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Woman Who Once Thought "Guns are Bad" Kills Would-be Rapist

Like most women in this country, I was raised to be a victim. When the existence of guns would come up in my family, I was always told that "guns are bad" and that "only bad people would want to own a gun." I believed it... and that simple mistake has changed my life forever.

When I was a junior in college, I was brutally raped. As I had always been taught by the so-called experts, I didn't resist very strenuously, believing that I would only be hurt worse for fighting back. And I was lucky. No one had ever mentioned that a large portion of rapists kill their victims. Perhaps my living was an oversight, since I have been told that I very nearly bled to death from the personal injuries from the rape. I was lucky to live through a very painful recovery, and being reminded of my violation almost every time I went to the bathroom. I was lucky, because I lived to have almost five years of almost nightly waking up screaming. I was lucky to live. Many women are not so lucky.

And of course, I spent much of those five years playing mind games with myself, wondering what I did to invite the attack, what I could have done to abate or even deter it. And the worst part of it... the very WORST part of all of it... the infuriating knowledge that I did NOTHING to stop it. My rapist most likely continued on to do similar to other women after me. And I didn't do a damn thing to stop it. To this day, I have a hard time facing that knowledge. I consulted with various counselors and psychologists for a while, trying to "work through my rape-related misplaced guilt." Reliably, every counselor assured me that "there was nothing you could have done..." and that anything the rapist did after my own rape "is not my fault." Again, I was being trained to play the victim.

After five years of continuing nightmares, and finding no comfort in being "reassured" that, effectively, I really was as helpless as I felt, I began on my own to look into what I could have done. I took several "women's self-defense" classes, in which the strongest countermeasure taught was a chorus-line kick to the groin. As one of the few things I had tried during my rape, I can speak from experience that it only seemed to make my own rapist more excited. I was beginning to think that maybe everyone was right; maybe there is nothing a woman can do to protect herself from predators. In many ways, I felt more helpless than ever.

About six months ago, a small sign appeared at the local gym offering a free "two day self-defense seminar." I had little faith, but being free of cost and myself being free the requisite Friday and Saturday, I called the number and signed up. After going through the standard "don't walk dark alleys, lock yours doors, etc." speeches, the seminar turned to presenting guns as a viable defense. Had I known at the onset that this seminar would present guns in a positive light, I honestly would have never signed up - after all, guns are bad! Mostly out of politeness, I decided to stay to the next break rather than walking out. By the time the break came, I no longer wanted to leave. Here, at last, was a REAL way that I could have made a difference, not only to myself, but to any victims after me.

Over the next week, most of my free thought was involved in doing the soul-searching advised in the seminar - Could I REALLY pull the trigger against another person? If you knew more of the details of my own ordeal, you would understand why I found myself filling out an application for concealed carry shortly after. I had joined the "evil gun owners." If nothing else, at least I could now go down fighting instead of pleading for my life. While still very bad when they occurred, my nightmares finally began to come less often. While they had previously been reenactments of my rape, they now had become not being able to get to my safely locked gun in time. I began to unlock my handgun each night before going to bed. Seemingly paranoid or not, I felt safer doing so, and feeling safe has not been a common thing for me in the past few years.

Very sadly, about two months ago, I was awakened to the sound of something falling over in my apartment. I had almost gone back to sleep thinking it was the cat when I heard the door of my bedroom opening wider. As I had learned in the seminar, and subsequently drilled into my head, I was quickly propelled through my escalation sequence : I drew my handgun, and issued a single command to "freeze where you are." When the intruder not only continued to approach, but made a rude comment about what he was going to do to me, I double checked my aim squarely on his chest. As he crossed the "imminent threat distance," I was forced to pull the trigger. All told, it took two additional shots before he fully understood how seriously I was determined to stop him.

I have since been cleared of all charges (it WAS self defense, and perhaps surprisingly, the cops agreed). My nightmares have almost disappeared (I once dreamt of running out of ammo... but I still take this as a huge improvement!). While I have some guilt about having to shoot someone, I have never once regretted it. While this may seem vain or even sick to you, I will even admit to feeling something akin to pride for not only protecting myself, but also stopping one rapist permanently.

If you are a woman, please do not buy into the culture of learned helplessness, and please do NOT believe the lies about guns. They are the ONLY thing which empowers a woman sufficiently enough to protect herself against a violent attacker. If you think living with defensive homicide would be worse than being raped, you have clearly never had to walk that dark road - as someone who has, please learn from my own experiences before duplicating them.

If you are a man or a parent, please encourage the women in your life to seriously consider more serious protection than a cooking spice. Train yourself in the use of guns, and train any other members of your family and friends who are willing to accept responsibility. Remember, I would gladly replace my current "Never again" with "Never AT ALL" any day.

Please be safe, and God bless.

"Mary in VA"

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I now think the only way to control handgun use is to prohibit the guns. And the only way to do that is to change the Constitution. M. Gartner, then President of NBC News, USA Today, January 16, 1992, pg. A9

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