I had a very unnerving experience the other day that left me painfully aware that safety is so easy to take for granted. Fortunately for me (or through God’s good grace and timing as I like to put it!) I was in the right place at the right time and was able to escape a potentially dangerous situation.
A strange man was approaching my house just as I pulled out of the garage. Fortunately my car doors were locked and I was pulling out. He was standing in my yard, near my front door in the pouring rain, he had on jeans a t-shirt, a backpack stuffed with something, and he was carrying an “ADT” yard sign in his hand.
I stopped at a distance with my doors locked and transmission in gear, and asked him what he was doing. He made up a story that he was with the company “ADT” and he wanted to talk to me about home security. I told him my husband and I were not interested.
He acted very suspiciously so I drove up the road a ways and watched him, and then I called the police and then my husband. The police came out and scoured the neighborhood for him while my husband came home and checked our house for safety. All was well, but I was left looking over my shoulder quite a bit for a few days following the incident.
I never thought of myself as one to take her safety for granted, but to be honest I have done just that. We live in a very quiet neighborhood where there are usually no strangers around at all. I knew the guy was out of place right away because I know my neighbors. This left me pondering how I would have reacted if my husband was not home, and how I can better guard myself if he leaves in the future and even when he is still here at the home-front.
The one aspect of my story that scares me the most is the fact that just minutes before I loaded my daughter into her carseat and opened up that garage door, I had unlocked my front door to the house, and poked my head outside. I looked up to make sure our flags were hanging properly and checked to see if there were any packages waiting for us. I don’t know if the stranger was already near my door or not. He could have just been around the corner for all I know.
Opening my door blindly and not expecting someone was my first mistake. I now remember to open my door with an awareness. We can’t live inside and not do what we want out of fear — if we do that then the bad guys have already won! The trick is to go about every day life, but with a little more awareness of your surroundings, and developing an aware understanding of what reources you have at your disposal.
The first thing I did was think through the weakest places of my home. Where would be the easiest or ideal point of entry for a burglar or an assailant? I have lower windows leading into my garage and den. I know these are the easiest windows to enter into since the rest of the windows can not be reached from the ground without a very tall ladder (I still keep our upper windows locked at night and when I am gone). Also, the lower windows, on one side anyway, have a nice shrub that would act as a good cover for someone who was breaking in. Now we are in the process of getting rid of the shrubs, ordering new, more secure, windows and we will put some alarms on the windows down there. I am also putting in a request to my husband for motion detected lighting there. We do have curtains up, but I will be replacing them with a thicker grade of material so there is no transparency.
The second thing I did was try to evaluate where I could escape my home if I needed to at a moment’s notice from various places within the house. If I could safely grab my toddler and run, where would I go? Who, nearby could help me? I planned some escape routes. Also, along those routes I spied what I could use as a weapon if need be. Everything from my exercise equipment (like a 20lb kettlebell), baseball bats, etc. These were items that were stashed in little cubbies along the way in their normal storage spots.
Other things I took note of during my inventory: how well lit my front and back yards are at night, my door coming in from the garage is an interior door — that will be changed to a regular exterior door with a dead bolt (we have an electric garage door opener that is very good, but you never know…), and I also evaluated how well everyone in the home was in the habit of locking the doors when they leave and when they come in.
So far, so good. The other realization for me was hard — I will more than likely not put out a public display of deployment again. I am really afraid that a yellow ribbon on a lone house in a neighborhood is a nice big yellow flag that says “The dude who lives here may not be home!” Maybe if I were living on a military base, but not in an unsecured neighborhood.
I have read horrific stories of soldiers coming back from deployment on emergency leave to an empty home due to a violent intruder who took his family. Anytime a family is hurt like that it is beyond horrific — when it happens to a soldier’s family when he is off fighting for this Country, it adds another layer of horror to the atrocity.
I do not want to be a statistic not willingly, not ever.
My next two steps in proactive self-defense may seem drastic, but they are steps I have been meaning to take for myself for sometime now. I have had no reasons not to do these things, but not because I didn’t want to — I think it was just another layer of responsibility that I did not want with little ones in the home.
I have not owned a firearm for a long time. I am an experienced shot, but I have not had a gun of my own in my home for years. It’s not due to any change of heart I have had over gun ownership — I think it’s a right! As a matter of fact admitting out loud that I do not own a firearm is embarrassing for me, personally. So, my husband is taking me out, helping me pick out a good fit, and then we are heading out to a place where an experienced teacher will reacquaint me with a gun. He will also be training me how to use it under intense pressure and stress.
If you are a gun owner or plan on buying a firearm in the future, I highly recommend getting the additional training. I was really surprised at how quickly my rational-self melted into a pile of nerves when I saw the strange man in my front yard. If he were in my home, would I have the ability to keep myself calm enough to get to my gun and protect myself and my daughter? I think that going through the additional training will help me to gain that confidence and those skills. Just because my dad took me shooting all the time as a kid, and my 12th birthday present was a .357-Magnum, doesn’t mean I can handle a gun under stress.
Finally, I am also going to take some more self-defense training. Kick boxing is great and I have learned some good moves, but unless my attacker is willing to dance with me, I don’t think the choreographed moves will do me much good. I took Karate as a kid, and did well, but I am now in a 40-something year old body, and a good roundhouse kick may send ME to the hospital instead of my attacker. I need to refresh my skills and find practical ways to neutralize a situation should it arrive.
In all honesty my complacency has come from having a houseful of men. I have had three young men (my sons) and my husband around all the time for years. It wasn’t until just a couple of years ago that I suddenly was left with myself and a little girl in the home alone. I promised her, the first time I held her, that I would protect her, and I intend on doing just that.
I know we live in a day and time when we are constantly being told to not resist… give your attacker what he demands from you and you may get to live. There is no way I am going to beg a degenerate criminal for mercy. No, I want more control than that for myself and especially for my daughter. I certainly never go looking for trouble, but if it comes to my door I will be ready. I guess this is my way of becoming as “wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove.”
If you have any added tips or comments, please leave them. I would love to hear your own stories of how you have made yourself feel safer by taking your safety into your hands and making plans and being proactive.