• April Hardy

Personal Safety Book Review - When Violence is the Answer by Tim Larkin


If you would rather watch/listen than read, you can watch this video.


I'm sure that I will eventually review resources that aren't books, but at this point, books have been the most helpful thing to me. Knowledge is power when you act on it!


Today we're going to look at When Violence Is The Answer: Learning How To Do What It Takes When Your Life Is At Stake by Tim Larkin. It was life-altering for me. I love this book! I haven't read it over and over again - it's not key reading for me like that, but it was life-altering anyway.


Let me just tell you a little bit about Tim first. Who is Tim and why should you care what he has to say? Here are a few factoids for you:


1. He is a former military intelligence officer.


2. He has helped to redesign how special operations personnel are trained for close combat because he's an expert in this area.


3. In his 25-year career, Tim has trained people in 52 countries about how to deal with imminent violence (and if you have been in a domestic violence situation that involves physical violence, it's an imminent violent situation).


4. He's a highly sought after speaker and he's the media's go-to guy for self-defense and victims rights. Why is going to become apparent why here in a second.


5. (Part of what hooked me.) He spent time in prisons studying inmates/ criminals so that he can explain them to people like you and me. One of the things that really caught my attention in this book is that he went into prisons and he studied the source. Obviously everybody who's violent is not in prison, but that's where a lot of people are that have that mentality. It was really smart of him!


6. His stance on violence and victims rights is highly controversial. You're not gonna be able to make any kind of a big statement in life without it being controversial. There is always going to be somebody that doesn't like it. Tim’s stance is that you have a right to defend yourself with the same weapon that is being used against you, violence. Take it or leave it. But when you're in a life or death situation you can defend yourself with peace and you can die that way, or you can defend yourself in like-kind with what they're coming at you with which is violence.

When I read on the website that Tim has actually been banned from the UK for his stance on a victim's right to defend with violence against violence, I laughed out loud, and at the same time, I beamed with pride. I laughed because I seem to be drawn to people who stand out in a crowd - I've been that way for as long as I can remember - So the fact that he stands out that much makes complete sense why I would like him! I beamed with pride because Tim believes in our right to defend ourselves so much that he's willing to not waver on it even to be allowed into the UK. That's huge to me! He's like this is where I stake my claim.

There are so many places that I have discovered in my journey through dealing with domestic violence, stalking and sexual violence where the victim just gets screwed (no pun intended). It is so hard to hold an abuser accountable! They seem to get chance after chance after chance. Meanwhile, the victim has to rearrange their entire life! I was actually told at one point, while I was being stalked, that I should put powder on the insides of my windows so that I would know if somebody had come into my house. They also told me that I might have to do it "a few times to establish a pattern of behavior." That was advice that was actually given to me legitimately! They meant it, which is insane! But that's how it often is for us, you know? If it's a domestic violence situation, it may not be prosecuted at first. If it's a rape situation, it may not be prosecuted at all. Most are not. If it's a stalking situation, even if it does get prosecuted, it's only a misdemeanor in most states until they do it again. It doesn't even matter how much fear you or I have to live in.

As the victim, it doesn't matter if you have to change your job and change your home, rearrange your home, change your habits, change where you go, etc. You have to do all of these things, but perpetrators are given the benefit of the doubt and Tim is just like, “No! If you're in real danger, then you have every right to defend yourself.” Not 'put a little powder trail down so that you can establish that they have in fact come at you,' but you can actually defend yourself in light kind.


I don't know Tim personally, but he had a profound impact on my life because, as I’ve shared before, the book The No Bullshit Guide to Women's Self-defense (you can check out my review of it HERE) was the first book that ever allowed me to believe that I could defend myself (like it gave me permission to defend myself and gave me tools to be able to use), but what it lacked was the mentality to do it. When Violence is the Answer covers the mentality part.


I was armed. I was trained and fully capable, physically, of being able to do some harm. And I had stuff around my house. Physically I was as prepared and capable as one can be, but mentally I wondered, 'could I do it?' Could I harm back? 'Am I capable of such things, even if my life is in danger or my kids’ lives are in danger?' And some people said, "Yep! You would be able to." And other people chose not to comment, but the truth of the matter is that there's stuff that needs to be dealt with and Tim deals with that in his book. He deals with our morality. He deals with our decision-making. He deals with getting mentally prepared to be able to handle that type of situation in the only way that you really should handle that type of situation.

There are 10 chapters in this book.

Chapter one - Violence is a Tool

Chapter two - Social Aggression VS Asocial Violence

In this chapter, he talks about how social violence communicates something. Specifically, it communicates "I am in control." So if you want to get out of that situation, you can placate that person by acknowledging that they're in control, and a lot of times they'll calm down and they won't get violent or they won't get more violent.

As I was reading that I was thinking about a lot of domestic violence situations where the aggressor is like "I am in control". Whether or not they are saying that with their mouth, they're definitely saying it with their actions. And when you submit to them, a lot of times they'll chill out - not always, obviously - but a lot of times they will. That's social aggression. It's communicating a message versus asocial violence, which makes me think of psychopaths, school shootings, and some other things. They're not trying to communicate. They want to destroy you or whoever their target is.

So intimate partner homicide has often gone from social aggression to asocial violence. It's no longer about communicating a message, it is just about destroying that person (or in the case of a homicide-suicide, destroying the significant other so that nobody else can have them and then destroying their self). Chapter 2 will help you understand those two types of scenarios, how to get out of them without violence, and what to do if you have to respond with violence.


Chapter 3 - Mindset Matters Most

This is by far my most valuable part of this book, in my opinion.


Chapter 4 - the Worst People Have the Best Information

In this chapter, he talks about criminals and how they learn how to use violence, how to be on the offensive, not the defensive, and how most good people don't ever even seek that information out and that puts them at a huge disadvantage.


Chapter 5 - When Violence Isn't the Answer


Chapter 6 - the Best Target is the One You Can Get

In this chapter, he talks about how self-defense classes teach tactics and then people get into those situations and life doesn't pan out exactly the way that they learned it in their self-defense class and then they can't properly defend themselves. So Larkin talks about how tactics are not as important as your mindset and therefore the best target is the one that you can reach - the one you can get. Who cares if you learned how to break somebody's foot if you only have access to their throat? Does that make sense? There are some interesting scenarios that he presented in that chapter!


Chapter 7 - Your Brain is Your Deadliest Weapon


Chapter 8 - Training Time


Chapter 9 - Training to Inflict Injury

In this one, I believe he talks about the difference between hurting somebody and injuring somebody, because women have this tendency to scratch that guy's faces or kick them in the balls. Those are the two go-to defense moves for females for some reason. Scratching somebody's face is just gonna piss them off. It’s not gonna help. I have no idea why we do that, why that's instinctive for us. And hitting them in the balls is kind of a 50/50 shot because they all expect that you're gonna do that, so either they will block it or they can handle it and you’re just going to tick them off more. Neither one of which you want to happen!


Chapter 10 - In the End

In this chapter Larkin makes the claim that effective combat is all about shutting off your opponent's brain by creating a debilitating injury. He says that certain areas of the body are always vulnerable regardless of the size, speed, and strength of your opponent. For example, the eyes are vulnerable whether they're on a 4' tall adult or a 7' tall, 300 pound adult. They're always vulnerable. The breastplate requires the same amount of force to break on any of us. (They do it for CPR.) There are parts of the body that are soft, that are accessible, and it doesn't matter your size and strength or your opponent's size and strength. That's what he wants you to focus on.

And he wants you to focus on causing such an injury that the person is incapable of thinking about anything except for that injury. Take tasers, for example - a taser might stop somebody, but I have also watched people get tasered on purpose to show how strong they are or because they think it's entertaining. It doesn't faze them. It might hurt them a little bit, but it is not going to stop them. If it doesn't stop them when their adrenaline isn't rushing, what good do you think a taser will do if their adrenaline is rushing and they're trying to hurt you?

When I was younger, people used to talk about holding your keys in your knuckles so that you could attack somebody with your keys. Now, is that better than nothing? Maybe, but unless you're going to take that key and drive it into their eyeball, it's not going to stop them from coming at you. In fact, if they're close enough for that to work (because they have to be close for that to even matter to them) they're capable of doing a lot of harm to you. The generally held self defense beliefs don't seem effective, so I tend to side with Tim.


In the book, Tim says that his goal is to change the way the reader thinks about violence. He says that people overall tend to think of violence as something that is only used by two groups of people. It's either used by criminals (bad people - so we see everybody that uses it as bad) and by professionals (who are trying to get bad people), whether that be police, military, bodyguards, etc. Those are the only two groups of people in general in our culture that have training - in the use of violence, in evading violence, and in the mentality of violence - and that puts the rest of us in danger. Because when it comes to us and somebody who's trained, who isn't held back by mental blocks, and we're on the defensive... our odds are not good. Then if you add to that the idea that I’m a woman and this person is a man and this person is bigger than me...I’ve got all of those things going in my mind and I'm not very likely to fight back. In that situation, without changing the way I think, I'm going to be thinking "I’m going to get hurt!" not "How do I defend myself?"

“I truly believe that violence is almost never the answer, but when it is, it's the only answer and we all need to be prepared for it.” - Tim Larkin


I wanted to include that because it's not like he's this violence-crazed person that's going around just inciting violence everywhere. That's not what he's saying. In fact, he said that something like 95-98 percent of the time you're not going to need to use violence. There are other ways that you can go about things to be safe. Talking has a lot to do with a lot of things. But there are some situations where that stuff isn't going to work and what he's saying is, when it comes to those situations where violence is the only answer, he wants us to be ready and able to use it as a tool.

Just like money is a tool. Ok? Money can be used by terrorists and it can be used by churches. The money itself isn't the problem, it's the people that use it and what they use it for. That's where the problem comes in! Violence is also a tool. It doesn't make you a bad person. If you use it to defend yourself or to defend your children, that doesn't make you a bad person. It's a tool and if that person is using violence to harm you because they want to get something from you, that makes them a bad person. It's not the violence part, it's the fact that they're attacking to harm someone and it's completely self-motivated. They don't care about you. It's not the same as defending yourself.

Tim addresses beliefs in this book. I believed that only bad people used violence and I didn't believe that I was a bad person. I believed that a weapon could save me. I strongly valued grace and mercy and those are two things that somebody that was trying to kill me could have cared less about. Even as I trained with a gun, I wondered if I would be able to look at somebody that I knew and pull the trigger. At least I was aware that I was missing that piece and I looked for the answer until I found this book.

I still believe that I’m an overall good person, but I’m aware that I might need to use violence to save my life or my children's at some point and I’m much better with that now. I think that every woman needs to read this book! Whether you end up taking Tim’s stance or not, he is going to inform you and make you consider what you believe, and that's invaluable!


According to this book, 70% of Tim's students didn't seek self-defense training until after something violent had happened to them. If it hasn't already happened to you, be one of the smarter 30% and learn now. (By the way, I would qualify as one of the 70%. I didn't start looking for help until well after I already needed it.)


Until I see you again... stay safe!



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