One night about nine years ago, after getting off work, I parked in a downtown parking lot. I was so excited because I was going to see my best friend that was in town, visiting at one of our favorite local spots. It was dark, but there were streetlights and a few other people around. As I walked down the breezeway, I saw a guy walking in my direction. As he was about to pass me, he stopped. He put his left arm around my shoulder and with his right hand he shoved a gun into my side. He told me to walk and not to scream. Terrified, I complied. My mind was racing, thinking of what he wanted and what I could do to protect myself. Miraculously, I stayed calm and began to talk to him. I did my best to make him see me as a human, not a target. But still we walked. Within only a matter of minutes, I found myself in a dark corner with this man pointing a gun at me telling me to take off my clothes. I had to decide if I would rather be raped or risk being shot. To make a horrifying and long story short, with some more persuasion and some bribery, I was able to get away without physical harm.
As I write this story, I remember that those minutes felt like they lasted years — and in a way, they did. They lasted years because today I am still affected by those minutes. I still feel fear when walking alone, even during daylight. I still feel rage, then sometimes helplessness. I worry that if this culture of gun violence and sexual violence doesn’t change, that my daughter could one day have a story similar to mine or worse. That thought makes me physically sick. I do my best to channel these negative feelings into action by volunteering with Moms Demand Action. I refuse to do nothing because I know that together we can break the pattern and protect our loved ones and ourselves.