“I’m going to come into your bedroom and rape you,” threatens the man on the other end of the line. It’s the middle of the night and I’m fifteen, maybe sixteen, though my voice sounds much younger, a child’s voice. This pervert has hit pay dirt by reaching someone like me. Even today people who don’t know me call my home and ask if they can speak with my parents. Only seconds before I’d been dead asleep positioned like a corpse in the center of my bed with my hands folded on my chest, the way I always sleep, yet now I’m sitting upright, fully awake, as alive as I’ll ever be.
Is this guy just a sicko with his pants down getting his wood up by randomly calling numbers and waiting for whoever picks up or does he mean what he says? Is he standing outside my bedroom window right now? Has he been stalking me?
But then something interrupts all that panic. It’s an overwhelming sound that every night penetrates the shared plaster wall separating myself from my father. It’s the sound that makes me sleep most nights with Kleenex crammed in my ears. It’s the sound of my father’s thunderous snores. And I remember what’s in his walk-in closet, how it’s filled with business shirts and suits hanging in their dry cleaning wrap and leaning against one wall is a big black shotgun, the safety still on, one bullet in the chamber. “Just in case,” my dad likes to say. I’ve witnessed my father carrying that loaded shotgun as he walked the perimeter of the house the night we heard on the news rapist Kevin Cooper escaped from the prison just a few miles away from where we live. There is no doubt in my mind my father would’ve used it that night had Cooper broken into our home or now if the man on the line suddenly made his way through my bedroom window.
Instead of crying out in fear or pulling the phone cord out from the wall to prevent the pervert from calling back, I slide deeper down in between the sheets. The man’s breathing remains rapid but mine, it’s slowing down now. “Do it,” I dare him. “Come into my bedroom and my father will blow away your sick, creepy ass.” Maybe it is the sureness in my voice backed by the cold hard steel of the barrel my father will point at this guy’s chest that prevents him from calling back.
The number of violent sexual acts against women in this country is staggering. My mother knows of a woman who lived alone and awoke to a man in a ski mask standing in the doorway of her bedroom, a knife in one hand, a loop of rope in the other. On her nightstand was a handgun which she quickly grabbed, firing off a shot. The intruder ran off, knocking over a lamp in her family room on the way out.
I know of a man who insists he can protect his family with an aluminum baseball bat. But what if there’s more than one intruder? What if there’s no chance for the element of surprise? What if the intruder has a gun and the man with the bat is just left standing out in the open of his family room swinging at air, waiting to be shot and killed?
One night when I was alone with my stepson who was only around seven at the time, I heard my dogs barking wildly at the front door. I live in a safe community in the San Bernardino Mountains and sometimes I’d forget to lock the door. “Who is it?” I shouted. There was no answer, just the sound of my dogs continuing to bark. I stood up from the couch and watched helplessly as the doorknob slowly turned. Thankfully, I’d actually locked the door this time. I then ran up the stairs to my bedroom, pulled out my husband’s shotgun from its hiding place and loaded it fast with a couple shells. Then I instructed my stepson to come out of his bedroom and crouch down beside me in the kitchen while I stood behind the counter, readied my shoulder with the weight of the weapon and directed the barrel at the front door. There was no father to protect me, no husband, no man, period. Make no mistake, I’m not a gun toting Republican. I’m a registered Independent who weighs both the Right and the Left and always finds myself right smack in between. That night in the kitchen, though my legs trembled, my hands remained steady and in some strange way I’ve still never felt safer.