That’s What She Said: Experiential Learning Lab with Craig Douglas

| April 7, 2016 | 7 Comments

LRG_DSC06163-01Alternate title: Welcome back to Stockholm

Experiential Learning Lab with Craig Douglas is an opportunity to work through a mundane scenario you might encounter in your everyday life.

I went into this block with the understanding that only 10 attendees would be chosen to be actors. I was warned by Craig Douglas that I would likely observe only.

And then I was chosen to be one of those 10 participants.

The scenario: Domestic Dispute, AKA: The Shit Sandwich

I was given instructions to walk  Tiffany to her car. She was a “co-worker” with family problems. There was a restraining order in place.

I had a Glock 17 Simunitions pistol and my inert pepper OC spray. While I normally carry a fixed blade TDI at my body mid-line, trainer knives were not allowed.

I walked into the scenario room with Tiffany on my right side. I paused and suggested we keep our heads up and put our phones away. As we walked and chatted I had my OC spray in my left hand with the safety off. This is how I normally navigate parking lots and transitional spaces, so I do not consider this “gaming the scenario” as I was warned not to do. I scanned as I walked. Also normal.

At the halfway point of the room, Tiffany’s “husband” Chris came out to confront her. He and Tiffany begin to argue.

I yelled: “GET AWAY FROM ME!” He did not comply.

Tiffany approached Chris, put her hand on him, and waved me away as she continued to loudly argue with him. They began pushing at each other. I remember her saying “He’s fine….”

They were not fine.

I did not want to get caught between them. I moved away from them in an arc to phone 911. As I finished the call Craig Douglas noticed my OC spray in my hand. He removed it from play. He did the right thing. There were instructors outside that checked all the participants, but there was no communication between those outside the room and those within that I had an inert OC trainer.

I wholeheartedly support and admire everyone’s dedication to safety during this event. Everyone who was in the room to observe was disarmed, and those of us navigating the drill were thoroughly checked for live weapons several times as we waited as well as right before we entered the room.

But still … SHIT.

Just to recap, I am 5′ 2″. Chris Fry is well over 6 foot. Tiffany is small in stature, but I was the smallest person in this scenario. I did not want to get physically entangled with anyone. My OC spray is my best ranged non-lethal option for these types of situations. Despite their arguing and physical contact with each other, neither warranted a lethal force option.

I decided to wait for the “police” to arrive.

As my attention returned to what was unfolding between Tiffany and Chris I heard:

Chris: “Well I have a gun!”

And then I saw them tussle at Chris’s beltline.

The threat of the gun brought me out of my decision to disengage while waiting for police. Tiffany and Chris got louder and more physical. I concealed my draw with movement, and cleared Tiffany. I closed and put a burst of 4 shots on Chris.

The entire room of observers cheered.

I immediately withdrew and went to Sul while I scanned for additional threats and circled away.

Out of nowhere I heard “YOU BITCH” and watched as an enraged Tiffany quickly advanced on me.

I froze and thought:

Oh Jesus. I know this. I know this scenario because I just did this scenario a week ago only I was the Tiffany…

I reacted out of instinct and previous experience. I put a burst of 4 shots on Tiffany.

The entire room of observers gasped.

Facts about this scenario and the behavior the actors displayed

  • It was never implicitly stated that the restraining order was in place to protect Tiffany. I let my gender bias get the best of me, and assumed Chris was the “bad guy.”
  • Chris was the intiator, but both actors became increasingly violent.

Joseph M. Carver, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist and author of “Love and Stockholm Syndrome The Mystery of Loving an Abuser” writes

The “Stockholm Syndrome” reaction in hostage and/or abuse situations is so well recognized at this time that police hostage negotiators no longer view it as unusual…it also assures that the hostages experiencing “Stockholm Syndrome” will not be very cooperative during rescue or criminal prosecution. Local law enforcement personnel have long recognized this syndrome with battered women who fail to press charges, bail their battering husband/boyfriend out of jail, and even physically attack police officers when they arrive to rescue them from a violent assault.

LAPD online notes

Some batterers are life endangering. It is possible to evaluate whether a batterer is likely to kill his partner, other family members, and/or others attempting intervention. The following is listed among indicators often used in making an assessment of a batterer’s potential to kill.

  • Weapons – Where a batterer possesses weapons and has used them or has threatened to use them in the past assaults on the battered victim, the children or self, the batterer’s access to those weapons increases the potential for lethal assault.

 Hindsight is always 20/20

Looking back, I know that asking Tiffany some qualifying questions before we took our walk would have helped me determine what level of threat we were under. If Tiffany was a close friend any of these questions would have been appropriate. If she wasn’t a close friend, I would have required more information before putting myself into a possibly dangerous situation.

  • What is the nature of the restraining order?
  • Who is involved in these issues?
  • Does the person have mental health issues?
  • Does the person you are worried about have a weapon or a means to get one?
  • Can we make a plan we agree to act on if there is a confrontation?
  • How would you like me to help if there is a confrontation?
  • Have you been carrying a weapon?
  • Are you carrying a weapon right now? What is it? What training do you have with it?
  • Have you called the police about these problems recently, what was the outcome?

I also went through my other options in dealing with Tiffany:

  • If Tiffany had secured the restraining order is it reasonable to think she may have her own weapon for self-defense?
  • If Chris had secured the restraining order is it reasonable to assume Tiffany was more dangerous than I first thought?
  • Could I have evaded a violent Tiffany until the police arrived?
  • Could I should have “embraced” her and told her everything was going to be okay while I carefully tried to control her with some under hooks and head control?

Immediately after the drill had concluded the instructors and other actors talked about how they saw the scenario unfold. This is the most valuable portion of the exercise, and the most uncomfortable. Having a cop tell you what they perceived (and provide critique) was eye opening and  humbling.

Here’s what I am going to work on after this experience:

  • I will focus on learning when to apply finesse in addition to firepower.
  • I will continue to learn to apply less than lethal force options.
  • I will read about confrontation management and de-escalation techniques.
  • I will address the muscle memory connection between shooting as I move backward.

“The Valley” is a term QSI head instructor Erik Pakeiser uses to describe the time space after the threat is identified but before action is needed.  Michael Anderson teaches an entire class devoted to this pre-fight/post-fight timeframe called “Landing the Plane.” “The Valley” is the most difficult concept for students to grasp, and often the most difficult to practice navigating.

When you put yourself to the test in scenario based drills, you start to understand the impact stress has on your reactions, and the possible biases you might be training yourself to hold. Expose your training weaknesses so you can fix them. It might not be as sexy as clearing a shoot house with your squad, but it will be the very best investment of your training dollars.




About the Author:

The She-Shepherd The She-Shepherd is a defensive firearms student, mother and advocate for pushing the boundaries of how we train. She believes that defensive training must balance context, mindset, and skill to be most effective. Her specialty has become testing alternative modes of firearms carry and best practices of less than lethal force options through rigorous force-on-force scenario based training.

7 Comments on "That’s What She Said: Experiential Learning Lab with Craig Douglas"

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  1. Mitchell says:

    The word, “Exquisite” does not begin to describe this article.

  2. Matt in Oklahoma says:

    Great job getting outside the box and then sharing the good, bad and ugly.

  3. Great write up! Thanks so much for the analysis and feedback. I look forward to training with you again soon!

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      You were awesome. I loved your interaction as a role player, but your analysis and tact was outstanding. The feedback you gave to each participant was very personal, very valuable, and delivered in a way best suited for that individual to hear and understand. Are you going to be able to make it to Little Rock next year? Would be good to see you again.

    • The She-Shepherd The She-Shepherd says:

      Tiffany! You were the one person I knew I wanted to meet at Rangemaster. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me when you were in high demand.

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