worked or not, but the guy ran off. He was following me home from work in college and I was aware of him for a few blocks ( thank you self defense class) so tried to keep him in front of me until he finally tried to knock me down. I can only guess that he didn’t want a difficult victim, because he ran off when I resisted.

    Later ( again in S America) I ran down a thief who ripped off my necklace. I caught him from behind and with the crowd’s help, I got my necklace back and then watched as he was beaten up by the crowd and then police. That was disturbing, if you want to know. And perhaps I shouldn’t have tried to get my necklace back but instinct kicked in. My mother in law also ran off a male intruder in her home with a frying pan not long ago.

    You know, NYMOM, most men aren’t violent at all, but maybe sports and a general awareness that they are expected to protect themselves as best they can serves them in situations like the ones that I experienced. Maybe being clever and wily when outgunned serves women. But wouldn’t a real life strategy be to learn both? Think of that poor twelve year old girl last year in Florida who was on tape as being led away without resisting at all by her murderer. Given how easliy human beings are physically intimidated, how can a good self defense class and sports help?

    Another point- Brian Nichols had a gun, and he had the advantage over everyone he encountered, even other men. There’s nothing really gender specific about needing to figure out how to talk down a violent armed criminal.

  52. 52
    Elena says:

    “Given how easliy human beings are physically intimidated, how can a good self defense class and sports help?” That should read
    ” how can a good self defense class and sports do anything but help” .

  53. 53
    Lee says:

    I enrolled my daughter at age 5 in Tae Kwon Do. It has given her a lot of self-confidence and is also good exercise. But the main reason I took this action was for the self-defence benefit. And by age 7, she has already had to use her skills to defend herself and her cousin from a bully at soccer camp. As parent, I was appalled she was in the position of having to protect her cousin and herself from being beaten up by a much larger kid with anger management issues. But also as a parent, I was so proud of her for having the confidence to use her skills defensively. (She and her cousin tried to defuse the situation first, BTW, by giving up their snacks, but this kid was obviously spoiling for a fight.)

  54. 54
    Antigone says:

    Yeah, but Lee, you enrolled your kid. You already were telling her to go ahead and be confident.

    I started Tae Kwon Do when I was 15, and made it all the way to blue belt before money issues made me quit. The reason I was paying for this class? My father said that he didn’t want me to take self-defense, because then I’d get “overconfident and not take enough precautions for a young lady”. He said that it didn’t matter how much I learned, a guy would always be able to beat me up, and that was just the fact of the matter. When I was in my class, for the longest time the other guys would hold back when sparring with me because “you don’t hit a girl” which was to my detriment and theirs.

    I realize my dad’s a sexist fuck (and I mean that in the nicest way possible, he is my dad after all), but these attitudes still exsist, and they prevent women from going into self-defense courses, and prevent them from thinking that you CAN be strong. And those boys in my class, their idea of “protecting” women contributes to a learned-helplessness envirnment. So, self-defense is kinda a catch-22 in some areas: it is said we need to learn to defend ourselves but then we’re discouraged from learning to defend ourselves.

  55. 55
    Lee says:

    Well, that was part of the point of the exercise – to let her know it was OK to be confident and assertive. My dad’s mother was really big on what she called feminine confidence, and I guess that was what my dad tried to instill in me and what I’m trying to teach my daughter. Reasonable, confident women are the best antidote I can think of to needing self-defense skills in domestic situations.

  56. 56
    Sean says:

    My question is this, I just finished watching a movie in a college course regarding logical falicies and persuasion. The name of the movie is “Enough” starring Jennifer Lopez…
    Background..
    An abused woman (Lopez) discovers that the dream man (Campbell) she married wasn’t whom she thought he was. She and her daughter try to escape (such as to her previous boyfriend played by Futterman), but he pursues relentlessly. Fearing also for the safety of her daughter, she decides that there’s only one way out of the marriage: kill him.

    The question is…. was this murder of self-defense in accordance with california law?
    I look forward to reading reviews..
    Sean

  57. 57
    Sean says:

    Please forward all responses to
    sloan2527@yahoo.com, Thank you

  58. 58
    Kyra says:

    Ooookay. Long read, this. I am now very depressed and somewhat pissed with the general state of this issue.

    Most important thing I have to say is, if you decide to defend yourself, do so 100%. DON’T half-ass it. If you punch someone, aim for a vulnerable spot and hit as hard as you can. Do it fast, do it hard, and don’t bother with fighting fair. Mean it. Aim your hits as though you are going to punch through the person. Don’t aim for anything bony.

    Regarding mace, make the first shot count. It doesn’t go through glasses. If he has glasses, it would be a good strategy to grab them and throw them away; then his vision will be blurred and he may decide that finding them is a better priority. This works even if you don’t have mace.

    If you have a weapon, you have the responsibility to make yourself capable of using it properly (I mean both know how and have enough confidence), and to keep it out of your attacker’s hands. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s hearing how Americans are so helpless that even arming ourselves gives the enemy an advantage. It helps to use it, rather than brandish it, if you are close enough to them that they can reach it. Better if they don’t see it coming.

    Another thing to think about is what sort of self-defense tools work best for you. Guns are off-limits in many places, and due to logistical concerns (if a gun is not allowed someplace, you must leave it in your car) they are also unavailable between those places and your vehicle. Not to mention common sense dictates that you keep them locked up, away from curious children, which makes them inexpedient in emergencies. While I support gun rights (if you want to know why, pick up an American Hunter magazine and read the column called “The Armed Citizen”), I think the best and most useful self-defense tool is martial arts proficiency.

    You know what else I hate? That “duty to retreat” bullshit and related theories. Someone tries to hurt me, and it’s my duty to run away? Someone threatens me, I’m supposed to act threatened? They do something wrong, and it’s my duty to let them continue on their way (possibly to the next victim) without inconveniencing them with my interference?

    Thank you, no. Somewhere in the Declaration of Independence, something was said about people having the right and the duty to correct injustices. And the law of my faith is “An’ it harm none, do what ye will.” For me to let an attacker continue unchallenged, would cause harm to the next person he attacks; to allow him to walk away unharmed would enable him to attack someone else as soon as he wishes. It is my duty to interfere. And why should I go out of my way to avoid some criminal? He’s the one who deserves the inconvenience! And, should someone try to attack me, they are the one who deserves to suffer the consequences—not me, by running away or losing my money, but him, by getting his ass kicked and getting dragged off in handcuffs.

    If crime did not pay, there would be very few criminals. If every attack was met by an ass-kicking from the intended victim, there would be fewer still.

    PS: martial arts skills can’t be stolen and used against you.

  59. 59
    ginmar says:

    All this is very well and good but what about the real problem? Men who force this kind of action on women? Where’s the men’s rights advocates wringing their hands over this awesome responsibility they’ve got to lower the rate of male violence against women?

    The other thing that’s missing is just how bitter is the prohibition against women defending themselves. If your attacker is the guy next door, you’re going to face people afterward who are going to ask you, “Why did you have to hurt him? Why didn’t you just leave? What were you wearing?”

    Fact is, it’s stil considered uppity in a lot of places for a woman to defend herself.

    She must have asked for it, after all.

    Eradicate that belief first.

  60. 60
    mythago says:

    Where’s the men’s rights advocates wringing their hands over this awesome responsibility they’ve got to lower the rate of male violence against women?

    Or even against other men. They’re always going on about how men suffer the most violence–why don’t they just knock it off?

  61. 61
    Tuomas says:

    Yep. I agree with Kyra about the 100% thing in self defense. Do whatever it takes to prevent the scumbag from hurting you. About the duty to kick the criminal’s ass, well the law pretty much everywhere sees it different. For a very good reason too, because probably every assaulter or murderer has claimed it was just self-defense (and with no witnesses…). One other problem about being a criminal-hunter (or having a duty to be one) is that criminals select someone they can “take” as a victim (of course they might get a nasty surprise, but they have experience in that stuff), and basically big enough jerks to have all kinds of dirty tricks up their sleeve (like other criminals backing up, hidden knife, gun, mace etc.) and are very willing (if not itching) to use them.
    My point is that no one should feel guilty about surviving an attempted crime by running away, bluffing or generally by not “teaching the bad guy a lesson”. And martial arts are good for health and self-confidence but don’t get your expectations too high about their value in self defense. And be willing to ask for help from law-enforcement. Effective law enforcement is what makes crime not pay.