In March of 2017, I wrote an article titled Kelly Herron: A Courageous And Fortunate Young Woman.
Herron was on a marathon training run one day in Seattle, and stopped to use a bathroom in a park. She was attacked by a convicted sex criminal. By fighting as violently as she could, she was able to fight him off, and even managed to lock him, with the help of a passerby, in a bathroom stall until police could arrive. He tried to rape her, but did not succeed.
A Colorado women wasn’t quite so fortunate, as Fox News reports:
Vanessa Ursini, 29, said she was walking her dog along the Platte River Trail in Littleton, Colorado, when a man — whom she now believes was stalking her — came up behind her with a rope and began choking her, dragging her into the nearby woods.
Ursini said the man bound her ankles and wrists and took off most of her clothes.
‘I fought like hell and screamed my brains out,’ Ursini said, adding her dog tried to fight off her attacker, too. But eventually, she said he threatened to kill her if she didn’t stop screaming – so she did.
During the scuffle, Ursini had knocked the man’s glasses off, and as he looked for them, she managed to untie the restraint around her ankles without him noticing. She took off running until she reached a nearby bike path where people came to her aid, KUSA-TV reported.
Littleton Police arrested a 48-year-old man after a group of cyclists believed they spotted the suspect, and chased and cornered him until officers arrived. Johnny Dewayne Harris, who is believed to be homeless, was being held Friday at the Arapahoe County Detention Center.
The criminal scum that attacked Kelly Herron was a felon and known sex offender. And the animal that attacked Ursini?
Harris has been charged with sexual assault and kidnapping, Littleton police said. At the time of the woman’s assault, Harris already had warrants out for his arrest, including two for sex-related crimes in Denver, Cmdr. Trent Cooper said during a news conference.
Harris, who is on the sex offender registry in Texas, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1999 for sexually assaulting a teenage girl, according to KUSA.
Ursini, like Herron, posted photos of their injuries. Ursini said:
Even if you have been on your local path, your grocery store parking lot, or anywhere 100 times, danger can exist anywhere,’ she said. ‘I am lucky to be alive, so please have a plan in place to protect yourself from whatever may be out there.
Good advice, particularly if that plan includes the means to actually stop an attacker, permanently if possible.
Kelly Herron and Vanessa Ursini are the kind of women I’d like to meet. Both are fortunate to be alive. All too often in my police career, and in the news thereafter, I’ve seen and read about women like them, but not as lucky, raped and killed by psychopaths and sociopaths smart enough to leave no witnesses.
All too often I see women, alone, running or riding, earbuds in their ears, their eyes focused on the ground only a yard or two in front of them, paying little or no attention to their surroundings, and I shake my head and say a prayer for their safety. Does that sound sexist? If that was your first thought, read on, but prepare to be outraged, because I’m about to provide a dose of hard, cold reality, and part of that reality is that women are different than men. The horror.
Women are physically weaker than men. They are generally smaller, have substantially less upper body mass, muscle and strength, and are generally substantially less aggressive than men. What’s that you say?
Some women are great martial artists? Indeed some are, but even they, if honest, will affirm that size, strength and aggression can easily overpower skill. In martial arts competitions, men do not fight women; the results are preordained. This is also why there are weight classes in such competitions. There was only one Bruce Lee, and 150-pound fighters do not take on 200-pound fighters, because the results are preordained. Does this mean studying the martial arts is useless? Certainly not. They provide many benefits, physical and psychological, but as Clint Eastwood said in Magnum Force, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”
Kelly Herron and Vanessa Ursini lived because they kept their wits about them, didn’t give up, and fought until they could escape. They did the right things at the right times. Herron was able, with help, to lock her attacker in the bathroom until the police could arrive. That’s extraordinarily rare. Ursini managed to free her ankles, and ran–thankfully a short distance–for help. The media account doesn’t say it, but she was almost certainly nude or nearly so, with her wrists still bound, but she did precisely the right thing at precisely the right time.
For whatever reason, their attackers weren’t armed, and didn’t get the chance to kill them. It’s horrible to contemplate, but they likely didn’t want to rape dead women; hard, cold reality, remember? We’re not dealing with people that want dialogue. Their desires are rather more primal. Ursini was beaten and raped, Herron beaten. Perhaps the vicious beasts that attacked them would have left them, beaten and bound, and run away. In many cases like this we don’t hear from the victim afterward. They are forever missing, or we read a story months or years later about a badly decomposed body stumbled upon in a remote area.
Few people, particularly women, are ever involved in fights. They are fast, brutal and ugly. Being struck in the face is painful, stunning and destructive. Single blows can disfigure, cripple, even kill. Being attacked by someone larger and stronger is overwhelming and potentially deadly. The kinds of fights one sees on TV and in the movies, where a smaller hero defeats multiple, much larger bad guys, are not fighting, but choreography. Every movement, every blow is carefully planned and done over and over until the final, edited product is convincing, and no one is hurt.
The smartest thing to do, always, is avoid confrontations.
To do that, as Ursini advised, too late to spare her trauma, one needs to develop situational awareness. Most people are completely unaware of what is happening outside their personal, arms-length bubble. Cell phones, ear buds, and other distractions have made this much worse. My article Bras And Guns And Knives, Oh My, speaks of a case of a madman on a train, pointing a gun at many people, their heads down in their cellphones, oblivious to death stalking them–until he shot one.
Geography, for the most part, offers no protection. Evil exists; it knows no geographical limits. Ursini and Herron were attacked in public parks. We’re not sure about Herron’s situation, but there were many people present near Ursini, and both women were attacked not at night, but in broad daylight, in places familiar to them, places wherein they probably felt safe.
Fortunately, anyone can develop better situational awareness by simply learning to pay attention to their surroundings, by always asking “what if?” What if that guy walking toward me tries to grab me? What if that guy reaching into his coat comes out with a gun? What will I do? Where will I go? If someone wanted to attack me when I left my home, where would they do it? Where’s the safest place to park? Which areas should I avoid? Is anything, anyone, I’m seeing threatening or unusual?
Spotting potential danger early enough provides opportunities to go elsewhere, to go where there are many people, or if properly armed, to deter an attack, or if necessary, end it. To this end, no one, and particularly, no woman, should ever run or ride with ear buds or any other electronic device distracting them. Not only does this make them easier targets for predators, it makes it more likely they’ll be run over by inattentive drivers. But running is no fun without my music! Neither is being beaten and raped or crushed beneath the wheels of a vehicle. But that will never happen to me!
Probably not, but there is absolutely nothing keeping it from happening to you either. Ask Kelly Herron and Vanessa Ursini. People would be amazed to know how many sex offenders and other sociopaths are out there. They walk among us every day. They stand behind us at the checkout counter, sit near us in theaters, live down the street or in the apartment down the hall. Some plan their attacks carefully; others are opportunists. One thing is certain, exposing oneself to attack by being isolated, unaware, unprepared and unarmed dramatically increases the odds against you.
What about pepper spray? The products commercially available are less powerful than those formulated for the police. During my police days I rarely used the stuff, because when I did, everybody got a dose. My eyes and nose ran, and I coughed and hacked–this stuff works best on sober police officers–as I wrestled the bad guy into submission as they too coughed and hacked. The stuff affects some people, causing them to submit, but for many, it only makes them mad, and their rage and unrestrained struggles cause them to sling bodily fluids in all directions. Its use also requires one to be close, closer than any rational person would want to be to someone trying to attack them, and the closer you are, the more of the stuff you’re going to get.
How about knives? The aforementioned article speaks of a female jogger who was attacked, survived, and designed a line of bras with holsters for small knives. The use of edged weapons is a martial art in and of itself. It requires training, skill, strength and speed. Anyone fighting with edged weapons must be ready to be cut, and cut badly. Their use also requires one to be within arms length of an attacker, and if you’re female, that attacker will likely have greater reach, strength and speed. Even if one is highly skilled in the use of knives, it’s difficult to do enough damage to quickly stop an attacker, even if they are unarmed and unskilled. A sword would be an improvement, but they’re all but impossible to carry, and materializing them when needed only worked on Highlander.
How about a cell phone? An attacker is not going to politely yield the time and space to dial 911 and calmly ask for help, describing him and giving the location, to say nothing of police response time–think a minimum of 15 minutes after one connects with a dispatcher and fully–and coherently–explains. By all means, carry a cell phone, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it provides deterrence or protection.
How about alarms, whistles, flashing lights, combs, keys, or other supposedly sure fire means of daunting a much larger, stronger and determined rapist? Ask yourself if you’d bet your life on such ephemera, because if that’s all you have, you will.
What’s left? Handguns, the only self-defense arm that can deter or quickly stop a determined attacker, the only arm that can bridge the size, strength and speed gap between men and women. But I could never hurt someone! I just want to scare them!
That’s a laudable, civilized attitude, but it fails to take into account the intentions of anyone vicious enough to attack and rape a woman. Such attacks can leave one disfigured, crippled, emotionally and physically, or if the attacker wants no witnesses, dead. Are you really so tender toward rapists and murderers? Is your life truly of so little value to you and those you love? Are the lives of sociopathic monsters of greater value to your family and society than yours?
Every year or two, I update my series on gun ownership. The final part of the 2017 update of that series is available here. I’ll be writing the 2018 update in a few months. The 2017 article has links to the entire series, which discusses all of the issues revolving around gun ownership. It may be useful to those unsure about these issues.
Handguns are used as often as two million times a year to stop criminal assault, and in most of those instances, no shots are fired. The mere presence of a handgun is sufficient to make criminals turn tail and run. No one should count on this, however. No one should ever draw a handgun without being ready and willing to use it. Predators can read hesitation, and they’ll take advantage of it. It is the obvious will to use a handgun that deters and puts predators to flight, not merely brandishing it.
Fortunately, many manufacturers make small, light and easily concealed handguns, and several manufacturers make bras and other clever holsters and other devices for carrying them while running or riding. Combined with situational awareness, one can maintain sufficient distance to avoid, deter or prevent attacks, and if attacked, to end them.
Among the best contemporary choices is the Smith and Wesson Bodyguard in .380 ACP. Contemporary cartridge design has made that cartridge a viable self-defense option, and the Bodyguard is available with an integral laser sight. Its polymer frame makes it light, and prevents rust. My article on that handgun–early models had an Insight rather than Crimson Trace laser–is available here.
Another excellent choice is the Ruger LCP and LCPII, both polymer .380s. The LCPII is an updated version with a superior trigger. Like the Bodyguard, it is available with an integral laser sight, and aftermarket sights, such as those available from Crimson Trace, are available.
More and more women are choosing to carry concealed weapons, a satisfying development.
No woman should run or ride alone. It’s an unrealistic suggestion, so no woman should be unable to save her life if the need arises. One would hope that’s a reality more obvious to Kelly Herron and Vanessa Ursini these days. Five months after her attack, Herron said:
The moment I realized I was being assaulted and what was happening was real, I screamed at my attacker, ‘Not today, motherfucker!’ I have never been so pissed off in my entire life, there was no room for fear in the moment,” Herron remembers. “I was trying to make him realize that he messed with the wrong girl and that he is the one who should be afraid because I was going to fight to the death. I kept thinking that there was no way I was going to let him rape me and I was willing to die to stop it from happening.
Admirable, as is Ursini. One more bit of reality. Herron’s attacker, 40, despite multiple felony charges, including failure to register as a sex offender after previous convictions, was sentenced to only three years in prison. He’ll be out, ready to rape, in 2020.
This, despite a history of sexual violence against women. Enlightened penology for Ursini’s attacker would be to lock him up and throw away the key, but most likely, he’ll be sentenced to ten years or so, and be out much earlier for good behavior. Oh, but he’ll have to register as a sex offender! He was already a registered sex offender. That didn’t seem to slow him down. It’s also a good idea to remember that most Democrats, and not a few Republicans, think releasing all manner of criminals from prison early–or not imprisoning them in the first place–is an enormously good idea.
The point is simple: even convicted rapists are commonly released, and they rape again, and again–circa 2018, many actual rapes still go unreported–and many choose to kill their victims to avoid going back to prison. They want to continue to practice their craft. The same monsters probably won’t attack Herron and Ursini again, but they’re going to attack someone. Sex offenders, particularly serial sex offenders, virtually never change their ways.
Here’s another recent case of a rapist/kidnapper. His victim also escaped, and he was captured.
Maintaining fitness is good. Maintaining the lives of women is priceless. The right to self-defense–and the most common and useful means to accomplish it–is the ultimate women’s issue. Kelly Herron and Vanessa Ursini might agree.
UPDATE: 07-31-18, 2220 CST: Consider this from Oxygen:
Harris registered as a sex offender after a 1999 conviction for assaulting a 15-year-old girl, according to the Post. He was sentenced to 15 years and was released in 2014.
He was also charged with several sex crimes in January 2016, according to court records, but many of those charges were dropped when he pleaded guilty to indecent exposure.
This kind of plea bargaining is common. Sex criminals, who virtually never reform, commonly have long records of sexual offenses bargained down or dismissed before they are caught for a crime that can’t be easily ignored, though some still are. Also common is judged that don’t take these crimes seriously. No one should count on the criminal justice system to keep these predators locked up.