It started out like any other class.
I was tired, worn out, since I had just come off the midnight shift. But by this time I had refined my technique to be as efficient as possible. First the poster with the rules for safe gun handling went up on the easel. (These are the laws which are never to be broken!) Then it was a discussion as to the different parts of a firearm and cartridge. (This is the trigger, this is the barrel, this is the casing and propellent and bullet.) Then it was time to uncase the guns themselves, and let her handle them.
She was nervous at first, but I could tell that she was drawn to the big handguns. The manstoppers. Perfectly understandable, considering what she had been through. One of the revolvers held a particular fascination for her, the big imposing Magnum with the six inch barrel.
It kind of settled in her hands while she was dry firing, nestling in her grip. Her eye became steady, the line of her mouth firmed. She was thinking about what would have happened the last time if she had a gun like that, and what would happen the next time after she bought her own. I knew that I was witnessing a personal thing, a turning point in resolve. For that one brief moment, it was a very good day to be alive.
And then her husband came home, and everything went to hell.
He stopped dead in the doorway, brought up short by the hairy-scary guy and the guns spread out across the kitchen table. His face changed when she told him who I was and what I was doing there, much like her own did when she imagined having the means to defend herself. But where she became resolute, he became coldly furious. He ordered me out of their home.
I didn’t say anything, just turned towards her and waited for her decision. “I think you’d better go.” she said, never meeting my eyes.
Before I packed the last case in the trunk of my car, I paused to press one of my business cards into her hands. It was a futile gesture. Her husband was standing right next to her at the time, watching my every move. There was no doubt that the card would be ripped up and in the trash before I was able to drive more than a block or two. But I had to try all the same.
Rape is a particularly odious crime. Besides the obvious mental, emotional, and physical damage, it is also sometimes very difficult for the families of the victim to offer the support that is so desperately needed. Up to 90% of the victims know their attackers, even if it is only in the most casual of ways. It is not unusual for the intimate partner of the victim to react with anger and denial when confronted with the facts of a sexual crime. Many rape victims find that they have to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives, but they also have to do it all alone.
Although I have a great deal of sympathy for people who have to endure the aftermath of a rape, it isn’t my job to help them get through such a trying time. My focus is instead on preparing them to make sure that it never happens again, and statistics are very clear in this area (NSFW). Less than 1% of the people who resist rape with a gun or knife in their hands become victims. My student would have been able to live free from fear if her husband would have only let her.
The dogs were happy to see me when I got home, but they soon settled down. You can’t hide your mood from a dog, they smell it on you. They rested their chins on my knees while I sat on the couch, offering what comfort they could. I should have gone to bed, grabbing a few hours of sleep before I had to get up and go back in to work. But instead I just sat there while the light faded, thinking of a woman I couldn’t help and who I was never going to see again.
A fierce wind was blowing in from the north. The rest of the day was dark and cold.
(I post an essay like this every year or so. It is a reminder that, no matter how hard we try, we’re going to lose every so often.)
(The student mentioned above never did call me back. I’ll still be here, if she ever changes her mind.)