Monday, June 18, 2012

Abuse, Abduction, Self Defense

This article has stuck with me in a bad, can't-get-it-out-of-my-head sort of way: Plan For The Worst - Preparing for Abduction and Restraint.

It was posted almost two weeks ago and there hasn't been a day that's gone by that I haven't fought writing this. It's a great article and needs to be expounded upon and repeated.

Allow me to blunt with why it has affected me: I was restrained, abducted, beaten and raped.

I don't talk about it "publicly." Not because it's painful but because it is a closed chapter in my life. I'm not a victim. I don't even think of myself as a survivor. I don't reject the label if someone wants to categorize me that way but for some reason I feel the term isn't deserved. "Survivor" sounds pretty grand and I certainly didn't do anything grand. I didn't fight for my life. I didn't fight at all. I froze up in a ball of denial and fear, resigned myself to dying and in the end I was let go. Dropped off in a parking lot like a carpooler. A perfectly ordinary end to an extraordinary day. While I did survive (by the dictionary definition of the word) in that I am alive to talk about it, I did not escape unscathed. There were things that were taken from me and killed in me that day and therefore things I needed to mourn and do still find myself mourning. But there were also things that were born. Good things. Things that have lead me to become the woman I am. And so I may not have survived as much as I have adapted.

Either way, when I tell my story, I have many people who tell me how sorry they are for me. I appreciate their sympathy but I don't know what to do with it or respond to it. My story is not a pitiful one. I suppose it would be if my abduction, rape and following months and years were the entirety of it, if I hadn't adapted, but that's only the beginning. I got over it (as much as anyone could). I healed (to form beautiful scars). I have a fearless, wonderful, fulfilling life.

My story of adaptation starts with making mistakes but is ongoing in that I still learn from them and hope to help others learn from them as well. The things I have learned include lessons like the ones listed in the article above. So if you haven't read the article yet, I suggest you go and do so before you read on.

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Now that you are back (or if you just kept reading) let's put on our rain boots and go slopping our way into my past.

I was seventeen and a pretty typical seventeen year-old at that. I was far more concerned with boys than anything else in life and was having a good time stringing a long line of them along. I was having fun and pretty sure I had everything under control.

Something the linked article doesn't go into is the fact that abductions very rarely happen out of the blue by strangers. Most abductions, from children to adults, are preformed by individuals who are close to the victim in some way. As it was in my case.

I got romantically involved with an older man. At first he was charming and seemingly caring and protective. He treated me gently but firmly and in a way that could be perceived as lovingly. He was a bit controlling and jealous but that was nothing I didn't feel I couldn't handle. 

Over time protective became obsessive and then abusive. He'd been patient with me and manipulated me well and by the time he hit me the first time I was sure I deserved it. But I was also sure I didn't want that kind of a relationship. I didn't love him but I feared him. I feared him enough to go along with his games to the point where I was believing I loved and respected him, even while I was desperately searching for a way to get away from him.

The more I pulled away the more he obsessed. He had me followed and stalked me. He would call to ask me about my day and when I left out certain parts he would accurately fill in the details. He would demand to see me and when I made excuses he would start to make threats and act unpredictably to humiliate me and manipulate me into doing what he wanted.

When I got the nerve to talk about leaving the threats started in earnest. Threats to humiliate me, harm me or harm my family. Finally, there came the threats to kill me.

Then, shortly after my eighteenth birthday, he became very reasonable. He asked me to meet him. He said I could choose the place and it could be as public as I wanted so I would know I was safe. He promised that as long as I met with him in person and answered some questions about why I wanted to leave he would let me go with no strings attached.

I was washed in relief, completely unaware of how many alarm bells should have been going off. Perhaps they were going off, but the screams of my optimism were drowning them out. I genuinely thought I was going to meet with him, talk, and walk away a free girl. Maybe I figured he might make a scene of some sorts to humiliate me or maybe hit me but nothing too bad--nothing I couldn't handle.

We met at a diner in the morning. I was late and he made a scene about it. He didn't ask me any questions, instead he lectured me on how I needed him and belonged to him. So many lies I'd heard again and again and couldn't believe. I didn't say much. I sat in my chair, a cowed silhouette of a young woman--head hung, not meeting his gaze, sitting how he expected me to sit, addressing him in a way he wanted to be addressed.

And then it all fell apart.

I did or said something to set him off. Or, maybe it was part of his plan all along. I seem to remember he said something to the effect that I had not dressed appropriately for him appropriately. He grabbed me by the hair and started to push/pull me from the restaurant.

I was frozen solid.

The only thought going through my head was, "This isn't happening to me. This isn't happening to me. Help me!" I was spending more time being astonished that he lied to me and was doing this than accepting that I was in deep trouble. I had absolutely no ability to think or act or call for help. Even if I had the ability I wouldn't have known what to do. I didn't know how to hit. I didn't know how to kick. I didn't even know how to think. There was no such thing as weapons of opportunity. Pepper spray? What was pepper spray? People used knives to cut food, not for defense. Guns? Only police officers carried guns. Self defense? That concept was alien to me.

As he escorted me through the patrons, I remember looking at them. If my face was pleading, I wouldn't have known it. If I had to guess I'd say it was as blank as my mind. Frozen solid in disbelief and fear. From the outside the incident may had been a bit odd but not so alarming as to make anyone suspect what was going to happen. I didn't even know what was about to happen. Maybe I thought he was going to tell me it was over and to go home.

I was still immobile in disbelief and fear when he got me to his van and got me inside. It wasn't until he put a chain around my neck and locked it with a padlock that the gravity of my situation fully engulfed me. Perhaps on some very deep subconscious level I was overly optimistic that it wouldn't go this direction or maybe I knew that prior to that moment I had options. But with a chain around my neck I got that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that whatever happened from that moment on (including my life or death) was entirely up to him. I no longer had any options. I also no longer had any optimism that this was going to be nothing.

I won't go into the details after that except to say that secondary crime scenes are as bad as you read about. He took me to a place he could have privacy and take all the time he wanted.

It was painful. It was humiliating. It was cold. It was terrifying.

Through it all, eventually two things happened almost simultaneously:

1. I became entirely convinced that I was going to die.
2. I stopped being afraid and got angry. Or maybe that's how I remember it. Something tells me that in the moment I wasn't as angry as I was giving up and knowing that now makes me angry. I did have anger though.

I was angry at myself for letting myself get in that situation. Angry at my helplessness. Angry at him for lying and myself for believing those lies. Angry at everyone who just watched as he dragged me out of that restaurant. Angry at my denial about what was really going on. Any at my naive optimism.

My only two desires were to see the sky again and to see my Mother's face. I remember trying to hold on to the image of her smile and only seeing tears. Tears when she'd learn that I'd gone missing. Tears of worry. Would they find my body? Would she have to identify it? More tears on her face. A funeral? More tears.

I was angry that he would get to hurt her through me. I was angry that I had let him do that. Angry that I'd taken her--taken everything--for granted and wouldn't be able to say goodbye. Angry that being choked to death in some pervert's garage was my end.

And then, inexplicably, it was over. He stopped choking me. He stopped beating me. He had a few more choice indignities to deliver to me once he cut me down from where I was hanging but it was over. I was dressed. I was back in his van and back at my car where he shoved me against it, kissed me and said his goodbyes.

He told me he didn't kill me because that would be letting me off too easy. He said he wanted me to live the rest of my life looking over my shoulder for him. He promised he'd come back for me some day and that I'd be his again. He said I didn't deserve him. He promised me that no matter where I went or what I did he would find me and that I'd live with that terror for the rest of my life. He threatened to kill me if I ever talked about it.

I only spent between six and seven hours in his company that day. But his threats held me hostage for years.

They don't anymore. Even if he made good on his threats the idea of him coming for me holds no terror for me now.

I never called the police. If you want to ask why I'd say it was because of all the reasons any battered woman doesn't. Fear. Of him, of the system, of people finding out. I didn't want to face him in court. I didn't want my life put on trial. I didn't want people I loved and respected to hear about my mistakes. I didn't want to see my mother's tears. I was still very afraid of him and I didn't believe I would win. Despite the bruises and welts and bodily fluids that covered my body from neck to knees I was convinced he would somehow come out triumphant in a court of law.

Instead I called in sick to work and spent a few days of blissful agony in bed, not sleeping but staring at the most beautiful sky outside of my window and welcoming every ache and pain because it meant I was alive.


The statute of limitations has long since run out on his crime. I've checked. But that's not the point of this post. The point of this is to learn from my mistakes. So, let's tally them, shall we?

First, I'd like to point out that it's not a mistake to fall for an abusive person. They are manipulative and skilled at their craft of catching victims like spiders are skilled at catching flies. They don't just walk up and introduce themselves as abusive predators so it's understandable if, at first, you find yourself falling for someone you think is a genuinely good guy.

My first mistake is staying with someone who was abusive. Definitions of abuse vary depending on who you talk to, but a man who lays a violent hand on me will not be long tolerated. I will also not tolerate financial, sexual, mental or emotional abuse. Chances are if an individual is okay will abusing you in one area he will be apt to let that abuse spill into the other areas as well.

My second mistake was letting my fear impede action. I was so afraid of what people would think when they found out I was with an abusive guy. I was afraid of leaving. I was afraid of him acting on his threats. I was afraid I wouldn't be believed or that it would turn into a "he said/she said" situation. I lived in a prison of fear but if I'd talked about it before hand and sought help I probably could have saved myself. This also includes the aftermath and not seeking legal justice for the crime.

My third mistake was missing the signs that a big event was coming. People don't go around threatening to kill people if they aren't considering that an option. Yes, some people do have dark senses of humor sometimes, but when someone threatens to kill you in anger it's something to note. And a history of physical abuse is a BIG clue that he doesn't have a problem acting on his violent impulses. But the biggest clue of all that I missed was his sudden willingness to be agreeable and compromise. He'd told me for weeks that if I left him he'd kill me and suddenly he promised he'd let me go if I merely agreed to meet with him to talk. It was too good to be true.

My fourth mistake was agreeing to and going to that meeting. I can't emphasis this enough. If someone with violent tendencies who has reason to be angry with you suddenly wants to meet to "talk" or give you something or just to see you one last time, DON'T GO! Arrange for anything to be said or given through an attorney or sent to a neutral location for pick up. Even legal documents that need to be signed can be done through third parties. Even if you have agreed to meet in a public location, if the individual has a plan to hurt you or abduct you or even kill you, the number of people who are witness to it won't really matter. Don't go. Period! If you do decide to go, at least take a third and fourth party with you (preferably armed and trained body guards). At VERY least, call a friend and tell them where you are going and that if they don't hear from you in x-amount of minutes to call the police. Give that friend all of the information you have on the person you are meeting (cell phone number, home address, full name, etc.). But, it's better not to go.

My fifth mistake was denying what was going on. I knew nothing good was coming from being dragged out of that diner. I chose to deny it until it was too late.

My sixth mistake was letting him restrain me and put me in that van. Once that chain went around my neck it cut off all options. As you have seen, there are some options when you are restrained with things like rope or zip-ties, but short of being a lock smith or having bolt cutters, I was not getting out of a padlocked chain.

My final mistake was not having any self defense preparation whatsoever. When the time came I froze solid because I had absolutely no preparation for that kind of a scenario. All my life I'd been taught that when in public bad guys don't attack, the public will step up and help you if something bad happens. I was taught wrong and I put my faith and safety in the unknown public. I paid dearly for it. I no longer blame or am angry at the patrons of the diner that day. I understand it was not their job to help me. Many of them probably had no idea anything bad was happening. I did not make a scene. Yeah, there was a man dragging a young woman out the door by her hair but their minds probably immediately started rationalizing what was going on. Many probably didn't want to get involved and I understand that. I don't blame them. That situation was not their fault, it wasn't even mine. While I admit that I made mistakes, he was the one committing the crime. But it wasn't their responsibility to save me.

Don't think abduction and restraint are things you don't have to think about. You may be able to avoid it by being conscious of the signs but the fact of the matter is, we humans are masters at deceiving ourselves into thinking we have control of uncontrollable situations or that we are more aware than we are. We always look back and say, "I should have seen the signs." So, when we don't, it stands to reason we should have plans in place for those worst-case scenarios. We should teach them to our sons and daughters and wives and friends.

I often wonder if there was a time after I was restrained where I could have made my escape. Could I have seen what the chain around my neck was attached to and seen if I could have broken it? When he transferred me from the van to the garage could I have gotten away? I don't agonize over it but I see no reason not to learn from it and pass that learning on.

In closing, I'd like to reiterate that while I did make some mistakes that got me into a bad situation I do not feel responsible for what happened to me. There were times I did and that can be one of the hardest distinctions rape survivors have to wrestle with. It's part of the shame that drives so many of us underground to not talk about what happened to us or seek help or justice. We feel we are to blame somehow which is part of the ongoing rape to make one feel helpless, ashamed, foolish, guilty, stupid and powerless. Of course, the truth of the matter is that making a bad judgment call is not justification for kidnapping, assault and rape. The ONLY one at fault for rape is the rapist.

It took me a long time to stop blaming myself and even to forgive myself. My goal here is not to open old wounds (though, I'll admit to shedding a few tears while I wrote this) but to help others learn from my mistakes. And to warn people not to take anything they may learn about self defense for granted. Even something as improbable as being abducted and restrained is something to be prepared for.

24 comments:

  1. I am in love with your blog! I saw it on Facebook today and have already read through several of your posts. It is a great source of information and I appreciate the time you have put into the blog and learning the "art" of guns! My boyfriend is always finding things for me to read or watch on YouTube - but it is usually from a man's perspective, which I appreciate - however, I love hearing a woman's side now and then. I just completed my Conceal Training over the weekend and will be applying for my permit this week. I currently have a S&W M&P 9mm Compact. I love this gun. I have practiced carrying it around the house just to get used to it. I still have not found the right holster for me, though. Trial and Error I guess. If it wasn't such an expensive process, I wouldn't mind so much. I look forward to hearing more about your opinions and experiences!

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    1. You'll find something! It is trial and error a lot of times. I like OWB holsters myself but I'll carry in anything..lol

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  2. Thank you for sharing. We all can learn from this.

    (I added you to the Gun Blog Black List.)

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  3. Great post, i found your blog through a girl and her gun. Ill be passing your blog onto my wife and reading more!

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  4. You are indeed a conqueror! Thank you for sharing your story.

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  5. Thank you... I've shared this with my sixteen-year-old daughter. She's a terrific young lady and we've taught her and trained her to take care of herself, but I still want her to know the threats are real, not just in a worried father's mind... Being prepared is not being paranoid...

    Dann in Ohio

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    1. I hope your daughter takes it to heart. It's hard to learn and I hope she can understand and see any signs before it's too late.

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  6. I found you through A Girl and Her Gun, and boy am I glad I did!

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  7. I really hate that you had to go through this. Not in a pity, I'm so sorry, kind of way, but in a pissed off, what a total shithead that guy was he deserves to be tortured and castrated kind of way.

    I realized, in reading this, that this type of scenario is something I haven't educated my daughter on. She's 17, just graduated from high school, about to leave for basic training, and "in love" with a 16 year old boy that momma just isn't too sure about.

    I will be sharing this with her as well.

    Stay strong, stay safe, and conquer!

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    1. It's something you should hope you never have to worry about with your children, that's for sure. Hopefully basic training will give her a little more fight and confidence.. Not that soldiers can never be victims of a well-organized predator, but hopefully she will have a little more "fight" instilled in her.
      Good luck to her! And to you!

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  8. Incredible story, warrior woman as well as conqueror! Thanks for sharing and help educate us all.

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  9. You are an amazing, strong, courageous woman to have shared this and I can't thank you enough! Your words will, I have no doubt, help to prevent a similar tragedy somewhere along the line.

    All honor to you for your courage, this and every day. It may not be the flashy "I just saved someone from a burning building" kind of courage you describe here, it is the far more difficult to sustain and live every day "I was wounded but I was not killed and I won't stop living because of it" courage. It is the incredible "I will bring this monstrous memory out into the light and share it so that others may learn" kind of courage. Thank you for sharing that courage with all of us.

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    1. Thank you, Beth.
      It was not easy. I never once felt depressed about it. I was so grateful to be alive. But I was scared and mistrusting and confused and unsure. It destroyed a lot of what I thought about myself and life and relationships in general.
      Sharing it was a hard decision to make, even after all of these years. I hope it helps people.

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  10. Wow. It doesn't surpirse me that the people in the restaurant did not respond at all. Unfortunately, now we have a bunch of armed people who will do nothing. It is sad that things have to happen to you for you to do something about it. Please pass what you have learned to your children so you can stop the cycle. You are a brave woman.

    Don't question yourself at all. Do not be embarrassed. What you went through sadly happens every day and it is not your fault. I am not belittling what happened to you....please don't think that.

    This is close and personal to me. I am so sorry this has happened and continues to happen every day. People dont teach others to read warning signs and how to react properly to situations outside of their comfort zones. We are all a bunch of sheep. This is the best thbing you can do and I would like to thank you fos sharing.

    This still happens each and every day. This has made you strong and has taught yout the truth about people.

    You are still alive because of you and not him. You chose to live and are choosing it now. Get this off your shoulders by sharing it and teach others just as you are doing here.

    Good job!

    Todd

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    1. Yes. It is so unfortunate that this happens daily. I wish it didn't and I wish more women were prepared to avoid it all together or fight back.

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  11. Thanks for sharing your life in such a revealing manner. It provides an opportunity for reflection for everyone. Would I get up and offer to help if I saw this happening in a restaurant? I would hope so. After reading your story, I will be more aware of such situations. Life is about learning from mistakes and getting better and stronger. I hope that others will also read your testimony and become stronger to both resist such evil people, but also to stand up to them on behalf of others.

    It is hard to expose your darkest memories, but others can learn from it. By no longer hiding something that was brought on by an evil person, you have shown that you the better person. He has no power over you, now. So, hold your head high and reflect on how beautiful the sky is. It was beautiful before this incident and it is STILL beautiful. We just have to choose to appreciate it and not be consumed by regret. And, I do love a beautiful, blue sky. And, I love your ability to teach others about self-defense and guns. I've never met you, but I feel proud of you. Keep up the good work.

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    1. Those are some tough questions, Ronny. I think about that sometimes.

      If I'd been sitting in some random booth would I have known what was going on? Would I have said something or even called the police? Would I have said something? Would it have made a difference?

      TOUGH questions. I don't think anyone knew what was going on. Even those who were sitting close to us and seeing our uncomfortable conversation were probably more relieved to get rid of us than concerned about me. Maybe they thought, "What was that all about?" But the thought of it turning out how it did probably didn't dawn on any of them. Why should it? It's something we don't think of and it's something we don't think we are going to be witness to or have to think about.

      I would love to see this scenario on the show, "What would you do?"

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  12. Thank you for posting this. I'm sure it wasn't easy. I hope that reading your story saves somebody from a similar (or worse) fate.

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  13. Thank you so much for sharing this. We don't even realize how thin the curtain of control is until we see we don't really have it. Thank you for shining the light.

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  14. My God.
    Your strength and courage are remarkable; your compassion in sharing something born out of your suffering is admirable.
    I came via A Girl and Cornered Cat, and have shared a few of my thoughts on A Girl's blog under my ancient Russian persona, but had to come here to read your story and to salute your valor.
    I am not online much these days; my beloved bride of many years, passed away a few weeks ago and I don't have as much interest in online things as I once did, but I wanted to assure you that your words of pain, and wisdom, and determination, will help many, many people to retain their lives, their dignity and their well-being. May God bless you and yours, may He heal your hurts, multiply your joys and grant you every blessing that He can bestow. And from a personal note, please remember to hug, kiss, speak and otherwise convey your love and gratitude to all your family and all who make your life beautiful. Such gifts are beyond measure.

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  15. Thank you very much for this. I discovered you some time ago via youtube as I have sought to learn about firearms. I have always been struck by your thoughtful clarity. I am saddened to learn about all of this but I continue to be struck by your thoughtful clarity and I appreciate your willingness to share such important knowledge. An element of my faith and system of belief is that there must be opposition in all things, otherwise we can't learn and grow. You have clearly learned and grown and you inspire more of the same.

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  16. Your post resonated very deeply for me, but unlike you, I was embarrassed, depressed, and have only now found it within myself to embrace (over and above accepting) that it was not my fault. I liked your choice of identifying what you did--you adapted--and that last line in your fourth paragraph was the enormous light bulb that went on and made me see/realize/accept/embrace that I was not responsible for my attacker's actions. Mistakes, yes, I made some that evening. But now, I can finally forgive myself... thank you for sharing.

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  17. self defense is the best preventing measure when we alone or in critical situation.
    Self Defense

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