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Victim Mindset


by Michael Mitchell

Si vis pacem, para bellum.

The phrase above means, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” It’s an historical irony that those nations and individuals who are most prepared for war are the least likely to fight one. Strong nations and individuals - those capable of inflicting serious harm on an attacker - are unlikely to be attacked. They are prepared, so they never actually have to fight. It’s just not worth the risk to the would-be assailant. But what exactly does being prepared mean?

Most of us would name preparations like weapons, training, intelligence gathering, and so forth. However, there is one preparation that is the most crucial of all: mental preparation - the development of what the late Col. Jeff Cooper referred to as the fighting mindset.

The greatest weapon you have isn’t your gun, or knowing how to use it. Your greatest weapon is between your ears. There have been countless well-armed people over the years who have ended up dead because they weren’t prepared mentally as well as physically to defend themselves when attacked. This hard fact was Col. Cooper’s point. Let us examine the conditions which cause, in most Americans, what I term the victim mindset.

Here in America, most of us will go our whole lives without ever confronting violence personally. This situation is both a boon and a curse. It’s a boon because we can live our lives free of the horrible consequences of violence. It’s a curse because the lack of experience with violence develops in us a mental complacency, a dullness of perception, and a completely distorted set of expectations when it comes to the dynamics of violent confrontation. Ironically, our safety contributes to our victimization. We don’t expect trouble. We never prepare ourselves mentally for that possibility, or we fill our heads with all sorts of ineffective foolishness. As a result, when violence does come, we are in a poor position to deal with it - we have settled into the victim mindset.

The victim mindset is comprised of two basic facets: First, an unaware dullness of perception which renders us vulnerable to being surprised. Second, unrealistic or downright absurd expectations of the actual nature of violent confrontation, and our capability to deal with it.

Surprise is the criminal’s first, best weapon. It minimizes your reaction time, and makes resistance far more difficult. Remember: violent confrontation isn’t a duel of honor. Your assailant is under no obligation to ‘play fair’. Your complacency helps him greatly.

The human brain filters out the majority of sensory input it receives. This is a defense mechanism; if the brain actually brought every stimulus into your conscious mind, you’d quickly go insane. However, these filters work against you in a defensive situation. Since we ignore more than we perceive, the chances for us to be surprised by a criminal are greatly improved.

To survive a violent assault, you must cultivate a casual alertness to your surroundings - a state of mind Col. Cooper referred to as “condition yellow”. You must train your brain to filter out less of your sensory input than it would normally. It’s really not that hard. While you’re reading this, stop for a moment. What sounds are around you? What smells? What objects are in your peripheral vision? Practice this exercise several times a day, and, pretty soon, you’ll be noticing your surroundings far more than you used to.

As to our expectation for violent confrontations, we’ve been consistently lied to. The popular media have filled Americans’ heads with all sorts of ineffective countermeasures to violent assault, most of which would be laughable if people didn’t actually think they were good ideas. “Scratch his eyes with your keys.” “Poke him with your umbrella.” “Carry a squeegee of lemon juice and squirt it in his eyes.” “Kick him where it counts.” Or, they suggest chemical Mace or pepper spray.

Well, hate to burst the bubble, folks, but none of this stuff is remotely reliable. Scratching eyes with keys is more absurd than it sounds; have you ever tried to pull a Three Stooges routine and poke someone in the eye? Notice how hard it was to do? Umbrellas are great for keeping the rain off of you, but they’re far too fragile to serve as reliable weapons. Squeegees of lemon juice are good for fish, not defense. Good luck accurately squirting them on anything beyond about 3 inches away. And, as far as groin kicks, every street fighter in the world knows about that one; as soon as you lift one foot to attempt the kick, he’ll put you on your back.

There are two key problems with all of these ‘recommendations’. The first is that none of them offers the assailant serious pause - none of them will harm him seriously. The second is that they require the defender to be within arm’s reach of the attacker - which means he can reach you just as well as you can reach him. Do you really want to test your hand-to-hand fighting skills against someone who likely makes a living at it? Unless you’re a black belt in jiu-jitsu, you’re most likely going to come out on the losing end.

As for the chemical sprays, sure, you don’t have to be as close to use them, but they don’t win any prizes either. There have been too many people over the years who took a blast of Mace full in the face and kept right on going. You see, Mace depends upon pain compliance to work - the target has to feel the pain and want to stop his activities as a result. Too many violent assailants simply don’t feel pain during the attack, partly as a result of natural endorphins the body uses during physical activity, and partly because many street fighters actually like a little pain. (Not to mention the possibility of your assailant being high on some controlled substance, or even plain old alcohol.) Massad Ayoob, a 20-plus year police veteran and author of The Truth About Self Protection, once wrote: 

“Mace is pretty useless, except to facilitate a rape (sprayed in the victim’s face, she can’t breath well enough to scream or resist).”

You might get lucky with pepper spray, assuming your assailant isn’t upwind. And, assuming you can aim the cylindrical container in the right direction (although some pepper spray containers aren’t cylindrical, so they’re much easier to aim correctly). Pepper spray is more effective than Mace, primarily because it doesn’t depend upon pain compliance. However, there are still plenty of people who have kept right on attacking through a blast of pepper spray. “But, cops use pepper spray,” you’ll say. Yes, they do - to subdue a resisting suspect, not to prevent themselves from being killed. Also, please remember that cops operate with backups, guns, and dogs - two of which you won’t have access to during your normal daily activities.

Compounding these faulty expectations of effective defense is the fact that most of us are peaceable people. The very idea of inflicting serious harm on another human being is deeply disturbing to the normal psyche. So, we are even more willing - some would say desperate - to find some nice, soft method for defending ourselves against violence. Hence, we subconsciously nod our heads up and down and think, “Cool. I don’t really have to hurt anyone. I can stop him from hurting me by [fill in ineffective defense strategy here].”

The sad fact is that these joke weapons Oprah tells you about are more likely to get you killed than to save your life. Remember, to many criminals, part of a successful crime is in demonstrating dominance over the victim. Even if you succeed in poking your assailant in the eye or some such foolishness, all you’re likely to do is anger him. First, you’ve challenged his dominance over you. Second, you’ve hurt him, but, most likely, not seriously enough to make him stop the assault. Essentially, your feeble defensive efforts with these ineffective makeshift weapons have provoked him into more violent action.

Think I’m just blowing smoke? The facts confirm what I’m telling you. Based on Justice Department statistics, ineffective resistance to violence is almost guaranteed to raise your likelihood of being injured or killed. That includes all these joke weapons, yelling, hitting, and running. Effective resistance, on the other hand, will reduce your chances. In order to be effective, resistance must have a high probability of causing serious harm or death to the assailant. Guess what? That means that effective resistance is limited almost exclusively to a defensive firearm. Ayoob once said: 

"Criminals are afraid of only two things: Big dogs and guns. They stay away from cops because cops have both."

Now, that’s not to say that some people haven’t been lucky defending themselves with all sorts of strange objects. I’ve seen accounts of would-be rapists slugged with a table lamp or stabbed with a pencil. The problem is that such stories give the listener the false impression that these incidents are representative of defensive situations. These incidents, in fact, are the exception rather than the rule. Most of the time, attempts at using non-lethal resistance methods (i.e. methods which do not threaten the assailant with being immediately, irrevocably harmed) simply anger the assailant, making him more likely to harm you instead of less. These makeshift weapons are just that - makeshift - and should not be relied upon as the first line of defense against violence. Just think about it for a minute: In a violent attack situation, do you really want to get into a physical fight with your assailant, who is likely larger and stronger than you are, and more accustomed to physical confrontation? Wouldn’t you rather stop the entire situation before it starts?

You must accept up front that a violent assault is an attempt on your life. You must meet the assault with the mental will and physical means to stop that assault by any means necessary - including the use of deadly force which may result in the death of your attacker.

Support for the entire crime facilitation (gun control) movement is driven by the victim mindset. You will constantly hear that the likelihood of your coming under criminal attack is remote, so you shouldn’t own or carry a gun. (Cooper once said, “Statistics are cold comfort when you find that your case is the rare exception.”) They recommend, instead, that you avoid high-crime areas (as if the people who live in those areas can avoid them) and that you cooperate with criminals to avoid being injured if you are confronted. Or, they recommend some of the ridiculous countermeasures I’ve enumerated above. But, above all, don’t carry a gun, they’ll say, because the attacker will take it away from you. The fact that less than 1% of defensive gun users have their weapons taken away, however, indicates that such fears are essentially groundless.

The crime facilitators are relying on your ignorance of the actual dynamics of human violence to gain your agreement. Unfortunately, most people haven’t studied or experienced violence, so they know only what the media tell them. And, the media are notoriously unwilling to tell the entire truth when it comes to violence. This basic ignorance is what drives a large percentage of the population to buy into the crime facilitation movement.

The hard, cruel fact is this: The only consistently effective tools available for resistance against violence are deadly force tools - big dogs and guns. And, since you’re unlikely to be able to take a protection-trained dog around with you on your daily activities, guess what that leaves? The handgun - the only readily available, effective defensive tool against violent attack. If more Americans realized this truth, “gun control” would be relegated to the dust bin of bad ideas. As it should be.

Fortunately, you now know the truth. Train your awareness. Develop realistic expectations of self-defense strategy. Accept the fact that deadly assault can only be countered by deadly force. Make these preparations, and you’ll be far less likely to fall prey to the victim mindset.

Copyright 2000 Michael A. Mitchell. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this article in its entirety, including this copyright notice. Mike writes for; read some of his other work at You can contact Mike at


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When law and morality contradict each other the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his sense of morality or losing his respect for the law. — Frederick Bastiat

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