Thursday, June 28, 2012

Should You Tell?

There is a question that every concealed carrier is going to face as he goes about carrying a gun and that is the question of “Do I tell that I’m carrying a gun?”
Now, there are many schools of thought on this question and sometimes the discussion between the pupils of said schools can be pretty heated.
For instance there is the “Don’t ask, don’t tell. EVER! To ANYONE!” club.
These people won’t even let their spouses know that they carry a concealed weapon and insist on the strictest of anonymity when it comes to guns. Oft times they will even shy away from gun conversation so that the discussion of concealed carry does not come up and they are faced with the question of “Do you carry a gun?”
But, not to worry, if they are asked the question they will lie and say that they do not or give some vague answer like, “I don’t know. Do I?”
I’ll say right here and now that I don’t agree with this philosophy for a couple of different reasons:
  1. I hate liars. It’s never right to do the wrong thing and that includes lying about your carry status.
  2. Something as big as carrying a gun for self defense should never be kept from someone as intimate as your spouse (unless, of course, you are separated from your spouse, have a restraining order out against him and are in fear of him). If ever in a situation that requires you to act and your spouse is unaware of whether or not you are carrying they may be more of a hindrance in that situation by stepping in the way or panicking at the sight of a gun (even if it is in your hands).
  3. Finally, I don’t think it would look good when the police come to question your spouse on the events that just unfolded and your spouse has no idea what to say or think and is shocked that you even had a gun to begin with.
At very least, I think the spouse of a healthy, happily married couple should know that you carry a gun.
The second group of people are those who say that only close friends and family know that they carry and no one else.
They will tell their spouse and their children (when they feel they are mature enough to handle the news and not to go around school bragging that Daddy carries a gun). They may also tell some good friends who understand and have similar views.
However, when it comes to people outside that circle, under no circumstances will they discuss the issue.
I am perfectly fine and support this way of thinking and acting. It is healthy to have the people who are most intimate with your life privy to the decisions that you have made in terms of your own defense. It also is no one else’s business what you do for your own self defense. If you fall within this group of people, good for you!
The third group of people will discuss the subject with anyone if the subject is to surface in a conversation and may admit that they carry.
These people do not go about bragging about their guns or their rights and to the casual observer it may never be known that they carry a gun.
I fall into this category. I use good judgement, but if the conversation presents itself I have no problem with talking to people about guns and why I carry one for my own self defense and the defense of my family. Working at a gun shop has brought this out of me more than anywhere else, but that’s to be expected. One can’t answer a question like, “What kind of holster would you recommend?” without giving good reason as to why he would recommend that holster and the experience he has had carrying himself. You can’t be shy about your life as a carrier when people are asking you for advice.
Where it gets sticky is when you are out in the world and people ask and you don’t know whether they are going to be receptive or not. I have been in a couple sticky conversations but I’ve found that the more I show myself to be a reasonable, stable, happy individual, the more people see that carrying a gun does not make you a monster.
There is a fourth and a fifth group of people as well. The fourth are those individuals who tactfully and respectfully pursue ways to show the general populace that we are good guys. They go on campaigns and rallies and make their carry status known to all who will listen. They are, as I said, tactful about it and try their hardest to not be offensive though some will be offended.
Finally, there is the fifth group of people who give us regular carriers bad names. They wear their carry status on their sleeve and shove it in the face of anyone and everyone. Usually they don’t have their permits for long as they are soon charged with brandishing, or some other offense that gets their permit taken away. Then they stand on the hillside and cry, “SECOND AMENDMENT!” without giving any consideration to the situation that got them in trouble in the first place.
BAD idea.
When we, as carriers of weapons, talk about politics and our right to carry a weapon in our own defense, we understand that in order for our rights to flourish and to abound, we need more people who believe and understand like we do. We need more people to cast the same kind of votes that we will cast that will keep good people in office that will protect our rights to carry in self defense.
The only way to do this is to share the word.
The people in the first group aren’t helping at all. No one, not even a spouse, will understand and pass on a positive word for the right to keep and bear arms.
The people in the second group are at least doing their part to ingrain in their children and in their family and friends the importance of our Second Amendment rights. Bless them for passing on that tradition to the second generation.
People in group three go a step or two beyond and do all they can to impress upon people they meet within their circles to be proactive towards our rights.
Group four takes it even further still and gets the word into the eye of the general public. Sure there will be those who will balk and protest and not understand, but they may reach some who would previously never have even considered the issue.
Those in the fifth group hurt our cause because of their abrasive, conflicting and in some ways illegal, means of shoving guns in other’s faces.
If you do choose to share the news, be careful of how you do it. Careful, and patient.
All too often I hear people calling your average citizens “sheep” or idiots or any number of condescending and rude comments.
I made an analogy in a post on a forum that I frequent and I compared the CCWer to a man in a watchtower looking at the weather. The rest of the people in the court are your average citizens who can’t see what we see.
We understand that their ideology can be flawed when it comes to self defense, but I believe it takes patience and tender probing to get people like this thinking they way that they should.
It can be VERY frustrating to see and hear the kinds of comments that people say about shooting for the leg because they don't want to kill anyone, or about bringing a knife to a knife fight to be "fair."
We (the general CCW population) see that as ridiculous because we have already considered those situations and see them in an entire different light than others do.
They still see the world as being a fair place. They go about their lives under the rule of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" and believe that as long as they don't hurt anyone and are friendly and kind, no one will ever hurt them in return. When they think of confrontations (which they hardly ever do) they think of being able to discuss their way out of things and being fair. They think about confrontations like they think about fighting with a spouse or a dear friend. They would never pull cheap shots and they would try to be reasonable.
These are good rules to apply in a civil world, but there is a big wide world out there that is furthest from civil and takes advantage of just how fair one is trying to be.
Also, the people who go around in this condition white think of people who arm themselves as paranoid, perhaps a bit flaky, and they associate them with their weird uncle who came back from combat and always carried a knife with him because he was still afraid the enemy would get him.
It takes them meeting someone (like you or me) to show them that there are people who do have a balance. They are fair, polite and courteous in their civil dealings, but ruthless when it comes to their own self-defense.
They aren't crazy, weird, paranoid or jumping at shadows. They are just average people who look on life at a different angle.
The trick is showing other people our angle.
Before they can start to truly grasp why it is we arm ourselves the way we do, they have to stand in our shoes and see what we see. Until they do, they will continue to walk around, unaware and unprepared.
It's like a man in a watchtower over a court of people.
The man in the watchtower sees the storm clouds and gets his rain coat on early. The people in the court look up and all they see is clear skies. They think the guy in the watch tower is paranoid. Then the man in the watchtower invites the people in the court up to the tower. Those who go up and see the storm clouds go, "Wow. Yeah, we need to get ready."
Few get ready, and the rest of the people in the court learn the truth only when its pouring on their heads.
My goal was not to make people uncomfortable, it was to invite them up to the watchtower (so to speak), and show them what I see.
A man in the watchtower who's been doing it for awhile has more experience reading the clouds. He can pick up on things that someone else may not. Even if he invites someone up, they may not entirely understand what they are seeing and he has to explain.
The people you are trying to talk to may agreed to see what you are seeing, but they still don’t understand what it id you really see.
They didn't understand if you are seeing sprinkles, a heavy rain or a hurricane.
You can give them a scenario and ask them to interpret the situation in their own minds and tell you what they think the level of danger is and therefor the level of response. They may look at the clouds and say it looked like rain. And you may point out how it looked like a hurricane. They may still not see exactly what you are seeing, but they will go away with a better understanding.
It takes time and many trips up into the tower before someone can pinpoint exactly what situation calls for what kind of response. It takes experience. Experience that they don't have yet. Instead of them finding that experience through trial and error, I'd rather they had a gentle guide to point out some trouble spots and how they can be avoided.
And yet, when someone comes down from the watch tower and takes a look around and sees nothing but green fields and blue skies they look back at the person in the watchtower and think, "Man, he is way too obsessed with this. Those clouds are so far away I doubt they will ever make it here."
They saw a glimpse of the danger and they may have understood, but they don't see the threat to themselves yet.
It takes time, patience and understanding but with the right approach and gentle guidance, you might be surprised at the lives you can influence.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

TDI Last Ditch Knife (LDK)

Many moons ago, while working at a gun store where I could get 15% off of merchandise I decided it was a good time to buy a fixed-blade knife. I bought the Ka-Bar TDI Law Enforcement Knife and--just because I thought it was pretty cool, cheap and available--I also bought the Ka-Bar TDI Last Ditch Knife (LDK).

I wore it as a neck knife most of the time though I've seen it hailed as kind of an all-purpose SHTF knife: neck knife, boot knife, pocket knife, emergency scalpel, deep concealment knife, anti-terrorism, nuclear disarmament... okay, so maybe I got a little carried away although it does seem the possibilities for this little knife are endless.

Later, when I found out that TDI was actually a training facility that did knife training I decided to take my Law Enforcement knife (for clarification, I have not, nor have I ever been a member of law enforcement. It's just the name of the knife) on a pilgrimage to the place of its conceptual birth and get some good defensive knife training. There, I met the lead defensive knife instructor, Greg Ellifritz. Sometime on the first day of the class another student and I were discussing knives and I off-handedly said, "Oh, just put an LDK in your boot."

Ellifitz said, "I like your choice in knives."

I said, "Thank you."

He said, "You know I designed that knife, didn't you?"

"No!" I replied.

And thus began the discussion about the LDK.

Because I've been privileged enough to keep in contact with Ellifitz (a third-world traveling hobbyist, police training, I'll-beat-you-to-death-with-a-toothpick badass) since that knife class in 2010 I was able to ask him to share his thoughts on the LDK.

He wrote the following:
"I designed it primarily as a knife that could easily be missed on a cursory search if one was taken hostage. I had been traveling through South America a lot and was worried about kidnapping attempts. There just weren't any really good knives on the market that could be easily hidden.

 My initial thought was that I wanted something no larger than a credit card, so that I could carry it in a wallet if I wanted to. If I did that, it had to be exceptionally thin as well.

I wanted a blade design that would do a lot of damage for its small size. That's why I designed it with the straight edge and very sharp pint. It isn't designed as a general purpose cutting tool. It's designed to cut flesh like a bigger knife.

After I designed the knife, I wanted a sheath that could be hidden anywhere. I put multiple holes in it so that it can be laced in a boot or safety-pinned almost anywhere. I currently carry mine safety pinned inside and below the rear waistband of my pants when I travel in third world countries. That way I can cut myself free if my hands are tied or taped behind my back.

The hole in the handle is not designed for a finger. many people try to grip it by curling a finger through the hole. It doesn't work that well. I put the hole in the handle to save weight and provide an extra means to draw it. If the sheath is flat against a hard surface (like laced in a boot), it is difficult to get a full hand grip on the handle to draw. The hole allows you to catch a single finger inside to pull it from the sheath if you can't get a better grip.

That's about it. I sent in the design in 2006 and it went into production in 2007. It has been consistently in Ka-Bar's top 3 sellers since then. Right now they are selling about 1500 a month and demand has steadily increased over the years."

There's not a whole lot that I can add to that fine summery except to say that the LDK is still one of my favorite little knives. It has been a pretty constant companion for about four years. No matter what I did or didn't have I could almost always find a way to keep and carry the LDK.

It is wickedly sharp and pointy. And if you need a fine, sharp point to wield in tight places, this is the knife you are looking for. Something else I learned in the knife class was that the wharncliffe style blade (a blade that is flat on its sharp side), though a bit weak in the tip department because of the supper sharp point, is a nasty flesh cutter. It will give you a little deeper/longer cut for your effort because the cutting surface stays in contact with flesh longer and for its full length. Something you really want when your cutting surface is only 4cm long. The curved hilt allows you to really bury the thing in your hand and get a pretty good grip on it despite it being so small. Of course, I am a very small individual and people with larger hands have complained it is too small and they feel like they cannot get a grip on it but the design gives you the best it can afford so that you don't loose what makes it ultra light and concealable.

Though its intended purpose was not as a utility knife it has seen some light utility work from me. It has spent many nights hung from my bedpost, an immediate tool if needed. And it does excel at flesh cutting... just ask all of the hang-nails I have cut off over the years. I've given it as a gift and gone swimming with it. There is a security in knowing that it is always there and so easy to carry no matter what the occasion or the attire. I've pinned it into pockets, purses and my bra. And I've also used it to escape from restraints (I was practicing escaping after being zip-tied to one of our kitchen chairs... a couple of times). It also works wonders on tape.

And it certainly does excel as a tool of escape. It's small size does allow for easy maneuverability with your hands restrained (either in front of you, behind your back or individually). The only concern is cutting yourself but if you were actively trying to escape from hostile restraints a few nicks and cuts would probably be the least of your worries (although people with larger hands and poor dexterity might need to worry about dropping it and might want to practice). I know it sounds a bit "out-there" to be talking about how good a knife is at helping you escape restraints but, hey, it's why the knife was designed! What's even better is that if someone decides to check up on the prisoner/hostage/restraint-escaping-practicing-wife the knife can very easily be palmed or hidden between your fingers and, whella!--Knife? What knife?--It's advisable to keep your escape as clandestine as possible.

The TDI LDK laced in my size-4 boot
Just this week I decided it was time to actually try the LDK out as a boot knife.

Search though I may I could find almost no one who talked about actually putting the LDK in his or her boot (but, then again, my husband is constantly reminding me that my google-fu is not very strong).

While switching the laces of my boots from cloth to paracord I laced my LDK into the top of my left boot and there it has stayed. Because I'm not trying to actively hide it from cursory body-sweeping, dirty South American cops with itchy trigger fingers and shallow pockets, I did not bury it as deeply into my boot as I could have. As you can see by the photo the hilt protrudes above the top of my boot. But lacing it further down would and could it much better if that was the goal. A quick pat down would leave a searcher feeling nothing but laces, as he would expect.

For my purposes, squatting down in a confined space where getting into deep pockets might be a bit trying, I can slip the LDK out of my boot and cut what needs cutting.

Because this one now resides in my boot, I've talked about getting another in case I do want to pin it into my bra or pocket again and don't want to unlace my boots. And when you can find it on for about $15, why not, right?

Google image
(My apologies for the theft)
I've seen people put paracord around the hilt to give it a little more to hold on to and it's certainly an option if you aren't looking for deep concealment in a narrow or uncomfortable place--like the back of your shorts, for instance. It also might help those with large hands and less dexterity. And if you want to deep conceal it again, just take the cord off.

The sheath is very basic plastic that has continued to be tight for me despite lots of taking the knife in and out (and even putting it back in backwards a few times). I believe it comes with a stretch of paracord (you'll have to forgive my not remembering. I bought the thing four years ago). If in use as a neck knife, however, I use a bead chain (as shown above) for the slimmer profile and comfort.

A great little knife for a great little price. I can definitely see myself getting another. You should, too. If you want to.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Improving Vulnerable

Yesterday, on my Facebook page, I asked when everyone felt most vulnerable during an average 24 hour day. Many people said sleeping or work when they are not allowed to carry.

As the bard would tell us, knowing is half the battle. Being able to identify vulnerability gives us the opportunity to examine how we can limit vulnerability during that time.

When it comes to vulnerability there are only three things you can examine and potentially make changes to that can take you from a state of feeling vulnerable to at least prepared:
1. The setting
2. Your practices
3. Yourself

Let's take the example of going to and from the car. My mother used to come home always complaining about where she had to park at work. The door to her building locked immediately upon exit. There was only one light above the door but none in the parking lot. There was a wooded area around the lot where anyone could be hiding. She couldn't always get the closest parking spot to the door either, no matter how much she tried. But all she ever did was complain and, as far as I know, she never changed anything about her setting, practices or herself to feel as though she was no longer as vulnerable. You may never be able to eliminate the vulnerability altogether but it can almost always be improved.

In my mother's case, let's look at some potential improvements.

Could she have parked anywhere else? That should be the first and most obvious question. Sometimes there are better, secondary options worth considering. Could she have petitioned her work to install more lights or cut back the tree line (if it was their property, of course). Could she have petitioned her work to install keyless entry pads on the doors for quick and easy access back into the building? I know that no one likes to rock the boat, but if you are feeling particularly vulnerable and there is potential of danger you should speak up. Could there be a security guard who monitors that area at the end of shift?

Of course we all know that usually change in business setting does not always come easily so one might just have to deal with the card he's been dealt in that matter. So if you can't change your setting, change your...

Can you ask someone to walk out to your car with you? Maybe you can't have a gun but can you have pepper spray? Can you carry it in your hand vs at the bottom of your purse so you are more prepared? Can you unlock your car remotely before you even approach? Can you approach your vehicle differently? Just changing a few things in practice can make a huge difference to the level of vulnerability you have and feel.

Lastly, however, are changes you can make to yourself to lower your vulnerability. Some places require business attire for work which include impractical shoes that are horrible for fighting and running. Could changing into a pair of sneakers just before you head out of the office make all of the difference as far as feeling more grounded and less vulnerable? Absolutely! Maybe ditching that 3 ton designer purse filled to the brim with stuff you never use and limit it to a small clutch with a few key items that you can toss. Or, better yet, a small clutch with something heavy in the bottom you can use as a sap in a time of need? Maybe take out those dangling, clinking earings that impair your hearing and are far too easy to grab in a fight and put those in your purse or pocket before you head out the door. That hairdo that flows around your face and cuts down on your peripheral vision could go up in a loose pony tail.

Be creative and think about those three areas in whatever vulnerable setting you find yourself.

Working at your desk at work.
Can you rearrange your office so you have a better advantage either via sight or sound? Can you rearrange your desk so that you don't have obstructions or perhaps have some cover or concealment? Could you change how you go about your day and what you do while you work? Change what you bring to work or what you take with you when you leave? If you can't be armed, do you have other defensive options? Could you take off your suit jacket and put on something more comfortable from time to time? Eat healthier, exercise and get enough sleep so that you are at your peak level of attention throughout the day? 

Going to bed.
If there is one place you have the most control over your setting it is at home. Could you arrange your bed in a way that you would be in a less vulnerable position within the room? Make sure you have good locks on your doors and the windows? Alarm system? Dog? Make sure the blinds are closed so that any potential peeping Tom can't see where you are? Could you lock your bedroom door at night giving you a few more seconds to wake up and respond? Could you put all of your defensive tools in something like a holster fanny pack by the bed so that if you need to grab the whole setup and go in the middle of the night you won't forget a vital piece like a cell phone or flash light? Could you sleep in pajamas instead of nude so if you are awoken in the middle of the night you don't feel so exposed (of that's even a concern of yours)?

What do you think? Pick a vulnerable moment (doesn't even have to be your own life) and think of ways that changing the setting, practices or self might make it less vulnerable. There are lots to choose from:
Getting into the car
Giving the kids a bath
Cleaning out the garage
Going for a run
Working out
Unloading the car

Let's hear your improvements!!

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.


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.