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Should You Resist a Predator?

February 15, 2015

Back when I was learning to become an EMT, and later on in nursing school, we talked a lot about assessing trauma and trauma scenes. The purpose was twofold. One was to give the EMT or RN a better idea of just what kinds of less than obvious injuries a trauma patient might have. For instance, a person at a residential construction site, lying on the ground near scaffolding suggests at least the possibility of one type of injury. A person lying on the ground with an obviously live and sparking power line nearby quite possibly has another. The other purpose was to give the EMT or RN an idea of the risks he or she might face when responding. Rushing in without assessing the situation first is a good way to get hurt or even dead. Whether talking about the trauma or the trauma scene, the question is “what am I dealing with?” The same thing is true when faced with human predators.

While there may be multiple ways of classifying criminals, one of the most useful is the division into resource and process predators. The difference is pretty simple, I think. Resource predators want something you have. They want your “stuff.” Sometimes, perhaps even most of the time, if you give them what they want, they will go away. That’s what happened to me when I was robbed at gunpoint while at a conference in New Orleans (the other thing that happened is that I got into that situation because of a significant lapse of situational awareness). I gave the man with the gun what he wanted, my cash, and he went away. More importantly, I walked away unharmed, except for some damage to my ego. Was I angry? Absolutely. The idea that someone would take my “stuff” with the threat of violence is profoundly offensive. Still, it worked out about as well as it could.

Process predators are different. They don’t want your stuff. They want you. Process predators are about the act of predation itself. This is what makes them so dangerous. It is the act of predation on which they “get off.” Giving them your “stuff” won’t do you any good. Begging and pleading are likewise useless. Their goal is to commit one or more acts of violence upon you. As far as I can see, the only responses to a process predator that have any real possibility of preserving your life are to flee or fight.

It’s important to recognize the difference between the two because failure to do so can get you injured or killed.

How can you tell the difference between resource and process predators? As Ross Johnson notes in his book Antiterrorism and Threat Response: Planning and Implementation,

“The difference is venue. A resource predator will threaten to hurt you if you don’t surrender your money, watch, jewelry, car keys, etc. A process predator will threaten to hurt you if you don’t get in the van. A resource predator doesn’t want you, he wants your stuff, and the sooner he separates you from your stuff, the happier he will be. A process predator doesn’t care about your stuff and just wants you.”

There has been a fair amount of research into the success rates of resisting criminals. Greg Ellifritz did a good job of reviewing the research literature, a few years ago. While some of the research is contradictory, my take on it is this: The decision to resist, or not, is a very personal one. When dealing with resource predators, one can make a decent argument that in many cases, giving the predator what he or she wants has the greatest chance of your surviving the encounter unharmed. As I noted above, though, process predators are different. I submit that when dealing with a process predator your best chances of avoiding serious injury or death are if you flee or resist. If you’re going to resist a predator of any sort, you need to be prepared to do so as savagely and viciously as you possibly can. The entire article is worth reading.

Sometimes, process predators will disguise themselves (act like) resource predators. Why is that? While I don’t know for sure, I suspect the reason is that we have heard so often that we should “just comply” or “go along” with the criminal to avoid harm. Remember, process predators are interested in what they can do to the victim. Anything that increases their ability to do so is something they seem likely to do.

Greg Ellifritz also deals with some signals in his more recent article that should serve, I believe, as absolute indicators that you need to resist. He notes there are a few circumstances in which “compliance is rarely a successful option:

  • A criminal tries to take you to another location
  • A criminal tries to restrain you
  • A criminal puts you on the ground
  • A criminal attempts to search you”

There’s more at the link. I recommend reading it.

I’ll emphasize this again: If you are going to resist, you must be prepared. You must be willing to do so as savagely and viciously as you possibly can. My dad used to put it simply. “I hope you never have to do this stuff, but, if you do, make it count.”

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