Thursday, July 23, 2009

Safety and Personal Protection

It is rare when we see a hostage situation conclude without the loss of lives. Last week Nancy Tyler was taken at gunpoint from her place of employment. Her estranged husband ordered her to drive to the couple's former home with a gun pointed at her from the back seat.

Nancy Tyler had filed for divorce and her violent, controlling husband was not going to allow her to end the divorce with her life. There is a lot to be learned from what Nancy Tyler did that day for 12 hours.

First, she remained calm. She followed his orders. She didn't raise her voice or try and argue with him. What she did do was continue talking about anything and everything. Police and the swat team were outside and he was also speaking with a news reporter by telephone demanding police stay away from the home.

During those 12 terrifying hours, he handcuffed Nancy Tyler to an eyebolt in a basement wall; told her the house was rigged to explode, and repeatedly held a gun to her head while he recited countdowns to what was to be her death. Nancy took the split second when he was distracted and ran out a small door down in the basement to safety.

Nancy Tyler's quick thinking during the entire ordeal and many prayers to God is what saved her from being killed. In many cases where were read news stories of tragedies it is difficult for victims to remain calm. A technique not often taught or used in one's self defense of their lives.

Thinking like the offender, abuser, and criminal is often an important technique that either buys time or as in Nancy Tyler case saves lives.

Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to several 911 tapes of abuse victims who ultimately lost their lives. In those calls while the phone was on as the woman was running for her life you could hear the chaos and fear just before shots were fired. In a few of the calls perhaps if they had been calmer or been able to divert the shooter the outcome might have been different. I am not suggesting one method or another would have changed the tragedies. I am asking that we look at applying self defense training and strategies using words as an additional way to remain alive.
In cases where you are going through a divorce and the children is in the home what safety techniques have you considered practicing? Maybe the person has threatened to kill you and believe he won't hurt me with his kids in the house. Think Again!

A person who has threatened your life for ending the relationship or marriage has no problem taking everyone out with them.

Hostage negotiators are often successful at getting people to surrender because they have been trained. And in my 20 years as a trainer I implement various techniques that have kept a woman and her children alive. If you are in an abusive relationship it is time that you begin to implement and practice strategies to keep you safe. Listen weekly to the Susan Murphy Milano Show or send in suggestions on what you would like to know and we will feature you and or the information on the show. Email address is

And as my colleague Anny Jacoby teaches: PERSONAL SAFETY/SELF-DEFENSE IS NOT USED TO FIGHT........IT'S USED TO DEFENDNo excuses, Time's UP!

1 comment:

Innerlite said...

This is such an important post. The ultimate power high for an abuser is to visibly witness the state of fear he has caused in his victim. There is a momentum that is created, the more violent he becomes the more hysterical and afraid the victim becomes. This is the point,when survivors (who make it out alive) speak about the transformation in a batterer, the animal look in their eyes, the Hyde personality overcomes Dr Jekyll. Remaining calm, though contrary to everything a victim may be feeling, can temper the propulsion of rage and, hopefully, bring him back around to a "thinking" being and, as you say, buy some time to seek an escape.

Just to expand on that a little, forcing a calm demeanor in other situations dealing with a batterer is a great survival tool. Though it may not be right or fair, the fact is that the police are going to respond better to a calmer complainant than someone who is hysterical and difficult to elicit information from. Batterers have learned this technique and use it effectively. When I go to court proceedings with a victim I try to encourage them to remain calm, regardless of the lies or confrontations that they are faced with. It is important to be the rational person in contrast to his anger or bitterness. Police and others in the criminal justice system aren't trained to deal with your emotions, it is just something to tolerate while they are trying to sort out the facts and do their job. Know that your rage and anger and frustration is justified but express it where it is safe, with friends, family,counselors and advocates. As Susan said, think like an offender if necessary, at least to get to a place where it's safe to be yourself again.

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