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How many books or lectures have urged you to “be aware!” but failed to teach how? Scaling Force teaches it using stories and suggestions, including advice to watch people out in public and select the ones you would victimize if you were a predator, learning from the behaviors that make them look vulnerable to you. The further we can get into the mindset of the offender, the better we detect predatory approaches. The authors also explain the interview process for victims, defining steps in an interview-to-assault timeline that starts with engaging the intended victim in conversation, camouflaging true intentions, distracting the victim, and then executing the crime. If you thought situational awareness was all about prevention, the authors also teach maintaining alertness during a fight, identifying details that may save your life and showing how to recognize them.

Scaling Force’s description of justifying use of force in self defense is stated in slightly different terms than the Ability-Opportunity-Jeopardy triad common to the Network’s educational materials. It is interesting to read concepts like reasonableness and excessive force discussed from the viewpoint of physical force. The same is true for the authors’ paragraphs on the doctrine of disparity of force, equal force and proportional force. They give particular emphasis to being able to explain what you knew at the time of the incident, stressing, “Good people tend to make good decisions. These decisions can always be refined and the decision-making process can be improved but usually people don’t trip themselves up much in the process; they trip themselves up in the explanation…Because self defense is an affirmative defense, it falls on you to explain. You must be able to articulate exactly why you made each decision–why you needed to become involved and why you used exactly the level of force and even technique that you used.”

The authors suggest watching footage of real fights on YouTube, looking for elements of self defense, what escalated the conflict and what responses were justifiable.

They then ask readers to become aware of their intuitive flashes of knowing, and define for themselves what perceptions informed that knowledge to get in the habit of articulation. In light of how much rests on being able to explain what we knew and how we responded, it should be a very worthwhile skill to hone.

With the supporting prerequisites out of the way, the authors tackle the first force level, presence. This isn’t an easy topic, because the power of personal presence draws on so many intangibles. The authors describe a host of factors that can project authority including appearance, self-image, life experience, physicality and fitness, stance, positioning and proximity. In the end, the reader is reminded that presence can prevent fighting, but it can also start conflict. The chapter is full of applicable information, much of which goes beyond mere presence.

The second force option Scaling Force details is verbal. We must realize that talking isn’t necessarily communication. Words are risky, especially as they become part of witness reports that inevitably follow a fight. Specific verbal strategies, including misdirection and manipulation, are offered, but perhaps the strongest is to either say nothing, or only a terse, “no” or “back off!” to avoid projecting weakness by talking nervously or apologizing for not being able to comply with the request by which the predator is testing you, they write.

A lot of our Network members will never be in a life or death fight. For this we are grateful. Even for these readers, many of the lessons in Scaling Force are readily applicable to daily life. In the chapter Level 2–Voice, instruction about communicating and maintaining boundaries is applicable to interacting with the office bully and other low-level predators as well as the mentally ill or people socialized in other cultures.

An extension of nonverbal communication is touch, but it is so fraught with both negative and positive meaning that its use as a force option requires skill and situational understanding, the authors continue.

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