I don’t share my story very often but I’ve gotten several requests lately. So…this is me.
In the mid-90’s I was dating someone who just turned out to be Mr. Wrong, and I broke it off. He left a rambling message on my answering machine, filled with profanity, that ended with “I hope you’ve enjoyed your life.”. Well, I took that as a threat, stressed over it, talked it over with a good friend and called the police. They had me go to the station to file a complaint. Since he was in another jurisdiction they actually called him to come and turn himself in, sometime in the next few days… I had endured a stalker a few years before for about 8 months, and was not in a hurry to feel that helpless again. My friend convinced me it might be time to think about self defense, she meant buying a gun.
I didn’t know a semi-automatic from a revolver. I went to a gun store and threw myself on the mercy of the man behind the counter. Luckily, he was a shooter and a nice guy. I bought a Ruger P95, 9mm SA/DA semi-auto. Back then I had to wait three days, three very long days, to pick it up. I bought several boxes of rounds and headed to the range determined to figure this thing out. (not how I would suggest anyone learn to shoot, btw) I probably shot 200 rounds that evening. My magazines were metal, and I had a significant hole in my thumb from reloading by the time I was done. I’ve since learned about speed loaders, but then, I was more worried about making sure I could hit my target consistently than I was about bleeding on the paper. I got a few tips from the guys at the range, and kept shooting until I was consistently within about 6 inches on my target.
Well I had a gun, I had ammo, I had a clue (barely) but what about outside of the house? I needed a carry permit. I knew someone who was a NRA instructor and he did a private class for me so I could get a certificate. I took that, and the police complaint, and filed for a carry permit. A judge expedited it for me and a couple days later I started carrying…in my purse (Yikes!), but I didn’t know any better. I took a formal class with range time, got a little better, started to learn that I liked shooting.
Time passed, all was quiet, the court date came and a very young prosecutor informed me they were making a deal. Obscene phone call, community service and record to be expunged if he did nothing for a year, and NO contact with me or we would all be back in court. HUH??? This man had threatened me, we had the recording and he was going to walk? Yep, that was, and is, the system. In hindsight, I was incredibly lucky that I was never injured. But it did change my sense of trust and comfort for a very long time.
If it seems my reaction was a little strong, remember the stalker a few years before? And prior to that there had been an attempted assault that I got away from. I was ready. That was the last straw, it was time for me to stand up and say I’m worth defending, my life has meaning, and I’m not going to rely on a system that waits until after I’m injured to do anything. I have the highest regard for the police, you couldn’t pay me enough to do what they do, but they are reactive, not proactive. That is their role. I just hadn’t realized it until then.
Fast forward and hindsight tells me that he did me a favor. I love shooting. I love teaching and I love writing about it. One stupid act of intimidation opened up a whole new world to me. Not how I would like to see anyone else come to shooting, but we all have our own path to follow. I’m worth defending. You are worth defending. No one has the right to take away your security. Shooting is fun, but it is also empowering to know that I can defend myself if I’m ever threatened again.
Don’t feel bad for me, my experience was mild compared to many women I’ve met. And, look at all I’ve gained? I have a loving husband, two beautiful cats (who we have had since they were babies), I teach, I write, my book is about to be released…I’m content with my life. I’m also grateful to have my life. It could have ended very differently.
So, D, if you stumble upon this, thank you. I don’t ever want to lay eyes on you again, but I owe you gratitude for your act of intimidation that opened all these doors for me to walk through and come out stronger. The scar on my thumb faded away years ago but the memory of feeling helpless and the realization that I’m not will stay with me forever.