If you’re in the middle of a dangerous situation at the moment, please contact your local law enforcement for immediate assistance. If you need help getting out of an abusive relationship, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
Let’s start with this: domestic violence is a fact of life, affecting people of every background and gender, and from every corner of the United States. It takes many different forms, including physical, emotional, and psychological abuse. And for its victims, domestic violence/abusive relationships can be difficult to break out of.
So how do we as the CCW community respond to all of this?
Well, first off we need to accept that it happens, that it is wrong, and that we need to believe people who are or have been victims when they talk about their experiences. Beyond that, we have to deal with some ugly facts about abusive relationships and how they change the self-defense landscape.
First, understand that this is an inherently violent situation—even if that violence is emotional. The abuser has indicated that they’re willing to use force, coercion, or worse to get what they want: control of the victim.
A CCW permit and a handgun may not be the best answer for someone ins the process of escaping an abusive relationship. Abusers are incredibly slick at keeping their victims off-balance and feeling helpless, so until the victim/survivor regains some measure of balance and control a weapon is most likely just a paperweight. Getting them to safety and getting them on the road to recovery is the first step.
Intervening on behalf of a victim is always tricky stuff—again, the aforementioned psychological and emotional manipulation often keep the victim from acting on their own behalf or in their own defense. I recommend avoiding a direct confrontation with the abuser if at all possible—they’ve proven that they’re violent and that they have some measure of control over the victim. This means that both abuser and victim may turn on you if you find yourself in the middle of things. Your intentions may have been good, and the victim may have sought your help, but in the aftermath the story they tell they cops may be that you walked in waving a gun around and threatening people.
So what can you do? Directing the victim to the right resources—the hotline I link to above is a good start—is a good step. You can call them yourself on behalf of the victim; they’ll be happy to direct you to local resources, such as shelters and halfway houses, that can help.
If you choose to give the victim refuge, you’ve made one of the most noble gestures there is—and like all good deeds it may not go unpunished. The abuser may stalk, threaten, or harass you in an effort to get to the victim. You’ll need to keep your home security up to scratch, your situational awareness on high alert, and be ready to deal with the ugly possibility of assault or worse.
When the time comes to arm the survivor for their own self-defense, remember that they’ll most likely require help with weapons selection, training, and more. Give them the assistance and guidance they need to find it.
So when the dust has settled and the victim/survivor is back on their feet, what do you do next?
Well, the abuser may return further down the line when they think the heat is off—or they may have their friends pick up where they left off. As with all things CCW a lot depends on the unique individual situation, but a level-headed survivor may benefit from some training and a concealed handgun, along with other self-defense skills. Some states have fast-track processes for victims and survivors to arm themselves and obtain a legal CCW permit, so look into that as it make make things easier.
It’s a difficult situation, even by self-defense standards. So to recap: seek professional help, be judicious in your involvement, and be aware of the limited role that armed self defense may play in the early stages of this.