Smart people plan.
Do you know what you would do if you were forced to defend yourself? Especially if you’re going to carry a gun, having a self defense plan is worth some serious thought.
What we rarely ever expect, though, is the second attack – the part that comes after the emergency is over – because it generally comes from a totally unexpected source.
If you’re confused, that’s okay. Here’s a real life example:
Several years ago, our family was victimized.
A young man came into our little neighborhood store on a hot summer afternoon, wearing a heavy hoodie with the hood pulled up. That young then man drew a gun, pointed it our way, and demanded that we turn over the contents of the cash register.
As owners of a general store, we knew this was always a possibility, and we were prepared to defend ourselves, so we did.
But, I have to say, waiting for the police to arrive, all while pointing a handgun at a living human being, knowing that this situation might escalate and you’ll have to decide whether your life is more important than theirs…that’s an agonizing experience. I can’t even begin to describe the kinds of thoughts that race through your mind in a moment like that, and frankly, I don’t want to.
It was a traumatic event which, thankfully, ended without any shots fired, and with the would-be robber spending several years in jail.
We were prepared for the possibility of armed robbery. This is something we had discussed with our children and employees, and because we were alert (and armed), the outcome was as good as could be hoped for in that kind of situation.
The real shock for us was not facing down the barrel of a gun in a robbery.
The real shock was the aftermath.
Of course it was difficult returning to work, acting as if everything was normal. Nothing felt normal, but we always expected that something like a robbery would be a traumatic experience.
We never expected a second attack, though.
It wasn’t from other criminals.
Our story hit the news, and we were instantly under attack again.
This time, we were being accused of vigilante justice, excessive use of force, and more. The phone was ringing off the hook with people cursing at us, making accusations, calling us awful names, treating us like WE were the criminals.
Can you imagine that?
Picture going from a situation where you’re suddenly and violently faced with your own mortality, forced to decide whether to submit and quite possibly die or to stand and protect yourself and your family – and then from that, you’re plunged directly into a shower of hate and anger because of that awful experience.
Maybe some of the backlash could have been avoided if we hadn’t shared our story or talked to reporters, but even if we chose not to be interviewed, that doesn’t mean the article wouldn’t have run. The only thing we knew for sure was that if we didn’t talk to the news media, then nobody would ever hear what happened from our perspective. Not to mention, we live in a small town. Gossip can snowball into a huge problem in tight knit communities like ours.
To make matters worse, the robber used what turned out to be a fake gun.
Of course, when it’s pointed at your face and a man is standing there threatening your life, there’s no time to inspect the weapon too closely. Were we supposed to stop and ask: “Excuse me, is that real?”
The media made us out to be zealots, all too eager to murder a teenager who wasn’t even armed, but luckily, the law didn’t agree. In fact, the court convicted the young man for armed robbery, calling it ‘use of a firearm in commission of a felony.’
Besides the whole fake gun thing, many people accused US of being the aggressor, as if we somehow victimized this poor young man by not willingly handing over what we had worked hard to earn, the money we relied on to pay our employees, pay our mortgage and feed our kids.
Never mind that he was threatening to kill us.
Never mind that he could have had an accomplice holding our family at gunpoint in our home nearby.
Never mind that, for all we knew, he could have murdered innocent bystanders, or might shoot anyone who happened to walk through the door right at that moment.
Never mind that this was literally our worst fear, happening right there in real life.
Even those who didn’t berate and vilify us often tried to turn that horrific experience into some kind of joke for their personal amusement, as if it were nothing serious. After all, it wasn’t a real gun, right? Nothing was taken and nobody got shot, so no harm, no foul?
How would you react if, for months after you knew for certain that you were facing death, people kept walking up to you and acting like they were drawing a gun? Telling you to ‘stick-em-up’ as they laughed in your face? Jokingly saying ‘give me all your money’ at the very same register where you thought you were going to die just days before?
Maybe the robbery was stopped by our self defense training (and our guns), but something WAS taken.
Our sense of security was shattered.
For months, every time a customer reached in their pocket, our hearts started pounding. The little voice in the back of my head kept asking if it will happen again, when it will happen again, if we wouldn’t be so lucky the next time, if we were putting our children in danger by staying here…
And the difficult truth is, it could happen again at any time.
Like we said earlier, we knew it would be hard to recover from the trauma of an armed robbery, and even years later, the jitters are still there. Maybe it’s just something you never really get over.
We knew that the sense of violation was inevitable:
Becoming the victim of a terrible experience like an assault, a sexual crime, a robbery or mugging…it reaches something deep in your soul that takes years to build back up, if you have the strength and courage to try. So many people never really recover from a crime that strips away the last vestiges of innocence and challenges the way you look at the world.
We never expected a second wave of violation.
We didn’t ever dare to imagine that kind of hurt could come from those we trusted.
We had no idea we would be treated as if we were the criminal, while the person who stole so much from us was made out to be some kind of an underdog hero.
And we’re not the only ones that this has happened to. We’re just one of the few who has finally found the courage to speak up about it.
If we, as a society, want to affect meaningful change, we must stop making excuses for criminal behavior. We must stand up to those who would victimize us by defending ourselves and our rights.
Police cannot keep us safe. Think about how long ten minutes really is when it’s just you and a stranger, and neither one of you know if you’re going to survive this experience.
It is up to us to be proactive. Police can only be reactive.
Some may see this as “taking the law into your own hands,” but let us assure you it is not. It’s taking responsibility for your own life.
You are not dispensing justice, only defending your life and your rights…something that is everyone’s own, individual responsibility.
People like us, people who have been faced with that hard decision, we aren’t going out looking for this stuff. We don’t want to save the world or fight crime, we just want to go home and hug our family.
We decided to share this story now because, scary as it may be, some of you may someday be in this same position.
Many more of you will be on the outside, looking in as one of your friends, family, or neighbors is targeted by a criminal.
Will you be supportive?
Or will you, even unintentionally, victimize them a second time?
Making light of the incident doesn’t make it go away, and can often rub salt in the wound. Despite the best of intentions, people who have gone through a horrific experience don’t need you to make fun of them.
Perhaps, instead of trying to lighten the mood, just offer support. Offer to listen, or maybe even spend some time with the person so they don’t have to face the trauma alone. Friends like you make the healing go faster, and help life start to get back to normal again.