The three young males jumped out of the bushes in front of my neighbor’s house. Two were physically larger than me, all were faster; and I was encumbered by my friendly unprotective dog, leash in hand. The largest young man yelled “Let’s go!” It was the signal for all three to run at me, in single file, right fists raised overhead, with the pinky end of the fist forward. I recognized this as the preparatory position for the “hammer strike”, a self-defense blow taught to children because it is capable of breaking an adult skull.
I’d prepared for this moment. I’d been harassed daily by these young men and especially their foster father. The family lived directly, inescapably across the street from me. Dad had threatened to beat me with his fists, he’d intimidated contractors from working for me, one foster kid had tried to push my motorcycle over as I rode it with a passenger. Dad’s favorite verbal attack was “She looks like a man, look at the hair, look at the clothes. She thinks she’s a man, hahahaha! So I’ll treat her like a man, hahaha!” While illustratively punching fist into palm.
These males were always outside, on their porch or in the street, always screaming or punching or throwing stuff, sometimes balls, sometimes bottles at passing cars, sometimes garbage into my yard, sometimes throwing each other onto the pavement or into my fence; and they always had a special verbal or physical threat or attack when I came outside. This was a gang of males who felt entitled to own the street and any adjacent property they saw as unprotected, meaning unprotected by a male. My other neighbors had males in the household; they were not specifically harassed as I was, although nobody thought Dad and his foster kids were pleasant neighbors; this alpha male obsessively dominated every person he encountered, he did it to continuously validate his masculinity, and I believe he would truly rather die than fail to dominate someone, especially a woman living as though she’s free.
I applied for a conceal/carry permit, just for them. I live in one of the toughest states for guns. I was vetted for four months by the state and the FBI, for criminality and insanity; they found neither, and I got my permit. Then I bought a pistol and took classes in how to use it. I learned the state laws around use of deadly force, I did target practice, I rehearsed and drilled myself, body and mind, in self-defense scenarios, repeatedly, because I didn’t want to freeze, I wanted self-defense to be in my automatic muscle memory. Because I couldn’t afford to sell my house at that time, because I didn’t want to die or get disabled, and because I hate caving to men’s aggression, it doesn’t even make you safe.
So I was ready when they rushed me. Even more than I’d hoped, my body helped me, going into emergency fight-or-flight mode. My heart was racing and I was suddenly perceiving and thinking at great speed; although it felt as though the world had suddenly lapsed into slow motion, while I was operating at normal speed. That perception made me calm, it made me feel I had lots of time to make good decisions and enact them carefully.
Just as I’d rehearsed, I drew an imaginary line across the sidewalk about 15-20 feet from me. When they crossed that line, they would be shot. My left hand still held the leash; my right hand was in my pocket, grasping the gun and pulling it upward. It was most of the way out of my pocket when the leader looked away from me into the street, then ran into the street; he was followed by the other two. They laughed and high-fived each other, then ran home to the other side of the street. Turned out it had been a game of chicken, scare the old lezzer for laughs I guess. It seems they never saw the gun, nor imagined it.
I took the dog into my house, removed the leash, then used my left hand to remove the fingers of my right hand from the gun; they had begun to turn white from my surprisingly strong grip, which my body was reluctant to release despite commands from my brain. I got a drink of water, breathed, then called the police.
My relationship with the local police had not been good. I was a newcomer, I had no local family, it was a small town with conservative values. My neighbor had a large extended family, they’d been in town for generations. Some had criminal records, including his father, a convicted rapist; but my neighbor was seen as trying against the odds to be a decent family man, modeling alpha masculinity, and taking in foster children to provide the highly valued male role model. Also, he had a cousin on the police force. Whereas I guess I was chopped liver. In any case, the police never gave credence to my complaints, even when I had a witness (e.g., my passenger on the motorcycle they attacked).
Nevertheless I was determined to create at least some kind of official record. By phone I gave the police a detailed account of what had just occurred, and pleaded with them to give out some consequences, finally. Otherwise there would be no deterrence, I said. If you don’t deter this behavior, I said, this will keep happening and eventually I will kill those young men.
Then I checked my security cameras; sure enough, one camera had captured the event, and I saved it.
Now, if I’d been the cops, I would have immediately interviewed the young men, and possibly issued Dad a summons for something. At the very least, I would have talked seriously with the young men and Dad about the possibility of death for unsupervised young men who rush with raised fists at grownups, including female grownups.
That’s not what they did though. The next day, the police obtained an ex parte order from a judge authorizing them to confiscate my permit and weapon, because I’d threatened to kill the “children”. So just when I’d illustrated how much I needed a weapon – not to mention police protection – my gun was taken and the police made it clear they were not only declining to protect me, they were impeding my efforts to protect myself.
My security video footage was deemed by the police to look innocent because there was no physical contact.
I tried to hire a local lawyer; he refused, laughing incredulously, as though my request for representation under the circumstances was ridiculous. I’m guessing he felt he needed a good relationship with the police. I was able to do better, though: I engaged a criminal lawyer in the state capital who specialized in gun law and didn’t have to get along with my village police. Some of the best $2500 I ever spent.
We sued the police for the return of my gun and permit. The police were represented not by the town attorney, as expected, but by the county District Attorney; I took it as a sign of their growing respect for me. I’d presented the police with a FOIA request for arrest records of my neighbor and his family; the police failed to comply. My lawyer opted to proceed with the hearing without those records. The judge noted the police failure to comply with federal law.
The hearing went on for two days. The courtroom was filled mostly with my friends, and several friends testified to my good character; the neighbor also testified. In fact, he confirmed under oath that my account of everything that he knew about was accurate, although he confirmed it from a place of self-righteous outrage. His foster kids were not called to testify. No news reporters were present at the hearing.
The police were less truthful than the neighbor. Under oath, the police presented the audio recording of my phone call to them immediately after the incident. To my surprise, they had altered it, and lacked the technical skill to do it well. The tape (magnetic tape!) contained an electronic pop, then a moment of silence during which the ambient hum disappeared, then another electronic pop, then suddenly there was my voice saying “I will kill those young men”. The preceding “if” clause was missing. On hearing the pop, the judge said “Play that part again.” He got it. First sign things might work out. It was looking as though the County Court Judge was not owned by the police.
I prevailed in court. If I hadn’t, I would have taken an appeal. I got my gun and permit back. But for my neighbor, the police, and the local newspaper, it was a time for outrage. Neighbor picketed in front of the courthouse with a sign saying “Lauren threatened to kill my kids and Judge Jones gave her gun back.” The local newspaper put neighbor’s picture on the front page with a story telling his version of my gun aggression against his babies (but he hadn’t witnessed it). The next day they put a haunted looking picture of my house on the front page. The following day a tv station in the state capital came to interview me; I said no. They said “Okay, then, your neighbor has already told us what happened, we just wanted to give you a chance to give your side.” Meanwhile their camera was rolling.
What appeared on the evening news was the loving father showing old snapshots of his adorable foster sons at approximately age 5; and an unsmiling witch, face oddly lighted from below, like a 1930s horror movie. It was how you look when you hold a flashlight pointing up at your face while you tell a ghost story in the dark.
The police chief wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper vilifying my character. I did not write a letter in response because by then I knew the newspaper would alter it.
But it all slowly got better. The police immediately began giving me some police protection, they started appearing more often than not when I phoned in complaints; I guess they didn’t want to put young men’s lives at risk again.
The neighbor began to keep more physical distance from me, and his young men also; and the verbal harassment mostly stopped. One day I heard him tell a visiting young male relative “Don’t go near that house, she shoots people.” Love is good, but sometimes fear is the best you can do, and sometimes it’s enough.
Neighbor had some relapses, like when he raked all the leaves from his property across the street to the front of my property. I called the police to warn them that I was about to rake them back. I was only about half done when two policemen arrived, just in time to stop a rake-on-rake interaction with the neighbor. One policeman ordered me to stop raking, as he physically struggled with perp neighbor, who was not only physically resisting, but reaching for the officer’s gun. The two officers prevailed. One asked me, I think genuinely puzzled, “If you’re afraid of him, why don’t you just stay out of his way?” I said that’s not an effective way of dealing with a bullying aggressor if I want to be able to live here. The officer shook his head, “But then you must not be afraid of him, right? I don’t understand why you keep confronting him if you’re afraid, I really don’t understand.” I said “Do you understand courage?” Of course he did, he was a police officer. Courage is doing what scares you because it’s what needs doing. He had no verbal response, but he stopped shaking his head; I think he suddenly got it, that maybe courage wasn’t sex linked after all.
About a year later, the oldest foster son was arrested in the state capital for seriously beating a prostituted woman. He went to juvie for several years; then was released; but within two days he was again arrested, this time for armed robbery.
Number 2 foster son had his own police issues, one was something about a 12 year old girl. Dad finally threw him out after the young man spray-painted an antichrist symbol on Dad’s front door, in magenta. Two down.
Child Protective Services eventually stopped sending Dad foster kids. I don’t know what prompted their decision, but it instantly improved quality of life on the block by about 50%.
Dad now has two kids of his own, around 9 and 8 or something like that. But they are rarely unsupervised. When they do something destructive to my property, I go outside and photograph them with my phone camera, it’s got better resolution than the security cameras and it’s in color. They immediately stop when my camera appears. Dad complains to the police when I photograph his family, even though the police have explained taking pictures of people in public is not illegal. I do have a couple of impressive hate rant videos directed at me by him and his family members recorded on my camera though, in case of future need.
What are the lessons here? I’m still working it out, but here are some hypotheses:
1. Police hate breaches of the peace. Letting them know you will breach the peace in self defense may improve police responsiveness.
2. Police hate being sued and losing; they might rather protect you, or at least leave you alone.
3. Police may not recognize courage in a female unless it is pointed out; they confuse it with insanity.
4. Security cameras, self-defense classes, and attorney fees are not good places to save money.
5. If you’re faced with corrupt systems, keep going up in the hierarchy until you find individuals with enough power to be independent despite pressure from lower-level officials.
6. Rehearse a lot; and remember that fight-or-flight is a real-world superpower.