Tuesday, 30 July 2013

What to do if you are threatened with a weapon

You are being threatened with a weapon. 
Not a great situation to find yourself in. 

People consistently ask me, "What do I do if someone has a knife and they want my purse?" 
"Even you? With all your training? You would give him your purse?"
OF COURSE! I value my life and my health, and I don't think that wrestling someone over my phone is worth possibly being injured or disfigured for the rest of my existence. 

Avoid any opportunity to engage or fight off someone with a weapon; it's simply not worth it: 

  • Everything can be replaced - your phone, wallet, credit cards, car, etc. None of this
    stuff matters in the long run. It might be inconvenient to replace, and it might cost you money; however this is still a small price to pay in comparison to the long-term effects of bodily injuries and disfigurements. 
  • You will more than likely get hurt - this is the reality of attempting to fight someone wielding a weapon, especially when you have little or no training. Stab wounds are extremely serious and cause a frightening number of deaths; their wounds can be difficult to treat, and the rate of infection is high. 
  • Run away if you can, and comply with your attacker if it is reasonable for you to do so 
There are only three general circumstances that I would suggest fighting back against an attacker with a weapon: 
  • You are going to die if you don't 
  • You are with someone who is going to die if you don't 
  • Your attacker is trying to get you into a car or van to take you to a second location
If you are forced to fight off an attacker with a weapon, there are a few things to remember: 
  • You're probably going to get hurt if you do fight. The goal though is to minimize your injuries, and to attempt to have non-vital areas suffer the injuries (i.e. outside of the arms vs. inside of the arms, where there are all sorts of important arteries that could cause you to die if they were to be cut). Fortunately, the adrenaline that will be coursing through your body will help you to avoid feeling some of the pain if it's not a vital cut, and allow you to keep holding your ground or to run away to safety. 
  • Always cover your head and neck 
  • Shield your body with the outside of the arms, not the inside 
  • Do what you can to run away and get to a safe place where you can call for medical attention (run towards people!) 
  • Keep moving, don't stand still and make yourself an easy target 
  • Be as vocal as possible to attract attention from passersby 
  • Use improvised weapons to inflict damage to your attacker, and to also create space between you and your attacker (knock over chairs, garbage bins, use pieces of rock or sticks - anything around you that you can use to shield yourself or cause damage) - more on this next week. 
Undoubtedly others will think differently, and I welcome your thoughts and opinions below. 

Stay safe! 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Which weapons are legal for self-defense?

Many women ask me my opinions on weapons in self-defense. 
"Should I carry a switchblade?" "Should I carry a knife?" "Is it legal to have mace?" 

The answer to all of these questions is a resounding NO

*The below answers are for Canadians, and there may also be differences province-to-province. Always check before you buy or carry a weapon. 

Firstly, and most importantly, many weapons that people think are legal to carry are, in fact, illegal:
  • Mace/Pepper SprayIllegal - In Canada, any product with a label containing the words 'pepper spray', 'mace' etc. or are otherwise originally produced for use on humans are classified as a prohibited weapon. Only law enforcement officers may legally carry or possess pepper spray.
  • Dog Spray/Bear Spray - Illegal - these chemicals are regulated under the Pest Control Products Act. While it is legal to be carried by anyone, it is against the law if its use causes "a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person" or harming the environment. It carries a penalty of up to a $500 000 fine, as well as a max. jail time of 3 years.
  • Switchblades - Illegal - In Canada, switchblades are illegal to sell, buy, trade, carry or otherwise possess. The Canadian Criminal Code defines the switchblade as, "A knife that has a blade that opens automatically by gravity or centrifugal force or by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in or attached to the handle of the knife." Different subsections of the code describe possession offenses and penalties. Belt-buckle daggers, push-daggers, finger-ring blades, and innocuously concealed blades are also Prohibited Weapons in Canada under SOR/98-462 Part 3. If you are found to be in possession of a switchblade, you can get up to 5 years in jail, and your weapon seized.
  • Knives - Legal - There is no length restriction on carrying knives within the Criminal Code of Canada; the only restriction is for concealed carry. Every person commits an offence who carries a weapon, a prohibited device or any prohibited ammunition concealed, unless the person is authorised under the Firearms Act to carry it concealed. The general rule is that if your knife is regarded as a tool (i.e. Swiss Army knife), police are generally ok with it; however, if they feel that the knife is for self-defense or for fighting, they will take it from you and charge you with possessing a dangerous weapon.
  • Nunchaku (homemade or store-bought), shuriken, brass knuckles - Illegal

Brass Knuckles 


  • Fixed blades - machetes, khukuris, swords, bayonets - Legal
  • Tasers and stun guns - Illegal  
Now that we understand what weapons are legal, and which are not, let me advise you to NOT carry a weapon. Keep in mind that if you introduce a weapon to an altercation, it has the potential to be used against you, particularly if you are no adept at wielding said weapon (...and even if you are!). 

Secondly, if you introduce a weapon into an altercation, there are legal implications (including the possibility of losing the ability of claiming self-defense).  

If you are keen to carry some sort of protection device, I'm going to be writing about improvised weapons next week. 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Costs of Domestic Violence

Violence touches us all: "...the energy of violence moves through our culture. Some experience it as a light but unpleasant breeze, easy to tolerate. Others are destroyed by it, as if by a hurricane. But nobody - nobody - is untouched." (1)

Even if your own life experience has been free of violence, you need to understand that violence is still a very real part of your life. Not just in the media, not just through your relationships with people you may know who have experienced violence, but even as a taxpayer: 

"Many physically and sexually abused women in Canada suffer from multiple physical health problems directly related to intimate violence. Women harmed by such violence seek medical care more often than do non-victimized women, to such a a degree that in Canada the measurable health-related economic cost of violence against women is roughly $1,539,730,387 per year."  (2)

Consider the amount of work that goes into seeking medical attention for domestic violence: 
Click to view larger image 

If you live in the U.S., the costs are considerably higher. as the picture to the right demonstrates. This is a huge drain on taxpayer money, which could, of course, be spent on so many better things and could improve our respective countries in myriad ways. This is also why it is so imperative to focus on prevention. As women, it is not only important to learn self-defense, but to learn how to read the red flags in your partner, and to have enough confidence in yourself and your self-worth to walk away from any relationship where your partner doesn't treat you the way (s)he should. 

But, there are costs beyond the actual financial drain on our economy. The fact is that women who are abused are also at a higher rate of being murdered by their partners.  Aside from death, there are other long-term physical health consequences of abuse: suicide attempts, chronic pain, gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular disease, substance abuse, pregnancy/loss of an existing pregnancy, and a wide-range of reproductive concerns among other problems. 

Even though domestic violence can be a politically divisive issue, it really is important for everyone to understand that it affects everyone. The goal should be to keep healthcare costs for domestic violence down by focusing not only on prevention for women, but on better education for men. 

Folks, no one should ever touch anyone. If you are dating someone who feels that violence is the way that they need to get their point across, it's time to find a partner who is better at communicating, and who respects you enough to treat you appropriately. 

Stay safe! 

(1) deBecker, Gavin. The Gift of Fear. New York: Dell Publishers, 1997, p. 8.
(2) DeKeseredy, Walter. Violence Against Women: Myths, Facts, Controversies, Toronto: UofT Press, p. 95.