Crime and Violence

Journal of Non-lethal Combatives, November 1999

by Joseph R. Svinth 
Copyright © 1999 All rights reserved.

It is said that if you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you win one and lose one; if you do not know others and do not know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.
-- Sun Tzu, The Art of War


 Fighting in the streets, bars, and bedrooms of the land is generally illegal and usually immoral, and the resultant doctor bills and court battles are invariably expensive. So fighting should be avoided whenever possible.

 Still, no amount of good will on our own part can protect us from malice on someone else's part. Further, our egos frequently demand that we do something to protect our pride and our property. So let's look at crime and violence, and see what they really consist of.

 In general, North Americans aged twenty-five years and older die from heart disease, cancer, strokes, and cirrhosis of the liver, while North Americans aged twenty-four and under die from car wrecks, suicide, accidents, and homicide.

 Regardless of age or ethnicity, females have a lower risk of death than males. Overall, their risk of suicide is much higher than their risk of homicide. Also, their chances of being raped by strangers are less than their chances of acquiring the HIV virus from their lovers. However, their chances of being beaten or sexually assaulted by the men they live with are excellent.  So women should plan their defenses accordingly.

 Violence is about as common per capita in the United States as it is in Southern Europe, and far less common per capita than in Africa or South America. It is slightly more common in large and medium size cities than it is in rural areas. The reason for this, however, may have to do with reporting, as the most common crime of violence is spouse abuse.

 As the foregoing suggests, violence is gender related. That is, there is an 80 percent probability that the perpetrator of a violent crime will be male, and nearly as high a probability that the victim will be female. However, women are as likely to steal from you as men, and are less frequently and less severely punished for these thefts.

 Regardless of their age, race, or gender, violent criminals tend to assault, murder, or rob people from their own racial and socioeconomic groups. This said, African American males are three times more likely to be involved in homicides than are European American males. This sounds bad until you realize that murders are usually family-related. And even the nastiest Washington, DC crack dealer's chances of being murdered are lower than a nineteenth century housewife's chances of dying during childbirth.

 Despite what our elected officials tell us, alcohol abuse is a more frequent crime vector than the abuse of illegal drugs. However, doing something constructive about alcohol abuse would threaten the profit margins of the multi-billion dollar advertising, bottling, and alcohol manufacturing industries. Further, doing something constructive about drug abuse would threaten the multi-billion dollar substance abuse and law enforcement industries.  So the role alcohol plays in American violence is generally downplayed during public discussions of crime and violence.

 As for learning to survive gunfights, the most important rule to remember is that only Superman is faster than a speeding bullet. No amount of training can change this. So you are living dangerously if you point a firearm, loaded or otherwise, at anyone you do not wish to kill. Yet the pastime remains popular in the United States. Firearms are involved in a quarter of all violent assaults in the United States, and are the instruments of death in over half of all North American homicides.

 Whether firearms are useful for deterring violent crime is hotly debated. The answer appears to depend mainly on which crime we are trying to deter. For example, using firearms to deter burglars is not recommended, mainly because burglars generally strike when no one is home. Similarly, waving a firearm at your spouse during a domestic quarrel is hardly likely to stop the argument. Nor will it deter future quarrels. So, unless you intend to kill your spouse, it is better to run next door and call your minister or social worker than it is to point your favorite firearm at him or her.

 Firearms are also of doubtful value for deterring rapes. After all, most women don't routinely carry loaded guns into the boardroom or bedroom. Yet these are the places where most rapes occur. So while violence may be an appropriate response to a sexual assault, teeth, fingernails, and knees are more available (and probably appropriate) weapons of self-defense.

 Finally, man-portable firearms have very limited value for deterring the legal violence that modern governments are capable of using. Even David Koresh's heavily armed Branch Dravidians proved incapable of resisting tanks. So, for most North Americans, hand-held videocameras and legal action provide a better defense against governmental abuses than firearms, of any size or caliber.

 This said, the following are more in-depth studies of various categories of violent crime.

 Spouse abuse is the most common crime of violence in the United States. Government statistics published in 1990 suggested that about 10 percent of United States females was annually beaten, raped, or killed by the man with whom she was living.

 The statistical average spouse abuser is an alcoholic male. Beyond this, he has no distinguishing characteristics. He comes from all races, creeds, and political persuasions. He may be rich. He may be poor. And he often says that he loves his spouse or girlfriend very much.

 Accordingly, he is hard to recognize, and often harder to avoid. Public embarrassment sometimes deters him. Family counseling and substance detoxification sometimes cure him. But usually they don't.

 So remember this. If your spouse, lover, child, or friend beat you once, then probably he will beat you again. (Like the very next time that he gets drunk.) Further, if he ever points a firearm at you, then there is a decent chance that he will someday use that same firearm to shoot you. (Firearms are involved in about two-thirds of all American homicides.) And if you decide to shoot him first, good luck in court. (North American courts are notoriously harder on women accused of killing abusive husbands than they are on men accused of raping or beating their wives.)

 So either get professional counseling and a court order, or use the door and take your chances on the street, or wear heavy makeup and take frequent days off, and live every day in fear. The choice is yours, and I can't help you make it.

 But for myself, I'd choose the door, thank you very much.


 Assaults are more common among friends, relatives, and acquaintances than among strangers. That is, the people you owe money to, or whose sexual partners you are dating, are more likely to punch you in the nose than are the strangers on the street. This said, people tend to worry more about the strangers on the street. So let's look at the statistical average mugger.

 The statistical average mugger is a white male aged fourteen to thirty-four. He has a police record. He has drunk several alcoholic beverages within hours of committing his assault. His targets are chosen carefully, and are generally from his own race and economic class.

 His attacks normally occur from unexpected angles. (The etymology of the word "mugging" refers to the look of shock on the victim's face.) His chief weapons are speed, shock, and graphic profanity. (Outside the movies, muggers rarely armed. Partly it is that weapons increase the mugger's risk of long jail sentences. But mainly, it is that practice has taught muggers that they do not need weapons to be successful.)

 The mugger's success is based on an instinctive knowledge of human physiological responses to surprises. According to David Bodanis, the body reacts to shock as follows:

Your eyelids slowly, flutteringly, begin to close, the lashes bending back in the wind from the move. Then the head starts laboriously tipping forward, and the outer tips of the shoulders tighten in rippling muscular waves and begin to mysteriously rise up in the air. The abdomen flattens inward, as if in a deep, powerful breath, while the entire torso buckles forward in an impossible, ridiculous, formal tuxedo bow.

Each one of your fingers starts to unerringly straighten out from the hand, and the elbows start accelerating in a drunken, unwieldy flight away out from the body. The entire spectacle wheezes slowly lower to the ground, as the kneecap pushes forward, the whole joint of the knee goes with it, and the legs get cranked angularly in the direction of a pre-hopping crouch.

Everybody does it the same way. Even a seven-month embryo in the womb will jolt out the main points of the startle response if it's stroked with a thread over the eyes; even a fervent terrorist holding an AK-47 can let it drop as the startle reflex starts him flailing .

 Completing these involuntary reactions takes about .25 seconds.  Yet their completion does not mean that you may now begin responding appropriately to the threat. Far from it.

 Instead, during the next half second, your nose, genitals, and stomach start to turn pale. Then your face and hands turn clammy and cold and your sweat glands start pumping musk. Finally, your eyeballs spin sightlessly for about .28 seconds before zeroing in on your attacker's eye sockets.

 In all, three-quarters of a second have passed. In three-quarters of a second, professional shooters would already be reloading their second magazines. Professional boxers would be starting the sixth or seventh blow of their standard eight punch patterns. And your mugger's arms and shoulders would be recovering his Louisville Slugger from its blow to your head, if hitting you in the head with a Louisville Slugger had been his plan.

 So, if faced unexpectedly by a mugger, be grateful if you are not seriously injured, and work mainly on recovering your aplomb. It helps to breathe deeply, slowly, and regularly, and concentrating your mind on staying calm and centered.

 Only when and if you have accomplished this self-calming should you consider doing anything else. Even then, you probably should consider doing the following things instead of fighting:

  Focus your eyes and your attention on your attacker. If you look away, he may think that you don't respect him. This perceived disrespect may cause him to hurt you.
  Stay calm. Many attackers feed on fear, so your calmness may also calm them.
  Within reason, do what your attacker tells you to do. The initiative is his, not yours.
  Don't get smart with your attacker. Instead, be respectful and polite. It may save you from injury, and you can always get smart later if it doesn't.
  Don't offer the attacker anything he doesn't ask you for. If he wants your watch or sex, he'll ask. And when he does ask for something, either give it to him without complaint or kill him on the spot. You really have no other viable alternatives.
 If you decide to fight, remember that all opponents are dangerous, especially if you have somehow backed them into psychological or literal corners.  So look intimidated and passive until the instant that you have run out of options. Then go for the throat, literally. It is the single most vulnerable target on the human body.  But once you have started this attack, you can't stop. For you have just raised the stakes, and made it a matter of life-and-death instead of a mere economic transaction.

 This brings up another point. Fighting is intimate, and involves more swapping of blood-and-spit than is customary even for honeymooners. So if swapping blood and spit with strangers offends you, then avoid fighting at any cost. Also remember that even victories have a price. For example, your knuckles may swell where you hit the other person's bones while your post-traumatic dreams may be filled with images of bulging eyeballs and arterial bleeding. And this does not even begin to consider the resulting lawsuits. Even criminals have rights, and by killing or maiming your attacker, you may have illegally deprived him or her of those rights. So, to be safe, avoid and deescalate potentially violent situations whenever you can, and resort to violence only after all lesser means of self-defense have failed.


 Sexual assaults are more common than either muggings or fist-fights. While both males and females can be the victims of sexual assaults, and while both males and females can be the predator, males are the most frequent (and most violent) sexual predators.

 Adult females are most often victimized by power rapists. The physical domination of their victims motivates power rapists. Threats instead of actual violence generally achieve the desired effects. Power rapists are hard to convict, for there is little physical evidence of their crime.

 Anger rapists are the second most dangerous threat to adult females. Anger rapists are angry with their victims, or at people like their victims. So their attacks use more force than is necessary. For, like vampires, anger rapists thrive on their victims' fear.   Power rapists are easy to convict, for there is physical evidence of their crime, yet their violence is not so frightening as its psychological aftermath.

 Power and anger rapes comprise at least 95 percent of all sexual crimes. So, Hollywood notwithstanding, the least frequent sexual crime is sadistic rape. Sadistic rapists are unusual because they are interested mainly in erotic bondage. When caught, they are invariably punished severely. Unfortunately, sadistic rapists are generally hard to catch. For they often kill or maim their victims during their proceedings.

 Regardless of type, sexual assaults are as likely to happen during the day as during the night. They are more likely to happen in the victim's home or another private residence than in the workplace or a dark alley.

 Also, regardless of when or where they occur, less than a third of all sexual assaults are ever reported. The reason is partly embarrassment, partly social stigma, and mainly the fear of being disbelieved. There is also firm basis for these fears. For less than 50 percent of reported sexual predators are arrested, and of that 50 percent, fewer than 2 percent ever serve time.

 Since sexual predators are generally people you know (and possibly like), and have no outwardly distinguishing characteristics, your best defense against them is to be known as a hard, tough, vital person who is likely to defend him or herself using any means available.

 Of course, whether you choose to violently resist predators' advances is up to you. However, I suggest that you consider it, as studies have found that people who resist are less likely to be sexually violated. Also, it is my experience that physical bruises heal quicker than psychological bruises.

 Either way, consider the aftermath of the assault during your planning.

 The first and primary objective is to get away. If this involves running stark naked out of your house, so be it. I recommend you try pulling all available fire alarms along the way, as fire alarms tend to attract more attention than burglar alarms or cries of "Rape!"

 Second, once free, give yourself first aid for your physical injuries: stop the bleeding, clear the airway, and treat for shock. However, despite the increased risk of acquiring a bloodborne illenss, do not wash yourself or brush your teeth if you plan on notifying the police of the attack. The reason is that the crime investigators will need all the evidence they can get to prove that a crime was committed, and washing will remove it.

 Third, go to the hospital.  You may have just acquired a sexually-transmitted disease, or taken internal damage.

 Fourth, immediately seek professional counseling. Instead of hanging your head and hiding in shame, swallow your pride and call a Crisis Hotline or your minister. Talk about your problems. Take up some vigorous physical exercise, like running or dancing or the martial arts. Do something good for yourself, like taking a trip to Hawaii or buying some new clothes. You are still a good person. You still deserve good things. So look after yourself. You're still alive and basically healthy, and that's more than many crime victims can say.


 In 1993, there were seventy murders a day in the United States. This made the United States the murder capital of the industrialized world. Still, in real terms, the United States' homicide rates were somewhat lower than they were during the 1930s, and considerably lower than they were during the 1870s.

 The United States also had three kinds of statistical average murderers, and none of them was Charley Manson.

 About 50 percent of the statistical average killers were African American males aged fifteen to twenty-four years of age. These killers' victims were generally other black males aged fifteen to twenty-four. The killers' reasons ranged from kicks to gang rivalries, but generally focused on honor, reputation, and business arrangements gone bad.

 About 42 percent of the convicted killers were white males. These killers had generally been convicted of murdering their wives or live-in girlfriends, and were aged fifteen to twenty-four years.

 Finally, about 8 percent of the convicted killers were female. These women were of all ages and races. Their victims were either their infant children, whom they beat to death, or the men with whom they were living, whom they shot to death with their own guns.


 Statistically speaking, North Americans appear to face greater risk of violence from their family and friends than they do from strangers. So protecting yourself from crime does not mean that you have to carry guns or learn karate. Instead, it means choosing your lovers carefully, learning to manage your stress, and respecting yourself, other people, and different ways of life and opinions equally.

JNC Nov 1999.