The Second Time, I Had a Gun by Lyn Bates
It still isn't easy to talk about. The intervening decades have blunted some of the impact, but remembering is still difficult. Evelyn Logan is a bright, articulate, dynamic woman with a strong personality, but talking about it is still hard.
She was Oklahoma born and Texas raised, but by the time she was in her mid-20's, she was a young mother living in San Francisco at the fringes of the hippy 60's, and working for the Sheriff's office as a warrant clerk. Her grandmother flew in for a visit, and when the visit was over, Evelyn took her to the airport and put her on a plane home. Then Evelyn headed for her car. As soon as she got to a deserted part of the airport, two men came up to her. They had a knife. They were airport employees with keys to a nearby utility closet. They dragged her into the closet and raped her.
She reported the attack, and back then the police were fairly insensitive, and asked her questions such as what was she was wearing, which made her feel degraded and violated all over again. Not until Evelyn enlisted the assistance of her boss in the Sheriff's department did the interrogation proceed more professionally.
The rapists were eventually caught, and tried, but by the time the pair were finally on trial, Evelyn was living in Texas again. She didn't have to testify, as there were enough other women who had been victims of the same duo to force the men into a plea bargain that put them in prison.
About 5 years after that attack, Evelyn was out driving alone at 5:30 in the morning through a rural part of Texas, on a fairly minor road, and needed to stop at a rest area. The only one for miles seemed quite deserted, so she stopped to use the facilities. As soon as she came out, a man came up behind her. She couldn't see his face but she sensed that he was over 6 feet tall, and powerfully built.
He grabbed Evelyn's hair, which she wore in a single long braid down her back, and began to drag her backwards. She couldn't see any part of him except his tennis shoes. He never said anything, or if he did, the diminished hearing that affects most people in crisis situations prevented her from hearing it. She was frightened, but she could also think, "No! Not again! Not this time!" She screamed, but there was noone around to hear.
His grip on her hair was unyielding, but it left her hands free to dig through her purse as he determinedly pulled her toward a truck that he had hidden in the woods nearby. Her hand came out of the purse holding a little .22 caliber piece she always carried. She didn't want to fire over her shoulder, because she thought he might be able to grab the gun from her, so she fired into the dirt in front of her. The sound of the .22 was huge in her ears, and apparently his, too, since he stopped in his tracks and dropped her. She turned around, pointed the gun at him, and told him to get down on the ground.
She had him down on his face in the dirt. Now what was she going to do with him? She made him crawl toward the road, where they waited for someone to drive by. She didn't know how long it took, but eventually a Highway Patrol car came along and found them.
Was it just luck that the officers showed up? Not at all. The police were heavily patrolling the area, because of previous attacks on women there. They were looking for the very man that Evelyn had captured!
This time, law enforcement was more sympathetic to Evelyn's situation. At that time, concealed carry of firearms was illegal in Texas. The officer simply told Evelyn to put the gun back in her car, and to say nothing more about it.
For the second time in her life, Evelyn had encountered a serial rapist who chose her for a victim. This time, she prevented the attack. From then on, she would describe herself by saying, "I am a rape survivor, and a rape attempt survivor. The difference is, the second time, I had a gun!"
She never found out the name of the man who had mistakenly thought he could victimize yet another woman. He was only 17 years old, so despite the multiplicity of his crimes, he disappeared into the protection of the juvenile justice system. We can only hope that the lesson he learned that day at the end of Evelyn's gun stayed with him: All women are not easy targets. Some are quite capable of protecting themselves against bigger, stronger predators.
Evelyn says everyone in her family learned to use guns growing up, starting at about the age of 5. "I learned the same way Daniel Boone did - my daddy taught me." He also taught her a lesson she passed on to her own two children when she trained them in the use of firearms, "Don't shoot it unless you are going to eat it, or it is attacking you."
Evelyn's daughter Laura learned her lessons well. Once when she was 14 and home alone, a man she didn't know knocked on the door, and asked to come in and use the phone. Laura told him she would make the call for him, but he refused. Then she saw him leave the front door and go around to the back. Laura went and got her mother's handgun. The man came back to the front door and knocked again, trying to get her to let him in. Knowing that the storm door was locked, she opened the front door, let him see the gun, and said, "Please leave." He left instantly.
Years later, when she was in high school, Laura briefly dated a 19-year-old boy named Mike Freedman. When he became abusive, she broke off the relationship, but he wouldn't accept that, and said, "If I can't have you, nobody can." He started a campaign of what today would be criminal stalking: harassing calls, death threats, and even a physical attack on Laura and her new boyfriend. The police detained him once, but after he was let out, he tried to break into Laura's room at night. Once, hearing a report that Mike was headed to Laura's school with a gun, Evelyn patrolled with her own gun handy, and Mike left hurriedly when he saw her. Despite repeated attempts to involve both the police and the school to help protect Laura, Evelyn felt that not enough was being done.
The fact that she owned a gun, knew how to use it, and was willing to use it gave Evelyn the wherewithal to protect her family. She went to have a private chat with Mike. "If you bother Laura again, I'll shoot you and I'll kill you," she told him flatly. "But you'll go to jail," he said. "Yes," Evelyn replied, "But you'll be dead, and my daughter will be safe. Do you think I won't go to jail to save my daughter?"
Evelyn left, and Mike immediately, completely stopped his harassment of Laura. He knew exactly what her mom was capable of.
That's not the end of the story, though. Several years later, in 1995, Michael's girlfriend was a sweet, trusting young woman named Jessica St. Laurent. According to Evelyn, Jessie looked a lot like Laura. When Jessie tried to break off their "volatile" relationship, Mike murdered her, and then killed himself.
Evelyn has always had mixed feelings about that tragedy. Part of her wishes that Mike had failed to heed her warning, since, if she had shot him when he was endangering Laura, Jessica would still be alive. Another part of her admits to feeling "survivor guilt at my enormous relief and joy that it was not *my* daughter who died."
In 1998, Evelyn used her gun again, this time on a rabid fox that was in her yard, endangering her dog, her daughter, and her neighbors. Animal control had been called, however response time in rural New Hampshire was longer than she could wait, so she took care of the problem with one well-placed shotgun blast.
Like many rape survivors, Evelyn wanted to help others through the crisis she had experienced, so she volunteered for a while at a rape crisis center. Finally, however, she and her husband John McDonald found their perfect niche as firearms instructors and volunteers for an advocacy group, the Second Amendment Sisters, in New Hampshire. This lets Evelyn encourage others to learn from her experiences, and also gives her the opportunity to help preserve the right of women to own firearms for protection. "You have an obligation," she says, "to get training, and to pass it on."
Having had both NRA courses and training at Lethal Force Institute, Evelyn knows that the tiny .22 that did such a fine job of protecting her at the rest stop is actually underpowered for many defensive situations, so she now carries various larger caliber guns with her. Everywhere. Always. Because she knows how unexpected an attack can be, and how important it is to be able to take care of any situation by yourself. There will probably be no "third time," but if there is, Evelyn is ready.
This article was reprinted from Women&Guns, Nov/Dec 2002, Copyright © 2002, Lyn Bates