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On this page:
Understanding the Difference| Mercurial Nature of Attack

The attack is the criminal/violent person using force, or the threat of force, to get what he wants. The 'triangle' (first three steps) has been complete and the assault -- or the threat of assault -- occurs.

The first three stages have been achieved, and there is no reason for the criminal *not* to use violence to get what he wants. But, this is not as cut and dried as you might think it is ...

Before we continue, we need to clarify something: In extremis, we deal in life and death. It is not hyperbole to say the information on this page, when taken to extremes, can result in either your death or the death of someone else. This is what we are talking about when we say 'attack.' While not all attacks lead to death (in fact, a majority don't), a lot of them do. We have reached a point where someone dying is a distinct possibility. As such, that consideration must be factored in.

Although fear, anger and issues that will affect your concept of self are very much at play here, they are not the end all. In fact, they are merely factors that can -- and will -- contribute to reaching these extremes. In short, while they are important to you, what we are talking about here are the extremes that lays on the other side of them.

This is where people start dying. And that's why it's important to make these distinctions, because once the trigger is pulled, there's no calling the bullet back.

Understanding the Difference
Robbery is defined by the US department of Justice as: The taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody or control from a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear.

We provide you with this definition because it shows two very important elements for actions to be an attack.       1) The use of or the threat of violence to achieve a goal.       2) That goal is physical in manifestation.

That last point is what differentiates an attack from bullying (manipulation through intimidation). Even though they look a lot alike, those are two separate animals.

There is a physical manifestation of an attack's goal. Even if a physical assault does not occur, the threat, achieves this physical manifestation (e.g. getting your wallet, forcing sex, assault, etc.). That is what takes it from intimidation into an attack. The damages of an attack are demonstrable.

Whereas, the goals of bullying is entirely for the psychological gain of the aggressor. Neither the damages or the gains exist physically. They are instead subjective, both to the individual offering the violence and others (e.g. self-esteem, social status, dominance, etc.). And that, to use a colloquialism, makes it "a whole lot more squishy."

This is a small, but very important detail. The reason it is important is that since the damages of an attack are physically demonstrable, so too can be your countermeasures. This includes action against the threat of violence for a physical end (e.g. "give me your money or I will hurt you" makes your actions self-defense). If the threat of damage is real, so too can be your response(1).

Intimidation for social or psychological gain (bullying, manipulation, etc.) is less actionable. Until the immediate threat of violence is present, extreme responses on your part are not justified. What are you going to do, have him thrown in prison for looking at you mean? How about shooting him for hurting your self-esteem and pride?

This does not mean that you are helpless. As the goals of bullying, intimidation and manipulation are not physically obvious, so too needs to be your countermeasures. The good news about this is that there are a lot of countermeasures you can use to keep it from going violent.

Mercurial Nature of Attacks
Many robberies and rapes are committed with the simple threat of or display of violence. A violent, emotional outburst, won't physically harm the victim, but clearly indicates that unless he/she cooperates with the tantrum thrower, the victim will be hurt. Except for the physically damaging outcome that would be bullying.

Or weapons can be displayed to convince you to cooperate. But again, it is both the damaging physical goal and the threat of that weapon's immediate use (if you do not cooperate) that makes it an 'attack.'

Other attacks are indeed outright physical assaults. Such attacks can come both with and without warning. In the most extreme it means the criminal simply walking up to someone, pointing a weapon and pulling the trigger. Then if robbery was the intent, he will grab your wallet/purse and leave.

And that brings up another complicating factor, the degree of the attack. As we said earlier, not all attacks are lethal. In fact, most 'physical assaults' are more of a continuation of threat displays than intending to do damage. Unfortunately, until you know the difference between a threat display and an assault you can be in danger of legal action because of your over reaction. This is why it is important to know the difference between fighting and self-defense.

Unfortunately, there is no way to determine which of these levels you will encounter. And faster than a snake striking, an attack can turn from the threat of physical damage to physical damage. What was a threat a second before, can explode into deadly violence.

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1) This of course within reasonable and legal limits on how much force you use. Return to Text

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