First appeared in America’s 1st Freedom magazine, May 2013
All my life, I’ve been told there is a war being waged on women. Until recently it was a fight I could agree with—a right to education and workplace equality. Lately, though, it seems the focus has shifted to whether we can have the ultimate control over our lives by exercising our right to self-defense—and that debate stands as a new war on women.
In October 2007, I was a student at the University of Nevada at Reno, studying to be a teacher. My parents required me to get a black belt in Tae Kwon Do before I could drive and encouraged me to get a permit to carry a concealed firearm. The college, however, wouldn’t allow me to carry my firearm on campus, so I was defenseless when a man attacked me from behind, put a pistol to my head and brutally raped me on the floor of the parking garage.They teach us that “no means no,” but they take away my ability to say no to someone much bigger and stronger than I am.I was legislated into being a victim.
That serial rapist now sits on death row for the abduction, rape and murder of another woman. When he was still on the loose, I had to beg the university to let me carry my gun in case he came back. They begrudgingly allowed it, but I lost that right the moment I graduated. (Read more about this story in “A Fighting Chance,” September 2011 America’s 1st Freedom.)
I’m infuriated with the lawmakers and administrators who rendered me defenseless that night, but I’m even more frustrated with the passivity of other women, especially women legislators. So many of them criticize others for trying to impose personal views about a woman’s “right to choose.” Where were they to defend my choice?
Those claiming to champion a woman’s independence and dignity are the same ones who encourage a woman being violently assaulted to urinate, vomit or claim to have a disease or be menstruating. They teach us that “no means no,” but they take away my ability to say no to someone much bigger and stronger than I am.
I was legislated into being a victim.
The REAL War
I find it excruciatingly ironic that the University of Nevada actually denied me the ability to supply my own protection against a rapist but provides free condoms, to which my rapist had access. They took away my gun, left me vulnerable as a guaranteed defenseless target and when someone took advantage of that, they want me to wet myself. And they think that isn’t a war?
We know there are predators out there. If you’ve never gone online and searched the number of sex offenders living within three miles of your house or campus, it’s eye-opening. Even worse, though, are the lawmakers who know better and refuse to allow us to protect ourselves. They insist that the rules they enacted for a carry permit aren’t good enough to carry on campus—the one place where we’re most vulnerable. Most colleges even announce they are “gun free.” This is the real war on women. I’m starting to ask myself on whose side are these lawmakers.
Our college administrators claim they’re doing a lot to prevent sexual violence. But so far, the most effective thing they’ve done is deprive me of my own means to defend myself.
The campus carry issue was recently a very hot topic in Colorado and getting lots of media attention. In fact, many people were surprised at a list of 10 tips by the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs advising such “last resort” options when facing a rapist as, “Tell your attacker that you have a disease or are menstruating,” and “Vomiting or urinating may also convince the attacker to leave you alone.”
In March, I traveled to Colorado to plead with representatives not to restrict campus carry. I never found out why they were trying to restrict something that has been going on for 10 years without a single resultant act of violence.
In support of the ban, Rep. Joe Salazar made headlines when he agreed there are “gender inequities” on campus.
“It’s why we have call boxes,” Salazar said. “It’s why we have safe zones. It’s why we have the whistles. Because you just don’t know who you’re going to be shooting at. And you don’t know if you feel like you’re going to be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around, or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop a round at somebody.”Of course the odds aren’t in the favor of a woman. But ... why not let me equip myself with the one equalizing factor: a firearm?
After giving the most graphic and emotionally draining testimony since confronting my attacker in court, I was met with Sen. Evie Hudak’s patronizing response:
“Actually, statistics are not on your side, even if you had a gun,” she said. “Chances are that if you had had a gun, then he would have been able to get that from you and possibly use it against you.”
She then cited a made-up statistic that “for every one woman who used a handgun to kill someone in self-defense, 83 were murdered by them.”
My response still remains, “Respectfully, senator, you weren’t there.”
I laid awake that night perplexed by how a fellow woman could be so crass. Of course the odds aren’t in the favor of a woman. But rather than finding ways to gross out a rapist and “lower his libido,” why not let me equip myself with the one equalizing factor: a firearm?
In truth, it’s not statistics that are against me, it’s the lawmakers. They are more intimidated by me, a 5-foot, 2-inch petite woman (who cleared the extensive background checks they approved) sitting in a classroom with my permitted firearm than they are of the rapist hiding behind a truck waiting for me in a parking garage.
I reflected on the many women who filled the gallery that evening who were also victims, and I wept for one woman who, as I was attempting to regain my composure, came up and hugged me and with tears in her eyes, showed me a whistle on her key chain. “This is the whistle that didn’t save me,” she whispered. She thanked me for speaking and giving her the voice she could not have.
Committee chair Angela Giron even told me my testimony was “very compelling” but still cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of banning campus carry. I couldn’t believe that the swing vote was cast by a woman who represents the political party claiming to fight the so-called “War on Women.”
In fact, Vice President Joe Biden had further pushed the real war on women by personally phoning Colorado representatives and encouraging them to pass gun restrictions. Yes, that’s the same Vice President Biden who recently voiced his advice to women seeking protection: “If you wanna protect yourself, get a double-barrel shotgun … and I promise you as I told my wife … if there’s ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony, fire two blasts outside the house.” In an interview with Field & Stream, he even suggested firing the shotgun through the door if you fear an attacker.
Excuse me, Mr. Vice President, are you suggesting that because I’m a mom that I’m not realistic about the drastic measures that may have to be taken in order to protect my children’s lives? And that I shouldn’t want the choice to be able to protect my family?
It is alarmingly clear that our vice president, who has made it his personal vendetta to strip us of our Second Amendment rights—even while owning firearms—has never taken any sort of firearm safety classes and has no idea what he is talking about when it comes to what a woman needs in order to protect herself. It’s ironic that the ones who want to free us from the mandates of men suddenly want us to relinquish our protection to them.
I doubt the vice president wants me packing a shotgun to class anyway. And firing two blasts from a double-barreled shotgun leaves me without a round to defend myself, endangers others and could even violate the law.
Ultimately, Colorado’s attempt to repeal campus carry failed, sparing the right of licensed students to carry on campus. But it was an eye-opener to the attitudes of many claiming to stand up for women.
I’m ashamed that instead of standing up for meaningful defense, lawmakers with an agenda want to give me a whistle and sweep me to the side. To them, the idea of allowing me to protect my body from a rapist with a firearm is somehow ludicrous. I’m adamant that I will never again be defenseless against someone wanting to violate my dignity, but even more adamant that no one—whether the vice president or a state legislator—will violate my dignity a second time by trampling my right to defend myself no matter where I am.
I’m grateful for the NRA and so many others who worked to defeat bans in Colorado and elsewhere, and those who have supported me along my journey. I’m encouraged to see record numbers of women getting involved in shooting and self-defense.
I can’t wait for the day I can begin teaching my daughters to protect themselves. And I pray that, unlike their mother, they won’t be legislated into being victims.