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The First Step In Defense Against Rape

Of late my focus has been on family issues with kids and self defense. So it may come as a shock to some that I’m going to take a hard left turn for a moment and talk about something a little awkward, maybe a little messy and far less straight and narrow.

Sex and self defense.

Yup! We’re going there.

The Victim

News flash, for those of you who might be new to the blog: I’m a rape and sexual abuse survivor. This year was twelve years since my last rape. There were times before that. There was other sexual abuse before that. Many times. By many different men.

To say that I had a messed up sexual beginning would be an understatement. The decisions I made to get into some of the most abusive relationships of my life sprang from a viscous cycle of abuse, feelings of my self-worth being directly related to my sexuality, low self-esteem, fear, confusion over what I wanted vs what others wanted and the inability to stand up for myself.

From a very early age I learned that, “no” meant nothing to some people and it seemed to go a lot quicker and quieter if a victim simply consented to being a victim. I stopped trying to tell people no.

That mindset kept me a victim for the majority of my childhood up through middle school and high school. It kept me spiraling down a black hole of abuse, bouncing off a debris of twisted men until I landed on the bottom and into the arms of someone who wasn’t content with my placid indifference to him.

It wasn’t enough for him to just have me. He needed to hurt me. And he hurt me very badly.

It’s hard to describe a life-changing moment. The images of light bulbs turning on or windows opening doesn’t seem to do it justice. Not when you’re lying in a bed, covered in bruises and staring at a sky you never thought you’d see again. When you’re thankful to be alive in a very raw, real and literal way. But also knowing that it was your life decisions (or lack thereof) that put you in that place.

No, it wasn’t my fault I was raped. I didn’t make him beat me. I didn’t ask to be choked. I didn’t want what happened to me and I reject the fault for that, but I set myself up by not avoiding guys like him. I didn’t shut him down when he approached me even though I had zero interest in him in any way. My ambiguity about what I wanted and what I didn’t want and my inability to express those differences left me open to him deciding what direction the relationship would take. And he took it to his garage with a chain around my neck.

Had I shut him down the moment he showed up he would have moved on to another victim. Someone else just like me. But not me.

And then there was that moment.

Looking at the sky I thought I’d never see again, feeling ecstasy at the illusion of the newness of my life, I felt dread at the reality and awareness that if I continued on this road it would absolutely kill me.

The man who raped me wouldn’t be the last. The last wouldn’t be the worst. It might not be the next time or the next man but eventually I would end up with someone who controlled me like he did, someone who abused me and eventually beat me. Instead of letting me go, this person would marry me and just like every other man before him I would be unable to say, “no.” I would be his property and when I was never good enough, never sexy enough, never faithful enough, never sorry enough, he would kill me.

And there it was. The totality of my future in one of the most painful, frightening and beautiful moments of my life. It wasn’t a light bulb. It wasn’t an open window. It was awareness. It was honesty. It was taking responsibility for my role in my life or what would be left of it if I didn’t change.

That was my “no more” moment–my “never again.” The first step on that road was changing myself.

Victim Blaming Or Honesty?

Talking about sexual abuse, rape and victims is a lot like walking a tight rope with a wet cat in each arm in the middle of a hurricane. You are bound to fall and despite your best efforts someone is going to misunderstand your message as victim blaming or perpetuating a rape culture (whatever that means).

One of the most honest conversations we should be having is turning into a sham. A ruse where we confuse between being smart and taking responsibility with blaming and being some sort of rapist sympathizer.

I’m not going to mince words and if you can’t understand what I’m about to say then that is your disconnect, not mine. I do not, in any way, condone rape. I believe the sole individual who is responsible for the actions of rape and sexual abuse is the rapist or the abuser. They should incur the full wrath of the courts, society, media and everything else we can throw at them.

It is never the fault of the victim for being raped or sexually abused. Living a certain lifestyle, wearing a certain type of clothes, drinking, partying, being in a particular relationship does not mean that one deserves to be raped or abused. It does not excuse the animals who take advantage of those people. There should be a special place in hell reserved for people who say things like, “She (or he) deserved it.”

Common Sense

Today, I read an article titled, “Why is Common Sense ‘Blaming the Victim’?” (Please read the link, it’s very good). It asks some pretty reasonable questions about how taking common sense approaches and having common sense discussion about avoiding a violent crime like rape are being misconstrued as victim blaming.

The horror of it all is that, when we shift the conversation from practical means of avoiding a violent crime to the narrative that we should be able to do whatever we want and not have to acknowledge the risks, we set up a bunch of young women for failure.

We tell them there is no personal responsibility for safety even when we expect people to take that responsibility in many other areas of their lives.

Something else the author touched on in his piece was responsibility of taking charge of your sexual desires.

But there’s a troubling psychological reason that young women binge drink: they’re anxious. They’re self-conscious. They’re uncomfortable with the sexual expectations they face (or think they face) in party situations. They expect themselves to participate in sexual activities they may not want to do—or that they can’t admit to themselves that they want to do. Either way, alcohol strips young women of inhibitions that can feel quite inconvenient.

And so they drink so much that they become vulnerable. Unable to assess risk accurately. Unable to intervene in situations when they want to. Unable to say “I want X,” unable to say “I don’t want Y.” These disabilities are the logical climax of deliberately disabling their inhibitions—all so they can cope with their ambivalence, inability to communicate, and self-enforced isolation about sexuality.

If our young women find sex so simultaneously desirable yet unnerving that they have to get semi-conscious to give themselves permission to participate, there’s a serious problem we should be addressing. This is NOT anyone’s license to rape them; being anxious and drinking to cope with anxiety does NOT mean you deserve to be raped.

But a little self-honesty would go a long way here.

The Sexual Survivor

And there it is.

One of the hardest parts of being a sexual survivor was figuring out what kind of sex I liked and what I didn’t. Most of my sexual experiences, positions, discussions, or interaction were introduced to me in my childhood through some form of sexual abuse, forced sexual encounter or rape.

Part of determining to start my life anew was to take that back.

I refused to allow my abuse let me have a lifetime of negative associations with something that was supposed to be one of the most awesome, pleasureful experiences of a human being’s life on earth.

Wiping that slate clean was a lot like trying to wipe permanent market off a white board. No matter how hard you scrub, the residue was still there.. is still there. It never goes away completely but you can clean it up to the point where the real message gets through and you really have to look hard to see the mess behind it.

I was resolute and in that resolution I learned something very important: my taking control over my own sexuality and what I liked and what I didn’t like was the very first step in protecting myself against ever being raped again.

Not knowing what I wanted and didn’t want wasn’t fair to me and it wasn’t fair to anyone I would later be with. It was also far too confusing to try to figure out in the context of who might be abusing or taking advantage of whom.

If I’m sending out all of the “go” signals and have sex but later regret my decision because I did something that maybe I didn’t want to do was I raped? Was I not? What if I want to do it but don’t particularly want to do it with that guy but I want to do it so I do it anyway? Was I raped? Am I taking advantage of him or is he taking advantage of me? Are we both taking advantage of each other?

How could I tell the difference?

I decided the first step was learning and being exceptionally clear about what I wanted and what I didn’t want. Those who were not rapists would respect my wishes. Those who were would not. If I agreed to try something and decided it wasn’t for me a non-rapist would acknowledge that and be okay with the change in schedule. A rapist would not.

It was that simple.

Maybe not easy, but definitely simple.

I had a lot of fun figuring that out. And I’m not ashamed of it. I can’t be. I refuse to be.

I come from a particular upbringing that says I should be. That good girls don’t have unmarried sex and they certainly shouldn’t enjoy it. They certainly don’t write about it!

My ability to be prudish about my sex life seemed to be abruptly altered the first time someone stuck his penis in me while I cried.

I needed to take that back. I did. I am a decisive, sexual survivor. And I’ve never been raped again. My wish is that other women might be able to make those decisions for themselves. That includes if they want to abstain from sex completely.

Does that mean that once women embrace their sexuality we will be free from rape? No. I am not that naive, nor that stupid. There will still be sexual predators in this world waiting to prey on the vulnerable. There will still be shame and guilt. We will still have to teach the next step in this evolution which is avoidance, escape and ultimately physical defense from someone who might try to attack you. But we can definitely start by getting rid of the ambiguity in our own lives.

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Dear Gun Manufacturers: Make Me A Gun!

Dear Gun Manufacturers: Make Me A Gun!

I love that gun manufacturers are starting to really give us little people what we need.

With concealed carry booming and available in all fifty states of our union, with national reciprocity of some sorts on the horizon (it’s going to happen, people!) and the continued surge of female carriers and shooters the need for full-size, double-stack combat pistols is going to be met by the need of compact pistols that people can carry concealed but also shoot well.

Ahh.. shoot well.

There it is. The operative phrase.

Shoot. Well.

Let’s not mince words, there are hundreds of compact carry pistols on the market. I could go to a gun store today and pick up a P3AT or an LCP or a S&W Shield or Bodyguard or a Kahr PM9. I could go even smaller if I wanted to cut caliber or more capacity and potentially increasing my displeasure at the range. I could also go slightly larger and find a far more comfortable shooting gun and struggle with concealment.

The problem is (and well known) that many of the best carry guns are notoriously hard to shoot. Okay, the Shield isn’t bad (it’s actually quite good), but there are still people who do not find it easy to shoot.

We NEED a missing link. I’m stressing need here because I’m going to be addressing the needs of many people (men and women) all over the industry.

I am a small female and I’m not the only one. I’m also not the only one who has small hands or prefers single stack firearms. There are thousands upon thousands of women and men, like me, who have been begging and pleading for smaller-framed firearms that fit better in the grip and hand. You have answered the call by making single-stack 9mms! Thank you!

But for some reason you’ve assumed that means we have to have short barrels, too. That’s not necessarily so.

We all know that the lighter and more compact the firearm the more recoil the shooter needs to control and absorb. For individuals who already have lesser upper body strength, small hands or disabilities like arthritis this makes compact pistols intimidating and hard to control. Even if they love the gun for its size they shy away from shooting it or muscle through it for the sake of training to end up with sore elbows and wrists and arms. Not to mention we all know that longer sight radii help with accuracy.

Where are the small-frame, single stack, long-slide firearms that don’t come in the form of 1911s or also have long grips?

Glock 43 vs a S&W Shield

Glock 43 vs a S&W Shield

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my Shield. It’s a great carry gun and the best compact 9mm I’ve ever shot. I will likely end up with a Glock 43 in my arsenal as well. I might even carry both. At the same time!

But I (and others) would pay good money for a S&W M&P 9mm Shield with a 4″ barrel (particularly threaded so that I might be able to add weight to the end for better recoil management, but I’ll start with a standard barrel, thankyouverymuch). I would also love for the grip to remain the same length but with options for larger/longer magazines. This way I could still carry the 4″ model if I wanted to (because it’s the grip that is hardest to conceal, not the barrel) but I could still compete and practice with a 9 or 10 round magazine.

Glock, if you’re listening, how about a 44? Please? A G19 length barrel with a G43 frame… that’s all I’m asking (oh, and larger capacity magazines with sleeves but baby steps).

Pretty Please? I would rock that.

Forever Yours,
Melody Lauer

The Value of Training in Dollars and Sense

The Value of Training in Dollars and Sense

This blog post isn’t for you. It’s for me. If you happen to take this ride with me you may or may not learn something. If you do learn something, tell me what it is. This isn’t a vent or rant. It’s just something that I’ve been discussing with several of my instructor friends and something I wanted to get onto the proverbial paper.

What does it take to attend quality firearms training and why would someone do it?

This year is going to be my most intensive training year to date.

Escaping from zip ties from behind using a paracord saw in the Unthinkable class.

Escaping from zip ties from behind using a paracord saw in the Unthinkable class.

Already this year I have been to Ohio for Unthinkable and down to Memphis for the Tactical Conference. In June I’m off to Washington State for an Instructor Development Course with Kathy Jackson and in July I’m sitting in on another instructor Development course in Iowa. Then it’s down to Virginia in September for Advanced Tactical Handgun with Ernest Langdon and the very next week I’m off to Oklahoma to attend an Advanced Instructor course with Tom Givens. Then, I have another defensive pistol class in November? Somewhere in all that I have to reserve our spots in next years’ Tactical Conference before all the tickets sell out and start reserving my places in next years training events.

I’m super thrilled. I’m also freaking out. How am I going to pay for all of this?

No lie. I’m running on faith a little here.

I think I’ve had people assume that just because I take my training seriously and attend training we’re somehow wealthy.

Yes, we have a training budget but that budget is usually maxed at about 2-3 classes. In case you weren’t keeping count, I’m scheduled for five more classes in addition to the two I’ve already attended this year. 

The fact of the matter is we are solidly middle class Americans who aren’t as wealthy as we are lucky and creative. We have the same considerations any other family has to face. Childcare, travel expenses, time. 

To go to Ohio we had to pull in some favors and do some bartering for time and money particularly where child care is concerned.

The hoops we’ve jumped through already to get to the Tactical Conference are pretty crazy when you think of them from a purely economical stand point including driving a total of 300 miles out of our way and adding two days on to our trip to find a care provider for our kids. Yes, there was the added benefit of spending some time with some great friends and they greatly lightened the burden of the expenses by putting us up for two nights and watching our kids.

Shooting bowling pins at 30 yards at Partner Tactics.

Shooting bowling pins at 30 yards at Partner Tactics.

I’ve enjoyed other help along the way that leaves me struggling to express my gratitude.

I’m graciously at the mercy of strangers who will be picking me up from airports, allowing me to room with them in hotels to split costs or even crash on their couches.

Right now I’m sitting down to amend our budget again for any and every last drop.

Why?

Because some time in 2012 I decided I wanted to earn my way to a place  where I could give back in some way. Knowledgeable, experienced instructors (particularly female) are getting harder to find and are becoming diluted amongst the deluge of inexperienced and not-so-knowledgeable instructors.

That isn’t a slam to anyone, just a fact.

I’ve set my goal to being a Vicki Farnam or Kathy Jackson or Lynn Givens. The problem has become that this investment seems to demand so much sometimes with no return in sight.

Not when people say things like, “That costs too much,” or “I wish it were closer.”

It may be easy to assume that people in the training industry only push training because they want to fill their classes and make money. I have yet to meet a single instructor who feels that way. Of cours the money would be nice but the people I know in the training industry commonly undersell their classes, give way too much of their time, donate hours upon hours, spend weeks away from their families all for the singular goal of preparing people to defend themselves.

They do anything they can to make it accessible to the common man or woman only to be rejected.

Shooting an attack target in IDPA.

Shooting an attack target in IDPA.

Very few instructors actually make a living from the training they provide.

“Come to Virginia!”

“I have a class in Lynchburg on the 23rd.”

“That’s an hour away. I can’t attend.” “I can’t find a babysitter.” “I’ve never been away from my children that long.” “Saturday is our family day and I don’t want to take that time away from them.”  “That costs too much.”

It’s often not considered that the people providing training are taking time away from their families, possibly finding babysitters, traveling just as far or farther than you and making next to nothing for their efforts.

Like I said, this isn’t a rant. or a vent. It’s just the way it is and it’s not going to change. Not any time soon at least. And not without a realignment in what a majority of people think about training.

Instead of thinking of it as an investment or a need or a priority it’s often thought of as a box to check, a luxury or a recreation.

Make no mistake about it, training can be fun but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s frustrating or embarrassing, exhausting and hard work. Many times it does nothing more than highlight how much more training you need.

Shooting from unusual positions in Extreme Close Quarters.

Shooting from unusual positions in Extreme Close Quarters.

In my “other job” I’m an EMT. That job requires so many hours of continuing education in order to stay certified. The complaints I hear at medical symposium and classes are the same I hear in regards to firearms training with a select difference. The people in the medical classes have to be there. The consequence in not attending is forfeiting their licenses. They gripe about having to find babysitters, they whine about how much they’d rather be mowing their lawn or attending a barbecue but they are more invested in being able to recertify than they are in their free time. Magically, they find a way to attend. They drive the hours, they get the hotel rooms, they make it work. Because they have to.

I don’t believe in requiring people to take firearms training but I do believe that people should set themselves the same standards and think of training as something they must do rather than something that is optional.

I’m looking at my training schedule and my investment and wondering if I’ll ever see a return on it in the financial sense of the word. Probably not. But that’s not what I’m looking for. I’m looking for a security return from my students.

From a consumer standpoint I’m investing in my ability to effectively defend myself in a time of need. That’s something I must do. The stakes are too high.

And because I must do it I will find a way to pay for it. I’ll go over my budget again and find a way. I will compromise my own comfort and free time to attend. I will spend a month pumping milk for my son so I can leave him with a babysitter. It’s not something I want to do (well, not entirely. No lie. There’s some want). It’s something I must do.

Force on Force at the Tactical Conference

Force on Force at the Tactical Conference

The AIWB Holster Hack

The AIWB Holster Hack

I’ve been carrying Appendix Inside-the-Waistband (AIWB) for almost six months now. The only holster I’ve used has been the Keeper Errand which I reviewed some time ago. I have found no reason to go away from Keeper’s fine holster.

My much abused foam wedge compared to the gel insert.

My much abused foam wedge compared to the gel insert.

One of the awesome things about Spencer’s holster is the foam wedge that helps pad the holster, cushion it for comfort and support an ideal carry position. For the most part, his foam holster wedges did a really good job of making AIWB carry that much more comfortable and convinced me they were a great addition to the AIWB way of carry.

However, after losing 10 lbs in the last few months I found the foam wedge not doing much to pad the holster. Not to mention the foam wedge only covered the tip of the holster, not the rest of the back where I needed more padding against my pelvic bone. The first wedge wore out (foam does that) and I was just about to change it to the next wedge when I went to the range. That trip changed my AIWB carry forever!

I have awesome ear pro! The muffs aren’t foam padded they are gel padded and even wearing glasses underneath of them is no problem. The gel forms a perfect seal around my ear and doesn’t leave pressure points or hot spots. That got me thinking. Could there be something similar for an AIWB holster?

So, off I went to walmart to look at shoe inserts. And there, descended from the heavens of the AIWB gods, were Dr Scholl’s Massaging Heel Cushions.

At $5.50, there was no reason not to try them.

Men's and women's heel cushions and Industrial strength Velcro. Less than $10 at you're local walmart.

Men’s and women’s heel cushions and Industrial strength Velcro. Less than $10 at you’re local walmart.

Not wanting to whip out my holster to check which size I would need, men’s or women’s, I bought both along with a box of industrial-strength Velcro.

If you carry an AIWB holster, this is pretty much the best thing you can ever do in the way of comfort and cushioning.

The women's size 6-10 is the perfect fit for the Keeper Errand.

The women’s size 6-10 is the perfect fit for the Keeper Errand.

The women’s size 6-10 might as well have been custom fit for the Keeper Errand holster. It fits like a glove.

Not only do they have the wedge shape that is great for AIWB that keeps it in ideal place for carry but they also have a wrap-around support meant for a heel that is perfect for protecting a wearer’s skin from the rough and pinching edges of kydex.

The back of the Keeper Errand is already covered in soft Velcro for the foam wedges so all I needed to do was carefully place the hook-side of the Velcro to the inside of the gel heel cushions and stick it to the holster.

Not only is it far softer and cushier, the increase in surface area of the heel cushions to the holster vs the foam wedge significantly increases the overall comfort all the way up the back of the holster vs one spot.

Men's size 8-10 fits perfect on the JM Custom Kydex.

Men’s size 8-10 fits perfect on the JM Custom Kydex.

That evening, when my husband got home from work, I asked him to try it. He was amazed by how much more comfortable it was and asked me to do the same mod to his JM Custom Kydex AIWB holster. His holster has a larger footprint and, as fate would have it, the men’s heel cushion was the perfect size for his holster.

A quick application of Velcro to the cushion and the holster and he was rocking his own AIWB Lima-mod. another thing he noticed was the stickiness of the gel keeps the holster form shifting and even helps keep undershirts tucked in. Another added benefit.

Because it’s attached with Velcro its easily customizable to your needs to cover any hot spots and being a sturdy gel it will far out-last any other cushions you could hope to add to something so well-used as a holster.

If you carry AIWB, this might be something to check out.

Oh, by the way, you’re welcome!

A little added Velcro and ready to install.

A little added Velcro and ready to install.

Pressure on the holster wraps the gel around the holster for more cushioning around the sides.

Pressure on the holster wraps the gel around the holster for more cushioning around the sides.

Look at all that padding!

Look at all that padding!

Karl Rehn and Caleb Causey’s Low Light Force-On-Force

Karl Rehn and Caleb Causey’s Low Light Force-On-Force

In my overview of the 2015 Rangemaster Tactical Conference I said that I was focusing on “action based” blocks of instruction. Having taken time off to have yet another baby I wanted to use my time at the Tac Conference to gauge what I’m retaining, what I’m learning, what I’ve overlearned, what I need to work on and where I need to focus my training efforts going forward. It’s hard to do that without action-based assessments.

Karl Rehn and Caleb Causey’s Low Light Force-On-Force was not only an assessment of low light tactics but also incorporated medical scenarios. Being an EMT I was excited for the opportunity to practice and be assessed in some of the trauma skills I have been trained in but blessedly don’t have much opportunity to use.

I’d heard a lot about both Karl Rehn and Caleb Causey from other instructor friends but this was my first time meeting or training with either of them. Karl has extensive experience running force and force and Caleb is a veteran combat medic who now teaching civilians the principles of providing trauma care in hostile environments.

This would be a new experience for me. The few traumas due to violence I’ve responded to in my capacity as an EMT have all been secured prior to entry by law enforcement. The only potential criminals I’ve treated have been in handcuffs with a sheriff’s deputy standing over both of us. I’ve never had to provide both security and medical treatment or to pick priority between the two.

The class could only take 15 participants but we snuck a 16th under the door because he was a local officer who brought his own airsoft gear. The class opened with introductions and then Caleb asked how many of us carry medical gear with us everywhere we go. There were a few people who said they keep it in their car but as far as I could tell I was the only one who professed I carried it with me everywhere.

I don’t think Caleb believed me. He told me he wanted to see my bag and how I carried it and I welcomed him to do just that. In fact, I was hoping to get his take on my kit anyway to see if there was anything I needed to add or change. I can now proudly say that my med kit is Caleb Causey approved!

Karl ran the make up of the scenarios while Caleb ran the medical portions. All of the scenarios would be blind but with the same basic scene. The scene was set up as though there were a massive power outage. You were exiting your place of work into a parking garage that had automatic locks so you couldn’t retreat back into the building. Cell phones did not work and at the end of the parking garage was your car and the street. Karl would pull out a few people, take them aside and give them instructions, turn off the lights and the welcome the participants into the scene, usually in groups of threes. Injuries were indicated with strips and pieces of bright orange duck tape. Not all participants were armed and not every scenario was a fight or shooting scenario.

Those not involved as roll players were allowed to stand aside in a predetermined area in the room and watch but could not interfere in any way.

The first group of three walked into a pitch black room where four individuals were fighting. As soon as they came in, two of the individuals ran off and what was left was a man lying on the floor, unmoving, and a woman running around frantically screaming for help for her loved one.

Two of the participants had recently gone through a tactical combat medical class and while not entirely versed in the concept of triage, did quite well with their assessment and treatment of both the man on the floor and the woman who, it was later discovered, was shot in the chest.

The scenario brought up concepts like triage and focusing treatment on outcomes you can change and allocating resources and making advanced decisions about getting help vs staying and treating. When it came time to move the patients it became quite obvious to many that moving dead weight humans is a lot harder than most people anticipate and deciding to move someone vs calling in help may be an important advanced decision to make.

The next scenario had three individuals walking into an ambush. All three of them were shot–one in the upper thigh, one in the strong hand and one in the belly. Their med bag was stolen and they had to clear the area.

Had this scenario been real life it wouldn’t have boded well for any of them. None of them had medical training and clearing the room to find their med bag was difficult due to a lack of tactics and application of using lights and cover. When they did get their med bag they had to take the additional time to attempt to read the instructions on the back of packages on how to use the medical gear, all with injuries and while one of their participants bled to death. The scenario was ended early to walk through how it could have gone and to drive home the lessons of seeking training in medical skills and movement and off-hand shooting.

This scenario was designed to show the need for a security priority but also to use everyone for that means of security. We also talked about setting up a secured location where even the wounded can provide security and using cover and concealment.

When it came time for “my” scenario I was told that I’m walking to my car with my two friends. Neither of them have medical training and neither of them are armed but they both know that I’m armed. I sighed. I pretty much knew what was coming.

I was told my med kit was in the car and we were sent into the room.

Right away one of my companions blasts out ahead of us to “the car” while myself and my other companion are taking our time. Just about the time we come to our first corner, I hear her get into a tussle. She’s yelling, and there’s some popping from the airsoft guns and I push my companion behind me and into a nook behind cover, turn off my flashlight and draw my gun.

I hear, “Oh Shit,” ring out from the darkness.

It’s completely dark for a few moments. There’s no sound and no movement and I’m trying to take some time to think about what to do next. In many of the scenarios, once the initial violence was done the bad guys ran off. The bad guy could have run off or he or they (I didn’t know how many there were) could be waiting for me. My companion could be shot or hurt and needing help. Either way, help and rescue are forward and I have to move out of my relatively good position.

I step out from behind cover and turn on my light again and the moment I do the officer who brought his own air soft gear flies around the corner and shoots me in the leg while I shoot at him. I don’t know if I got any hits on him.

Caleb pauses the scenario and says, “Ok, well you weren’t supposed to be doing this so well so let’s just fast forward this and just say you are up here by the car,” he moves me into position, “and shot here” he puts a piece of tape on my left arm, “here” on my left upper thigh, ” and here” on my left upper chest. “You are having difficulty breathing and cannot stand. Go.”

I lay down on the floor, take a moment to collect myself and tell companion number 1 to go for help. He leaves to do that while I ask companion number 2 to bring me the med bag and I start walking her through treating me in order of importance. Apparently because I was helping too much Caleb then decided that I’d also been shot in my upper right arm and tells me that I now cannot speak for 20 seconds.

I’m lying on the floor, spread eagle, not able to talk or use any of my limbs and my companions are supposed to have no medical training. Goodbye, cruel world.

When Caleb told me I could talk again I had her put the med bag on my chest and show me everything in the bag one item at a time. When I identified what I wanted I talked her through applying it to include putting a tourniquet on my leg, a chest seal on my chest, searching my back for any exit wounds, putting a pressure bandage on my right upper arm and holding pressure on my left arm until help arrived.

At that point I was pretty thankful for the loads of “bystander” scenarios we did in EMT school where we had to direct clueless bystanders.

This scenario was supposed to illustrate the short-sightedness of people who say things like, “Well, my friend is armed,” or “My friend is a medic, if anything happens, we’ll just let you take care of it.” If your armed medic goes down, you might be up a creek without a paddle.

The scenario was also meant to illustrate to me the difficulty in “treating through a barrier” which is a medic having to direct someone else in providing care vs doing it themselves. In a high stress environment, trying to explain to a frightened individual what to do and get them to understand things they’ve never had to do before can be quite challenging. Placing a tourniquet or even identifying a tourniquet or defining what a windlass is can be maddeningly frustrating. It’s frustrating enough without real blood and pain and nerves. It can be fatal otherwise.

I hadn’t heard her but when my companion ran ahead of me and was accosted by the bad guy she had screamed out, “She has a gun!”

Going dark when I heard the commotion was exactly the thing to do but I exposed myself and gave away my position when I turned my flashlight back on and that directly led to me getting shot.

Flashing and moving or staying behind cover and flashing and moving to another piece of cover would have been far better for me. I need to work on my movement between cover and concealment and using my flashlight.

The next two scenarios were more along the lines of teaching wound priority and just because someone is making the most noise doesn’t mean they are the most wounded and not everyone who needs help is a good guy.

Each of the scenarios were built to illustrate a vital point and not a single one of us went away without having learned something very important from the experiences.

My biggest take-aways were security priority, maintaining that security throughout treatment and using that light to your advantage. Scene safety is drilled into anyone who attends EMT training but it means something entirely new when you are in a hostile environment that doesn’t include police officers standing by.

Another thing I found interesting was how fixated we all got during treatment to the point where guns were being completely forgotten. Some of the scenarios would end and people would be left looking around for the gun they were supposed to have during the scenario. I had lost mine because I’d been told I was shot in both arms and to drop it but others would put theirs down to treat, move and completely lose track of them. With security being a priority, keeping track of that firearm is pretty important.

I liked both Karl and Caleb. In addition to being knowledgeable they were both edifying and constructive in their criticisms. It can’t be easy teaching a class with participants from all ranges of skill but they pulled it off nicely, challenging those who needed to be challenge and instructing those who needed instruction and inspiring everyone.

I look forward to taking more training from both Karl and Caleb in the future!

Lima Goes to Hollywood and The Power of the Grey Man

Amidst all the media attention surrounding my Babywearing and Carrying class was a call from CBS’s show, “The Doctors.” They thought my class was interesting and wanted to fly me out to California to talk about it. It took me a few days to get to the place where I decided to take the trip. I said yes on Tuesday, had a travel itinerary on Wednesday night and was on a plane on Thursday.

This is the first solo trip I’ve taken in a very long time to a destination that doesn’t include rendezvousing with friends or family or a firearms class.

No lie, the idea of two days in Hollywood by myself was very appealing though the reminders to be careful started in earnest along with concerns of, “Aren’t you nervous to be traveling by yourself?”

I don’t subscribe to that kind of worry and fear. Lots of people travel by themselves. Lots of females travel by themselves. I’m a pretty secure and confident individual who enjoys doing new things and new experiences.

I was not even worried that I had to leave my gun at home. I don’t have reciprocity in California and while I contemplated bringing my firearm anyway I figured it would be more trouble than it was worth seeing as how I couldn’t carry it (not legally, anyway).

I arrived in downtown Hollywood at around 7 pm local time. I noticed something immediately. I was tragically underdressed. Jeans, t-shirt and flats are as out of costume for Hollywood Blv as if I were dressed in a towel. I was establishing my baseline and already I was not fitting in as a “grey man.”

The head-to-toe glances of the natives made it obvious they recognized me as an outsider.

I was scheduled to go on television the next day so I spent the evening organizing and preparing myself in my hotel room and went to bed at a reasonable time.

The next morning I was up with the sunrise and out to breakfast at 7:30. The diner I chose was right on the Blv and allowed me to watch the people coming and going. In other words, to keep establishing my baseline.

My hotel is on the right. The Chinese Theater on the left.

My hotel is on the right. The Chinese Theater on the left.

The tourists were easy to spot. They got distracted by the names of the stars on the sidewalk, they took pictures of everything. The people who seemed to be local ignored the tourist attractions entirely or pushed the entirety of their belongings around in plastic tubs and shopping carts muttering to themselves.

The blv was practically empty at such an early hour aside from businesses polishing store fronts and setting up kiosks, vagrants milling around, the occasional jogger and hurried individuals dressed business casual, checking cell phones as they hurried off to what I can assume was work. I took that moment to do my tourist thing. Still dressed in flats, jeans and a tank top with no makeup and my hair in a ponytail, armed with hot tea, a knife and pepper spray I walked around taking pictures of the things I found interesting, enjoying the gorgeous weather and being slightly annoyed that absolutely nothing opened before 9 am.

I wasn’t scheduled for pick up until 11:30 so I had lots of time. I looked like a tourist and I knew it. But it was okay. I was a tourist.

When 9 am hit it was like an eruption that spewed people and cars onto the street. They were, literally, bussed in by the dozens. In the course of a half an hour it went from ghost town to shoulder-to-shoulder. With the tourists dressed in t-shirt and jeans and tennis shoes, came the street vendors selling maps and actors dressed like actors trying to entice tourists to tip for pictures.

My status as a tourist was so obvious I was accosted by both a Thor and a spiderman. Vendors hounded me to buy maps and trinkets and take pictures and give hugs. One man followed me for a block telling me I was beautiful and that he had to know “the beautiful redhead.” I found it interesting that he kept asking where I was from. It was clear to him that I was not a native. I fought my way through the crowds to get back to the hotel to get ready for the show.

I spent any time I had left by the hotel pool relaxing. I had been put up in an expensive hotel right on the blv that would not have been common for your average tourist. This allowed me to observe the people who “belonged.” None of them were dressed casually. Even at the pool the women were dressed in heels, their hair and makeup was done and they wore jewelry. Laying out to relax was more of a carefully orchestrated display than resting.

I took note and went off to the show. More on that later.

Even at the studio I took careful note of the staff–the people one could easily peg as local. The males could easily be described as “hipster.” Skinny jeans, graphic t-shirts, wild hair, random piercings and leather jewelry and an occasional hat that never seemed to fit in any form of function. The females, on the other hand, were all wearing heels, dresses and jewelry. There was no one dressed practically despite the hustle.

Upon arriving back at the hotel I wanted to go out again but not be subject to the endless requests to buy or take pictures or answer questions as to where I was from. I wanted to blend in, to be the grey man. My hair and makeup were already done so before leaving I made two very important changes to my wardrobe. I added a pair of comfortable heels and a string of pearls. The things that many would assume would attract more attention.

Heading out for my "grey man" experiment.

Heading out for my “grey man” experiment.

On the contrary. It made me invisible.

Having done all of the picture taking and sight seeing I was also no longer distracted by the sights which freed me to walk directly to and from my destinations with the determination of seasoned locals.

For the next hour of walking on the blv I was left entirely alone. Not a single street vendor or actor-of-actors bothered me. They looked right past me. It was as if I didn’t exist. Even going back to the hotel, the up-and-down glances I’d received when I first arrived were replaced with a passive indifference to my existence simply by changing my shoes and putting on a necklace and not washing my face. Even when I went out to the hotel bar for some more time to relax by the pool with a drink, I was completely ignored.

To continue this social experience, the next day I wore heels and jewelry and did my hair and makeup for my trip home.

In Long Beach I continued to enjoy my new found camouflage. Arriving home to a place where practicality in dress prevails above all things and the only women you see in heels and full makeup on a Saturday are those going to weddings, made me the odd woman out again. The up-and-down glances returned and people stared at me from corner booths wondering who I thought I was being so dressed up.

I live and run in particular circles where practical dress and weaponry are expected. Cover garments, practical shoes and “blending in” mean 5.11 gear and a whole lot of khaki. Women are admonished to wear practical shoes and leave jewelry home that might attract attention. I can no longer say, however, that we can paint a clear picture of what blending in may mean based upon one costume. I’m pretty sure I would consider divorcing my husband if he ever tried to wear skinny jeans and an impractical hat just for the sake of blending in but if putting on a pair of loafers instead of tennis shoes or a graphic t-shirt instead of a button up makes you go from “look at that outsider” to invisible, it may be worth it.

Being an outsider (even if that outsider is practical) draws attention to you and being a grey man may mean balancing a different wardrobe than your used to to keep that attention at bay. Yes, there will be times when you won’t be able to blend in no matter what you do. Race, language, accents, overt cultural differences, limited time to establish norms, can all combine to make it impossible to blend in to some environments. It may also be impractical to completely change your wardrobe by purchasing clothing and items you wouldn’t normally wear for a brief stay. In which case you must accept your outsider status and what comes with that.

Heckling, unwanted attention and even violence can be bestowed on the outsider. Decide for yourself how much you need to change to blend in and whether or not it’s worth it to try. At very least, you may be able to avoid being hugged by Thor.

Reholstering: Balancing Speed and Safety

In The Thing About Holsters I received a comment:

I’m all on board with everything you said except reholstering. If you draw your gun, you drew it because NEED it. Never should there be a moment when you have to quickly reholster. You need to be deliberate and cognizant of your gun, holster and any article of clothing or objects that can wedge their way in front of the trigger especially with the popularity of “safe action triggers” that adorn many of the guns used for self defense. Reholstering quickly, needlessly opens up a relationship between you and a new hole in your body. Putting a gun away = no more threat = no need to ever qickly reholster with your tunnel vision and shaky adrenaline pumped hands.

I find the comment particularly interesting because I only said two things about reholstering in the entire article which were:

Reholstering in that soft-sided holster sure is easy when you’re standing in your bedroom and can take your time to carefully open the mouth with your off-hand with no distractions and nothing else to do. It’s quite a bit different when you’ve just shot someone and have to put your gun away so that you can grab both your kids and move to safety. But your hands are shaking from the adrenaline, you can’t see straight from tunnel vision and you’re scared half to death.

and…

How quickly could you reholster your firearm safely?

I did, indeed, use the “Q” word. That being said, my question was very direct. How quickly could you reholster your firearm safely?

The operative word in that sentence being “safely.”

In the days of old, reholstering quickly was kind of a thing. After a few people put a bullets down their legs trying to beat some sort of speed record some wise people started teaching stopping, looking and then carefully and deliberately holstering our firearms no faster than you can do so safely. This is as it should be. Yet, sometimes this has been interpreted as meaning we shouldn’t reholster at all under stress or that it absolutely cannot be done at a quick pace and safely.

Recently, I attended the Rangemaster Tactical Conference and I attended a block of instruction that was low light force on force incorporating medical scenarios. It was pretty interesting to see what people were doing with their guns after the actual shooting was over. Lots of them kept them out so they could continue to secure the scene but once it was established that shooting was no longer necessary, lots of people put their guns on the ground to start the medical portion of the scenario. Some lost track of them completely, distracted by the new tasks.

What happens if you have to grab a wounded loved one and move? What if someone is coming on scene you don’t know? Do you really want your gun laying on the ground for them to potentially grab?

As I said in the original article. What if you want to get out of there but need both hands to extract children? Where’s the best place for your gun?

When talking about how to avoid getting shot by responding officers in something like an active shooter event, lots of instructors recommend reholstering the gun to get it out of sight but so that it’s still accessible should another event arise.

Just yesterday I was talking to some of my instructor friends on Facebook about some good ways to do one-handed reloads. As one of the instructors commented, “..put it in your gun holder, it’s almost as if they were made to hold guns.”

My point is that your holster is meant to carry your gun. It should be a safe and accessible place to put your gun if you need to put it away long enough to do something else that is also very important. If you need it again it should be just as accessible to draw and then ready to receive the firearm again.

You should be able to repeat this process as often as needed to get the job done. You should be able to do it safely with a relative amount of speed.

Kathy Jackson has some great examples of what some holstering gaffs look like and how to avoid them. I recommend taking a look.

Holsters that do not allow a relatively quick and safe reholster are on the bottom end of holsters that I would recommend and I encourage everyone to consider reholstering as part of the process of picking a sufficient every day carry holster.

I know. Comfort. Concealment. Etc.

Again, I get it. If a soft-sided holster that collapses upon the draw and is impossible to reholster in safely and quickly is the only holster you can find that provides the level of comfort and concealment you need then you do what you have to do. There will be times that I will carry in soft-sided holsters under the firm understanding of the drawbacks. There are other techniques to retain your firearm while you perform other tasks that may be better than trying to reholster in soft-sided holster but none of them are as ideal or as safe as reholstering using a rigid holster.

Don’t let reholstering be something you leave off the checklist when considering what kind of holster to buy.

And don’t buy this idea that reholstering never needs or shouldn’t ever be done under stress.

Yes, it absolutely must be done safely but there’s no reason you can’t take your time to be safe and be quick about it.

Melody Lauer

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