Responding to Threats: Level Two

In the last part of our series we looked at Threat Level One which included low-level verbal threats like name calling, insults and other verbal bullying. If you haven’t read that article yet, please click here.

Let’s move now to the next Threat Level.

Threat Level Two is high-level verbal threats that are menacing and possibly criminal in nature. This is where someone threatens to cause you or another innocent person harm. The threat often includes specific information about how or when the threat will be carried out and there is evidence and genuine belief that the person will carry out their threat.

Response Level Two should be reasonable in light of the threat. What do you think is a reasonable response to being threatened with physical harm?

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Our recommendation is to use a non-confrontational defensive posture with verbal command. Here are some possibilities for responding depending on the situation –

  • Back away to a safe distance with your hands up in a non-threatening manner and talk to the person in a way that expresses your desire to leave peacefully.
  • Once the angry person stops moving toward you and you think it’s safe to leave, turn around and walk away quickly.
  • Look behind you every few seconds to make sure the person who threatened you is not following you.
  • If they are following you, move quickly to a safe place where you can engage with adults who can protect you from the person. That will usually end the verbal and potentially physical threat. If it doesn’t, you will have more witnesses to the threats.
  • If the person chases after you and attempts to grab, tackle, punch or kick you, quickly move to a higher response level depending on the type of attack.

Walking away does not mean you don’t do anything about the threat after walking away. If someone has threatened you with physical harm, tell your family and friends. Depending on the nature of the threat, they may recommend you contact police. The reason for sharing the information about the threat is both legal and personal.

The Buddy System

Take someone with you when you walk in the neighborhood, go to the park, store or other location. The Buddy System gives you the advantage of numbers in most situations. A large dog can also be your “buddy” when you walk alone. Bullies and predators often think twice before attempting to harm someone attached to a large and menacing dog.

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We invite you to watch this video to see how to use Response Level Two in real time.

Legal Considerations

Verbal threats may or may not rise to the point of being criminal in many states, so talking with someone who knows the laws in your state can guide you as to how to proceed.

One of the basic necessities for verbal threats to be criminal is for the person threatened to have a reasonable fear of injury. Walking away from the person making the threat and talking to family and friends can help determine if the threat rises to the level of criminal intent. If it does, you or an adult can call police to file a report. Your information may help police protect someone else from the same perpetrator.

If you intend to file criminal assault charges with police, be sure to write down details of what happened and have a list of people who witnessed the event and are willing to  talk with police.

Someone who says to you – “I’m going to beat you within an inch of your life” – may or may not have verbally assaulted you in the legal sense. However, if they say the same words while holding a hammer in their hand and shaking the hammer at you that may rise to the level of criminal intent.

If a person threatens you verbally and shows you a baseball bat, knife or gun at the same time, there is a good chance that would rise to the level of verbal assault. Whether you can walk away or have to respond at a higher level would depend on several factors that we will address in future articles and videos.

Personal Considerations

The way you respond to a high-level verbal threat could determine what happens to you personally. If you confront the person verbally, it could quickly escalate to the point of physical attack. It’s possible you could be blamed for the escalation, so best not to do that.

If you walk away from the person making the threat without saying something that causes an escalation, it may end with no one getting hurt. That’s the best thing to happen in the moment. It’s still a good idea to talk with family and friends to let them know what happened. You may get some good advice for what to do if it happens again. Someone who threatens to harm you may take it up a notch the next time.

Next Time

We will look at Threat Level and Response Level Three in the next part of our special series.

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