I recently had the opportunity to assist Donna Anthony of Point Blank Firearms & Self-Defense Training and Becky Bowen of Quivera Firearms Training with an inside-the-home, scenario-based class for 20 ladies at Boondocks Firearms Training Academy in Raymond, Mississippi. The class focused on situational awareness, decision making, legal justification and proper weapon-handling skills while offering opportunities to use Simunition (nonlethal training ammunition) in certain self-defense situations. Donna and Becky had planned out a variety of different scenarios utilizing Boondocks’ cleverly designed shoot house and surrounding areas for training while inside a home, when entering the home, while getting gasoline and even when retrieving money from an ATM. Basically, it was a class in which participants needed to decide if they needed to avoid, escape or defend in a variety of everyday scenarios in which bad stuff really could happen.

After an educational portion and debriefing in the classroom, everyone geared up in vests, gloves and helmets over our pants and long-sleeve shirts. While Simunition has reduced energy (around 600 feet per second) and is nonlethal, it can still hurt. I still have the bruises and abrasions to prove it (safe, realistic training for the win!).

I was pretty pumped up and ready for this class, especially because I was asked to participate as the bad guy. It was cool because I had never played that role before. Donna told me beforehand that I would probably learn a lot about shooting, strategy and human nature while playing the bad guy. She also told me I could cheat since bad guys don’t follow the rules. Being the villain definitely made me aware of how unaware others can be. I also just about hyperventilated when my partner in crime was shot and I was left alone with an armed homeowner.

But I really learned the most by playing the victim.

At one point toward the end of the day, I was playing a 16-year-old girl who was home alone when someone tried to get into the house. As the scene played out, I called my mother, who was on her way home, but the phone went dead. Each participant had to get into the mindset of a mom whose child was in danger. So, my mother called 911 only to learn that the police were 20 minutes away. It was then her job to decide whether to wait for law enforcement as her daughter begged and screamed for help or to enter the home and stop the threat.

I know this was not a real situation. Thankfully, it was not a real knife or a real assailant. But as I lay on the floor and considered the dire circumstances, I wondered what I would (or could) really do or say, and I realized how unbelievably unbearable it would be to be a victim — helpless, weaponless, frightened, dying.

I actually started to lose my voice during the scenario; I went hoarse from calling out for help and from begging my attacker to stop. Tears poured down my cheeks, completely distorting my view from the protective helmet. It was lonely and terrible. And I could not believe how slowly time seemed to pass as I waited for someone to help me. If the scenario had been real, out of the 10 times we acted it out, I am afraid I would have likely been dead eight or nine times over. My attacker undoubtedly had the upper hand … and a large knife. He stabbed me repeatedly. And without a way to counter his actions — without a gun, without an equalizer, without someone to help me — I would not have survived this attack in real life.

Unquestionably, realistic training such as this is beneficial. It is also necessary. The problem with target practice, range drills, competitive shooting and even tactical range training is that these experiences do less to recreate the adrenaline dump and fear that one is likely to experience in a real-life deadly encounter. I am glad to have taken part of a class that incorporated so many dynamic, close-to-real-life elements in several physically and mentally demanding scenarios. I know the students learned a lot from this too. And if anything, for me, this role-playing experience reiterated the importance of mindset, training and the need to carry a gun for protection. No one should ever have to wait for help. No one should ever be a victim.