Concealed Carry Magazine
This article was authored by Autumn Parkin and is reprinted courtesy of Concealed Carry Magazine with permission of the United States Concealed Carry Association. All other rights reserved. For more information contact www.uscca.com.
“SO, WHAT DO YOU DO?”
We all get this question frequently. When I tell people I work in the firearms industry, I’m met with curiosity and rather annoying questions like, “How does a woman get involved in that?”
I’m careful in answering these queries, seeing myself as an ambassador to a culture that is often demonized by our government and our media. But my message is consistent: “There are dangerous, merciless people who might try to rob me of my dignity and my life, and it is up to me to defend myself — not only for myself but for my family as well. I know this firsthand.”
I wasn’t always a “gun nut.” I was born into an ultra-liberal household. I had zero exposure to firearms safety, and I wholeheartedly believed that guns had no place in everyday life. I believed I was immune to violence; after all, I was a good person who wouldn’t harm anyone. I believed that it couldn’t happen to me.
I was wrong.
When I was just 15 years old, I attended a party with some friends. I was naïve and deeply desired to fit in with my peers. After a few drinks, I headed to the bathroom. When I got to the door, I was shoved from behind by a classmate and his friend, and I went headfirst into the bathtub.
They dragged me out by my feet and shoved me into a corner. I begged them to stop and attempted to fight back, but they were so strong. They took turns holding me down and raping me, all the while laughing and giving each other high fives. I did not have the mindset, skills or tools to effectively defend myself. All of my attempts to fight these guys off were futile.
I was devastated. I never told my parents or the authorities. I felt weak and ashamed, but worse, I felt alone, having nowhere to turn for help in processing this event. I struggled through my teen and early adult years significantly because of what transpired at that party.
Six years later, I was hosting my own party for some friends. We were celebrating with expensive champagne, and we sat around the table, laughing and reminiscing. Later, the conversation grew dark in subject, and there was an ominous tone in the room. I remember having a sickening feeling, which I chose to ignore out of politeness.
The next thing I knew, my “friend” stood up and picked up the champagne glass that sat in front of him. Before I could process what was going on, he broke it on the table and shoved the glass stem through my nose while I sat there, stunned.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” I thought to myself.
I was so traumatized by the initial blow, I didn’t see or feel the knife being plunged into my chest. A warm, metallic taste filled my mouth, and I realized I was bleeding and my face had been sliced lip to cheek. Leaning forward in my chair and seeing the blood pour from my face, I remember thinking to myself, “This is how I’m going to die.”
At this point, the others present had restrained my attacker and a call was placed to law enforcement. My attacker was taken into custody, and law enforcement began processing the crime scene. The Crime Scene Investigators were taking pictures of me, even the bottoms of my feet; it felt so surreal.
Emergency services transported me to a local hospital. When I arrived, a nurse said something I will never forget. “Looks like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre in here!” she exclaimed. The doctor at the ER took one look at me and turned white. He immediately called for my transfer, then crudely stitched the wound in my chest and sent me to a trauma center 30 minutes away.
There I underwent three surgeries on my left eye, and it took my surgeon many hours to remove the hundreds of glass shards left in my face. It’s a miracle I can still see out of my left eye and still have the ability to smile.
I was traumatized. I felt disfigured and unlovable. I couldn’t be alone, and I couldn’t go out at night. How could I ever feel safe again? The constant anxiety and relentless panic attacks were crippling me.
I met my husband shortly afterward, and I wholly depended on him for my personal protection. When I received my restitution, I asked him to teach me how to shoot. We bought a couple of pistols, and he taught me the fundamentals.
I was so intimidated and insecure, it was three frustrating years before I got the courage to seek professional training. I don’t recommend anyone wait this long. Without professional instruction, there’s the likelihood of picking up bad habits, or “training scars,” which can be difficult to overcome.
When I eventually got my concealed carry permit, I thought I was prepared to defend myself. I was armed now … so how could a bad guy possibly win? I was in for quite the surprise!
I was scrolling through Facebook one night and saw an ad for a Multi-Stage Self-Defense Course at Forward Movement Training Center, a local training facility. I’m so grateful I decided to make attending a priority.
During our scenario-based training, I was put into a home-invasion scenario. When the attacker broke through the door, I attempted to access the firearm, which was staged in one of the rooms. When I couldn’t get to the firearm, I ended up barricading in the closet with no means of defense other than a hanger.
This is the moment when everything changed for me. Yes, I had the permit to carry a firearm for self-defense, but was I actually prepared for a fight for my life? After that scenario, I wasn’t so sure. What would my children do without me? These questions plagued me.
After that experience, I started to take my training very seriously. I took self-defense, defensive pistol, home defense, vehicle defense and executive protection courses, all of which incorporated heavy amounts of force-on-force and scenario-based training. Through these courses, I learned how to effectively use my firearm for self-defense and defense of others. I learned how to use my presence and my voice to deter predators, how to mitigate the effects of adrenaline and how to react quickly and make decisions under stress.
Training was such a healing experience for me. The more I trained, the more confident I became in my ability to respond to a threat. And as my confidence grew, my anxiety subsided.
I still struggled with many issues, though, like how to conceal my handgun. I’m very fashion-forward, so finding ways to carry in styles I actually wanted to wear was a struggle. Most of the resources I found on how to conceal were written by men, and, let’s face it, our bodies are pretty different.
I started researching and seeking out alternatives to the bulky holsters that were keeping me in hoodies. I was delighted to find so many creative women joining the once male-dominated industry with solutions to this problem.
We are seeing mighty groups of women who are demanding acceptance in an industry that can benefit them the most, and the industry is responding.
I joined The Well Armed Woman, a non-profit shooting organization for women, whose mission is to educate, equip and empower women in the safe and effective use of firearms. I became a leader and instructor, and I have the honor and privilege to see so many women grow in skill and in confidence. I have truly been given beauty for ashes.
I don’t share my story because I want to be seen as a victim. Anyone who knows me knows I am anything but! But my story is a cautionary tale; one to validate the importance of preparing for a critical incident. I share my story to encourage women to go boldly and seek training without intimidation. My mission is to empower women with lifesaving knowledge.
Terrible things happen every day, and it’s up to us to be ready. Our lives are worth protecting, and we owe it to our loved ones to invest in our personal defense.
Joining the USCCA will get you a subscription to Concealed Carry Magazine plus access to all of the archives! You will also be protected by The USCCA’s Self Defense Shield.
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