If my rapist comes after me again, is there any legal weapon (other than a gun) that will stop him?
May 31, 2011 8:21 AM   Subscribe

I was raped by someone I thought was a friend. I finally reported him to the cops, but I live alone in a city where i walk everywhere. He knows all of this, along with my daily habits. I don't want to change my lifestyle, but I need safety, especially at my apartment (which is where he raped me). Pepper spray (which I already have), tasers, stun guns--I've seen cops use these things on men of his size & it makes no difference. I feel like I have no choice but to get a gun. Please help me think of another option.

I'm smart and rational, and have been on my own for 10 years. The man who raped me worked at jobs that required a criminal background check, so I know he doesn't have convictions for anything violent. I know that all of this seems completely out of his character, which is why I was in shock for months and didn't report it. But he was so bold in what he did to me, knowing I knew his name and where he worked and could send the cops there to find him, he never worried. Everything about what he did tells me he's done it before and will do it again. And I may have given him the confidence to do it again and think he'll never get caught.

I made the report to the police but he won't know about it until a week from now, when detectives contact him. There's not enough evidence to charge him with my rape--I waited months, never got a rape test, he was in my apartment with me, no witnesses--whatever, I didn't report him thinking this was going to get him locked up. I reported him for the next girl that he rapes--if she goes to the cops, I want my report on her side when it becomes his word against hers.

The cops already told me they'd have to talk to everyone he worked with at his old and new jobs to see if they'd ever seen him doing anything like this to other girls. He'll know that other people are hearing rumors about him, and he'll worry about getting a job here (I heard he had problems getting his current job). He's going to be very angry at me. I'm afraid the reason that no charges have been brought against him in the past is that he intimidated those girls into not saying anything. He really needs this to go away, and he'll know the only one that can make it all magically go away is me. Do I think this person would ever come after me like that when the cops would know he did it? He already committed a crime against me, knowing I could go straight to the cops and tell them everything. So I'm scared.

So lets be realistic. This person is over a foot taller and 100 lbs more than me. If I tried to hit him with a baseball bat or stab him with a knife, he's going to be able to get it away from me. A gun feels like my only chance, but obviously I can't walk around with a concealed weapon. The police told me that if he tried to approach me on the street, I should call 911 immediately. So now I have to count on me being able to dial 911 and them getting to me in time? At least I could try to outrun him, run home, lock myself in my apartment and call 911. If he tried to bang down the door or bust through a window in the meantime, I'd shoot him.

The problem is that getting a gun is such a process, and i really, really don't want to own a gun. I've never even touched one. I've already gone though this trauma over and over again, I'm trying not to make it worse on myself. Also, I know there's a waiting period and I imagine it would be pretty costly--I'm not putting a price on my safety, I'm thinking about how much $ I could scrape together immediately.

I'm hoping one of you can think of something I can LEGALLY own and keep in my home to use as a weapon against someone so much bigger than me. Bonus points if you can think of anything I can carry on me when I leave my house to run errands. I know the laws vary by state, so I want to add that I live in California.

I'm in my late 20s with no boyfriend or brother to protect me. My father is hours away and doesn't know--thinking of his daughter getting raped would give him a heart attack. And he's no physical match for this guy either! Any guy friends I have, I know just about as well as I know the guy who raped me. Even if I had a giant boyfriend to protect me, he can't be with me 24/7, and i refuse to live my life with anyone being my 24/7 bodyguard. If he breaks down my door in the middle of the night, I'll only have myself to depend on. The amount of time it takes from the time I realize what he's doing, to the moment he can physically grab me--that could be seconds. Those few seconds will be my only chance to protect myself against him. At that point, pepperspray, stun guns, tasers, self defense moves, a knife--whatever I choose HAS to work. I won't get a second chance to even the playing field. I'm a very petite female.

If you have anything you don't want to say here, you can email me at: may30th2011@gmail.com

PS - I looked up airsoft guns but those don't seem like they would stop him if he was coming at me. What about a flare gun, or something like that? I know that sounds weird, but if I shot someone at a close distance with a flare gun, wouldn't that stop them?

Also, I read this thread already (http://ask.metafilter.com/154851/Selfdefense-options-for-the-home). my apartment doesn't allow dogs (but if they did and I had a lot of money, I'd go get myself a security-trained german shepherd). I have bear spray already, it was feet away from me when I was raped--obviously this time I'd be more prepared to grab & use it, but even if I sprayed him, i'm afraid he could easily grab his eyes in pain with one hand, and grab me with the other (& using it indoors means there's a strong chance I could be effected, keeping me from being able to run out of my apartment!)

Thanks everyone.

(and to any female going through this who finds this post now or 2 years from now: I'm okay and you will be too. Whatever happens, I don't regret reporting him, and I never will. The only thing I regret is taking so long to report him, and worrying that some other girl was raped in the meantime. Please report your rapist, even if you don't think it's going to help you in anyway. I'm going through this to protect all of you from him--so please protect me and everyone else from the guy that raped you. They'll do it again, this time with the confidence of knowing they can get away with it. If you don't think you're strong enough to go through it, you're wrong! Sometimes we don't know how strong we are because we haven't gotten a chance to test ourselves yet. If you get raped, it's not getting through the rape itself that makes you strong--you have no choice but to get through it. It's everything you do afterward that makes you strong. And then anytime you face adversity in the future, you won't worry that you're not strong enough to go on. You'll know that you are. And so am I.)
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (74 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
OP, I am so sorry this happened to you.

Can you get a restraining order ASAP?

I've always heard that the best defense against walking alone is to be on your cell phone every time you're walking somewhere.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:24 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Restraining order.

And some sort of self-defense class. You'll become more confident AND get to break up your routine a little to throw him off track.

Good luck and I'm so sorry.
posted by lovelygirl at 8:30 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Pepper spray (which I already have), tasers, stun guns--I've seen cops use these things on men of his size & it makes no difference.

This is not a common occurrence. Cops keep those things in their arsenal because they do generally work against people regardless of size. Whether any of them are right for you I can't say. Local organizations that deal with womens' self defense and related issues might be able to give you some advice.

I know that sounds weird, but if I shot someone at a close distance with a flare gun, wouldn't that stop them?

Probably not, unless you managed to hit the face or otherwise get lucky and incapacitate the person. You also don't want to fire one in a confined space. Would any of your reluctance to own/use a gun carry over to a flare gun as well?

A restraining order is a good idea.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:32 AM on May 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

A gun will only help you in the very unlikely worst-case-scenario - i.e. if he violently attacks you with no care for consequences. You will criminalize yourself if you use it against him. I'm not saying don't do it, but it's the highest risk strategy when it comes to self defence.

Request several rape alarms from your police station (we were given them as standard at uni) and carry them on you. Chances are, even if he does come after you, he would rather not be caught doing so. If you see him at the end of your street, set one off and run.

Speaking on the phone to people will help. If you have a group of trustworthy friends, let them know of your situation. If you see him, tell them and they can call 911 for you, knowing the area where you live.

I'm so sorry you're going through this.
posted by dumdidumdum at 8:35 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm afraid I don't know about guns, but your courage is inspiring.

However, you mention being afraid he'll break in the door of the apartment -- an easy half-solution might be putting a heavier bolt on the door?
posted by lewedswiver at 8:36 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Is moving an option? As a bonus, if you move to another apartment, you might then be able to get a dog.
posted by orange swan at 8:36 AM on May 31, 2011 [8 favorites]

First of all, I admire your courage in reporting him and in working through your trauma from this event. You obviously have a lot of strength of character and have handled this extraordinarily well.

I think that you need to communicate your fear to the police explicitly. I'm sure you have, but that's the first thing I would do. Then, make 911 your #1 speed dial so it only takes one button.

Then you will probably have to alter your routine a bit for that first week that he is interviewed (and possibly beyond). Do you have someone you can stay with for a few nights? Can you couch-surf for a few nights? Can you have someone stay with you? Can you have someone drive you home/walk with you after/before work?

Can you alert someone in your workplace as to his threats and have them run interference if he shows up?

I know you don't want to involve your family, but even if your father can take a day or two off work to spend with you (or you go stay with him) that's still helpful.

I would argue against getting a gun, as you seem so uncomfortable with it. Mace/pepper spray may not totally stop him, but it will make him stop long enough for you to get away or call for help.

I'm so, so sorry you're in that situation. I pray it doesn't come to the point that you need these precautions, but you are smart to prepare...just in case.
posted by guster4lovers at 8:36 AM on May 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

Wow, you're brave. I really commend you. In a tangible way, you're making life better for other women.

I don't have an informed opinion on getting a gun, but I agree that you need a restraining order ASAP. Also, can you give your neighbors a heads up? You don't have to say you were raped if you don't want to, you can tell them it's a crazy ex-boyfriend and that they shouldn't hesitate to call police if they hear something. Some people will avoid calling if they hear yelling, figuring it's just some argument that will blow over, so your neighbors need to know that if they see this guy at all, or if they hear any weird noises from your apartment, they need to call 911 immediately.

Also also, check in with a friend multiple times a day, and instruct him/her to call the police if she/he doesn't hear from you at the appointed time. Get a backup cell phone in case something happens with your main one, and carry them both at all times. (Bonus: he won't have that number.)

Honestly, though, I'd move. Are you ever really going to feel safe in that apartment as long as he's free?
posted by desjardins at 8:38 AM on May 31, 2011 [15 favorites]

And some sort of self-defense class. You'll become more confident AND get to break up your routine a little to throw him off track.

Whatever you do, take a self defense class. I did krav maga with an instructor that taught a very mixed group of men and women, and focused heavily on basic fitness and self defense.
There are a lot of good reasons to do it. You'll gain confidence and physical ability, you'll learn to escape from holds and chokes and learn how to incapacitate attackers and escape quickly.

Even if you DO get a weapon, defense classes will allow you to actually own, use, or avoid using it, without getting hurt. It's really, very seriously recommended.

Other than that... restraining orders, move if that's what it takes to clean the slate, keep in touch with the local law enforcement, and keep your chin up.

Hope that helps.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:51 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

A word on guns:

I grew up in a family that owned guns. Not some hillbilly, living out in the country, gun rack on your car family, but a quiet suburban family with a few guns in the house for purposes of home protection. They have never been fired with intent to hurt someone.

When my brother and I were young, my dad taught us gun safety. How to approach a gun if you happen to find one, how to check to make sure the safety is on, how to NEVER point it at someone EVER, how to check to see if it's loaded and remove the bullets, etc. He also took us to a shooting range so we'd know how to shoot--for fun and confidence.

I don't think owning a gun is right for you. Though I am completely comfortable around guns and would have no (moral or otherwise) trouble operating one if my life or safety were threatened, I have very little interest in owning one. (Not that I could where I live, but that's a separate issue.) If you're not 100% comfortable with the idea of owning a gun (and it sounds like you're not), you should not own a gun.

Something I would suggest, though, is finding a shooting range in your area. You can rent a gun and fire off a few rounds safely and supervised. It can be a real confidence booster and can make you feel powerful at a time when you're feeling scared. Just something to think about, along the lines of self defense classes as mentioned above.

Good luck, and nthing taking out a restraining order on this guy.
posted by phunniemee at 8:54 AM on May 31, 2011 [9 favorites]

Thank you for making that report. It takes real guts to come forward and I wish (and hope) that someone had done the same in the past to take some of the weight off your shoulders.

I would encourage you to find the number for a shelter or support group for women who have survived violence. Googling rape crisis or domestic violence support and your town should give you a place to start. These folks will know exactly what resources are available to you and can help you with things like pursuing a restraining order, locating self-defense classes, establishing a safety plan for yourself, etc. that will help you to feel safe. RAINN is one resource that can help point you to the right groups to speak with. I would also recommend letting your neighbors and a few colleagues at work know that you have a situation with this person (don't need to give specifics) and that you need to know if they see him near your home or workplace.

I would also really encourage you to think about counseling, even just meeting with someone a couple of times to establish a relationship. You have survived a trauma, and even though you feel that you are doing ok now, it can resurface and affect you when you are not expecting it. By speaking with hsomeone now, you will have a chance to build some comfort with a therapist who can help if you find you are struggling later.

You are a strong woman and I wish you all the best. Take good care of yourself.
posted by goggie at 8:56 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's the thing: you probably shouldn't get a gun unless you're willing to use it. Otherwise you risk escalating any potential confrontation without actually gaining any extra protection. If he's willing to rape you, he's already "called your bluff" as it were, and introducing a dangerous weapon into a situation like that sounds like a bad idea unless you are actually willing to shoot the guy. And that may not be something you can know about yourself unless you prepare for it. Simply getting a gun does not actually prepare you to use it to defend yourself, and you really don't sound as if you're ready to do that.

More than that though, it sounds to me like what's needed here may not actually be a firearm. If this guy is as big as you say he is, odds are decent that he's going to be able to take a gun away from you almost as easily as a knife. Unless you shoot him in the head or some other critical area, a large, athletic man will not necessarily be stopped by a gunshot, or even necessarily slowed down all that much. This isn't the movies. People don't instantly fall to the ground, incapacitated, as soon as they take a hit. They may not even know they've been shot for a few minutes. Basically, unless he's dead, which isn't as easy to accomplish as it sounds, there's no rule that says he can't hurt you after you've shot him.

It really sounds to me like what you need is martial arts training. A couple of things here. First, most martial arts training teaches a heck of a lot of self-confidence, in addition to any other benefits, and it really sound like some of that might come in handy. Second, martial arts training can't be taken away from you by force, nor can you forget it at home or leave it in your other purse. Third, sufficiently skilled martial artists can successfully take on opponents several times their size, particularly if the goal is to escape or delay rather than to inflict serious bodily injury.

So my advice would be to get that restraining order (and then enforce it), and sign up for a martial arts course. It doesn't sound to me a like a gun is the solution to the problems you've described.
posted by valkyryn at 8:57 AM on May 31, 2011 [6 favorites]

I am a gun owner. If the feeling of being safer is what you are after, owning a gun will do that, but the practical reality of it is that owning a gun that is locked away is not much of a help in an emergency. If you hear him trying to bust open a door, maybe you have time to unlock the gun, load it and aim. Otherwise, you go to bed thinking you have a gun and can protect yourself, but...

Also, owning a gun is much different than using a gun against a human. I own one and have for a while, but I am still not sure what will happen in an emergency self defense situation. I am pretty sure if the other person has a gun I will use mine (first?), but if the other person does not, I am much less confident.

If I were you, I would start with some sort of physical training and if that does not make you feel more comfortable, then I would get the gun.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:04 AM on May 31, 2011

Perhaps a friend with a video camera could be a useful deterrent to someone with a lot to lose by freaking out on you?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:05 AM on May 31, 2011

I am terribly sorry this happened to you. I wish I could hug you. But you sound so strong, I'm proud of you as well!

Immediate first thought: put a camera in the front hallway of your apartment, in plain view of those entering and the doorway. Have it record to a remote location wirelessly (even to your Dad's computer a few hours away, you can just tell him it is for home security). Then put a big note beside your door that says something like: Under 24/7 video surveillance with remote recording.

If what he really wants is to intimidate you into making this "go away", he will understand that being on video entering your apartment will not help his case.
posted by arnicae at 9:05 AM on May 31, 2011 [10 favorites]

I'm so sorry this happened to you.

I don't know about weapons, but heres a few possible other suggestions:

Move. Break your lease if you have to, but move if you can.

Contact the mods, ask them to post the city you live in. More than likely there are Mefites in the area and they may volunteer to assist in some way. It's no guarantee, anyone is nearby, but it never hurts to try. They don't have to be your best friend, but every little bit helps, you know?

Take a self defense class and tell the instructors and other participants what you've written here. You've alone with not many contacts. Try and change that, so other people know what you're up against and can at least offer some basic help. They don't have to be your best friend, but more than likely they'll be sympathetic to your situation and be willing to help in some way. Every little bit can help.

Think this through and prepare yourself, however hard and unfair that may be.

Get a video camera for your apartment. Put it where it can see your doorway from the inside. If comes after you, try to stay in its view. That sucks, yes, but the point here is to prepare evidence. If can you afford, get several and put them in your apartment. Make sure the camera is hidden as best as possible and has sound. Tell several people about this camera, even if it's just your dad or some other family member.

Go to a notary and write out why you're doing this and any other steps you're taking. Use his name and spell out in plain english that you're doing this to protect yourself. Get it notarized. I'm not sure that it'll help, but a paper trail is always good.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:15 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

As a possible self-defense course, I'd suggest Krav Maga. I have personally seen women take on men double their size and break them in half.
posted by mooselini at 9:19 AM on May 31, 2011

Could you maybe get a dog? For both your protection and also a good companion to help you not feel so lonely.
posted by cazoo at 9:25 AM on May 31, 2011

Like everyone else, I'm so sad to hear this happened to you and you have my admiration and compassion. I'm so glad you're thinking through all of these options here. I have some suggestions and I hope at least one of them is helpful.

1) Don't worry about buying a gun right now. Go take shooting lessons and see how you feel about owning and potentially using a gun after that. If you are not going to be comfortable with the idea of shooting to kill, don't buy a gun.

2) Pepper spray and tasers are effective. The shows you've seen where they don't work are specific instances of folks hopped up on meth. If your assailant had a meth problem, you'd likely know.

3) Call the detectives back and ask if there's a community police officer who can give your home a security assessment. Consider installing an alarm system with a panic button if it will make you feel safer.

4) If there is a local rape crisis centre, they may be able to refer you to a local support group. If this is an option, please think about going. You will meet many other women who are facing the same fears you are, and it really helps - both practically and emotionally.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:26 AM on May 31, 2011 [6 favorites]

A baseball or softball bat is an easy-to-use defensive weapon. Keep one near your front door and another by your bed.
posted by Carol Anne at 9:26 AM on May 31, 2011

Do you have a picture of him? Go door to door to your neighbors in your apartment building with a flyer of his picture and explain what is going on and ask for their assistance in letting you know in advance if they think they see him. Explain that he is dangerous and has threatened you, and that you need all the help you can get for protection. The same at work - let your supervisor know that you have a domestic violence issue and that you just want to give everyone a head's up about a potential trouble-maker.

If you were my neighbor and didn't know you, I'd hug you, give you my cell phone number, and tell you that you don't have to be alone, that others are willing to help you.

Try not to do this alone. People care and if you ask for help, you will get it.

I repeat. PEOPLE CARE.
posted by HeyAllie at 9:34 AM on May 31, 2011 [20 favorites]

Note that if you use any of your proposed lethal defense methods, you're very likely going to be put on trial for murder or attempted murder, unless the circumstances are completely and 100% unambiguous to an outside observer. I'd seriously shy away from buying a gun or using that bear spray. Also, used improperly, both of those can seriously maim or kill you or an innocent bystander.

If this guy's twice your size, there's also an entirely valid chance that he could use your own weapon against you.

If you're going to carry a weapon, get training. No ifs, and, ors, or buts. Get trained.

You couldn't grab your bear spray last time -- what makes you think that you're going to have the gun at hand the next time?

Talk to the detectives about this. Make sure that a restraining order is in place, and have a conversation about why exactly it's necessary to contact this guy if there's not enough evidence to press charges.

Fortunately, you say he has no violent history, which means he's unlikely to be the "busting down doors and windows" type of person. This guy sounds like a creep, but probably not a prowler.

I'm so sorry this happened to you. I know that a lot of what I just wrote might come across as a bit harsh. However, you need to know that it's not necessary or helpful to live in constant fear. Get the facts, talk to the experts (and your friends), and act on that advice rather than what your gut is telling you right now.
posted by schmod at 9:35 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

To clarify one thing in my above comment: I absolutely do believe that you should have some form of self defense available. Tasers and pepper spray are both very effective, and it's a great idea (in general) to take a self-defense class.

You really, really, really don't want to be put in a self-defense situation where your only option is to use lethal force. If nothing else, it creates a lot of paperwork.

Also, guns are harder to use than the movies make it seem, especially if you're trying to take a non-fatal shot. (Cops are actually instructed not to take non-fatal shots, because they're so difficult, and risky if you miss -- your attacker is still mobile, and you've also just released a stray bullet, which can travel for miles)
posted by schmod at 9:44 AM on May 31, 2011

As a survivor, I'm so sorry this happened to you. As someone who never reported my rapist, you have my respect for going to the police.

Nthing martial arts training or self defense training. Much better in the long run than gun ownership. You'll be taught things that will help you much better than a gun.
posted by luckynerd at 9:44 AM on May 31, 2011

(N)thing the suggestions for a restraining order; having something that can be legally enforced before he attempts any further violence is a good idea.

Regarding your schedule and living situation: do you have any female friends (or sisters) you could stay with, or who could stay with you for the immediate future?

Set up a check-in system with someone, as desjardins suggests above. Arrange to call at certain set times every day - not text, not email, not facebook message, call. In addition, let them know whenever you plan to walk somewhere by yourself, when you expect to return, and that you will call them when you do. If at any point they don't hear from you, or if they receive a text/email/whatever brush-off, they are to first try calling you, and then call 911.

Does your cellphone have a geo-location app/capabilities? Give your check-in buddy the necessary information to be able to track your whereabouts.

If possible, talk to whoever's working your case and let them know about your arrangement with said buddy - in a worst-case scenario, this may save on time and confusion.

Ask your neighbours and co-workers for help, even if it's as simple as letting you know they've seen the guy hanging about.

If getting a dog is not on the cards for you, do you know anyone who would let their animal stay with you for a while? Doesn't need to be a trained Alsatian; sometimes the smallest dogs can be the loudest alarms.

I'm sorry about what happened to you and that you're having to deal with this shitty fallout, and I hope the asshole in question goes down for it.
posted by sophistrie at 9:48 AM on May 31, 2011

If you are a long term tenant, and maybe with a doctor's note about a health need, you could get a special exception from your landlord, public transit, and your work, to keep and travel with a finely-trained canine assistant.
posted by salvia at 9:49 AM on May 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

It was great that you reported it. It takes a lot of courage to do that.

Could you possibly get a male roommate for just a few months. Maybe someone from couchsurfing. That would probably deter him, I am guessing.

When it happened to me, I tried to report a week later, and the woman who answered the phone actually laughed at me and told me it was ridiculous to file a report so late. Just made the connection that that is where some of my issues come from. Yeesh.
posted by Vaike at 9:51 AM on May 31, 2011

(N+X)ing the self-defense classes. Along with Krav Maga, since your in California may I take a moment to rave about Model Mugging? It's a fighting technique that's tailored to exactly your circumstances. I know several women who've been through it, have seen the graduation tapes of one of 'em (my sweety), and it looks incredible. All of the actual sparring experience of Krav Maga, tailored to the lower center of gravity and other physical attributes of women.

And because it involves actual fighting (against a heavily padded and armored attacker) you'll have the experience of knowing your limits and power.
posted by straw at 9:51 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I once took a concealed carry class, required in my state to get a concealed handgun license (16 years ago, long since expired and never renewed). If you are going to choose to buy a gun I would strongly recommend that you take a class beforehand.

My wife once took a women's self defense course. I would strongly recommend that you do this, whether or not you decide on a gun. For either the concealed carry or the women's self defense course, you can find out where, when, and how much it costs at your sheriff's department.

In our respective courses, my wife and I each learned what predators look for in a victim. It's in how a person moves and how aware they are of their surroundings. We also both learned how not to give off that victim vibe, and this is why I strongly recommend either or both of a concealed handgun class and a women's self defense class; it would be hard to go wrong taking both.

I would strongly recommend against what my concealed carry instructor called "Fluffy the pet gun". By that he meant the idea that a person can believe that simply buying a gun and owning it can somehow magically make you safer. The same would apply to any kind of weapon: pepper spray, stun gun, baseball bat, whatever. If you are going to choose any route based on a weapon, you owe it to yourself and everyone around to get trained in its use. If you're not trained in it, whatever it is, you can pose as much or more of a danger to yourself or innocent people around you than to a predator.
posted by no relation at 9:54 AM on May 31, 2011

Restraining order, change apartments--maybe get a roommate?
And I'd get into therapy or counseling. You need to process this to heal, which will take time.

Do you know any other women he's dated? I understand that acting as your own detective could be risky, but I wonder if you could track down some other people who may have been raped by him and compare notes. Knowledge is power.

And while you don't want this jerk to have the power to derail your entire life, I'd change a lot of things--phone numbers, routes to work, places you hang out, PO box instead of mail to your home.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:57 AM on May 31, 2011

As mentioned, be on your phone when you're walking alone outside. Carry a police whistle on a lanyard where you can use it quickly.

If he approaches you in public, make sure to make clear that you ARE going to make a scene. Say loudly "get away from me, rapist. Hey this guy is bothering me, can someone help?" so everyone looks at the two of you funny.

I'm not sure what to do about feeling safe at home, except for time. A rational person under suspicion by the cops wouldn't risk giving them something to find out by bothering you further. Keyword: rational

Once word starts getting around that he's been accused of rape, he may be able to play it off to some extent that you're just a crazy jilted lover trying to smear him. It'll be enough of a nuisance though that he'll probably eventually have to move to another town (or part of town, if you live in a big city.) Who would date a guy that even might be a rapist?
posted by ctmf at 9:57 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're going to carry a weapon, get training. No ifs, and, ors, or buts. Get trained.

Quoted because it bears repeating, over and over, and bolded for extra emphasis. No ifs, ands, or buts.
posted by no relation at 9:57 AM on May 31, 2011

It's very handy that you live in California actually.

My solution to similar things was to get licensed by the state of California for teargas, which I found very effective when, on just one occasion, I got to use it against two guys who tried to beat me with wrenches.

The licensing is pretty easy, it's mostly taught by awesome older women, and you get the confidence and training to actually use it, should a particular or a general person try to attack or bother you.

It is also non-lethal, which seems important—but highly disabling.

I found it much easier to pull the trigger on people with teargas. Even if I were a more experienced shooter, I don't know if I would be able to pull and fire a gun on a city street.

Guns are also tricky in California; for instance, you cannot carry within city limits, and they must be locked in cars. Licensed teargas—that, you can take anywhere.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:02 AM on May 31, 2011 [8 favorites]

If I were you, I would get a gun and I would take lessons on how to use it. You must be comfortable using it. If you live alone and don't have child visitors, you don't have to lock it up. I would put it where it's easily accessible but hidden. I keep one under my sofa cushion and one hangs from the back of my nightstand.

I also have a giant dog. If you really don't want a gun. Have your dog undergo protection training. Rottweilers, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois are all good breeds that are naturally protective but are even fiercer with training and can still be good pets.

Look into krav maga self defense classes.
posted by shoesietart at 10:03 AM on May 31, 2011

To get past the apartment rule re dogs, get it classified as a service animal. It's easy to do and is justified in this case. Tell the doctor about the rape and mention panic attacks and high anxiety.
posted by shoesietart at 10:06 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm very sorry this happened to you. I will nth the suggestion for self-defense/martial arts training of some sort. Both for your self-confidence and your physical strength, and it has one advantage over a gun/pepper spray/taser etc.: weapons can be taken away from you and used against you. Self-defense training cannot.

Bravo to you for taking care of yourself. You are a survivor.
posted by ambrosia at 10:11 AM on May 31, 2011

I've always heard that the best defense against walking alone is to be on your cell phone every time you're walking somewhere.
This is really not a good idea. When you're on your cell phone you are distracted from your surroundings, and you let your guard down because you feel like you aren't walking alone, but you are. The instructor specifically advised against this in a self defense class I took once.

The person on the other end might be able to call 911 for you if you'd been telling them your location the whole time you were walking, but more likely they'd just have the horrible experience of hearing you getting attacked and being powerless to help in any way.
posted by bink at 10:15 AM on May 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

I also recall my concealed carry instructor saying that the best weapon is the one you have with you and know how to use. I submit that the best weapon you can possibly have is your mind; all others are secondary and in fact useless without it.
posted by no relation at 10:20 AM on May 31, 2011

Maybe check with the police or a local rape crisis centre if there's any kind of panic alarm that can be installed in your flat that automatically alerts the police, at least for the period of time when he finds out what's going on, if not long term.
posted by penguin pie at 10:21 AM on May 31, 2011

I'm so sorry this violence was perpetrated on you. I recommend you find a rape crisis center to help you. This is why they exist. The paper version of the phone book should list resources.
posted by theora55 at 10:23 AM on May 31, 2011

If you do get an exemption to get a dog, do remember that you are going to have to walk it 2-3 times a day. That might actually leave you more exposed and out on the street than you want to be. You will also be keeping a very regular schedule. Which won't be a good thing.
posted by Vaike at 10:29 AM on May 31, 2011

I just saw that you're in California. If that means the Bay Area, memail me. I'm not sure how much help I could be, but I'm here, and I'm offering.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:43 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

First: Bravo to you for having the conviction and courage to report this. You may very well have saved someone from the pain that you've gone through, and that's hero-level awesome. Thank you.

Second: the fact that you even mention airsoft guns (not a real gun) and flare guns says to me that you are very, very, very not ready for actual gun ownership. If you plan to have a gun for defense purposes, you need to understand and accept that if it comes to using it, you will be actively attempting to kill the person on the other side of the barrel.

I'll second the tear gas idea above. I'm not familiar with the laws in CA regarding tasers, but there is a reason that they are carried and used by law enforcement...they DO work, regardless of the hopped-up methheads you've seen on Cops.

I hope you find a solution that allows you the peace you deserve.
posted by griffey at 10:44 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Follow up with your rape crisis centre. They should be able to connect you with legal aid, counselling, support and so on. They can also help you create a paper trail if the case does go to court or if you want to get a restraining order and so on. I'm not sure the police have informed you of all your options, but I don't live where you live. They can also suggest options for your safety plan and help you put one together.
posted by acoutu at 10:46 AM on May 31, 2011

Oops. I hit post too soon. Also, when the RCC writes up what happens, it creates a paper trail that helps other people. You can talk to them without going to police.

I'm sorry this happened to you. I hope you find some options that help you move forward.
posted by acoutu at 10:48 AM on May 31, 2011

You are a courageous person.

Regarding a gun, my advice would be: don't. Not only are guns a hassle, if you don't train regularly they can be much more of a hazard than a help. I believe the average figure is that somewhere around 10% of police officers who are shot and killed in the line of duty are shot by their own or another officer's weapon. I say this as a gun owner who does have a concealed handgun permit, practices regularly, and is still very reluctant to carry.

I would, as many others have, recommend self-defense classes and a restraining order. I'm over 6' tall and 180lbs but completely untrained in self defense, and my peace officer friend who's 5'2" and 125lbs soaking wet can handle me very effectively with their limited krav maga training. Also, tasers and OC (pepper spray) do work most of the time, just be sure to get training. The training gives you a physical basis to defend yourself, the restraining order gives you a legal one.

Good luck, be safe, be well.
posted by hackwolf at 10:49 AM on May 31, 2011

I am so glad you reported this and are taking steps to protect yourself. An IMPACT self-defense course might be a good fit for you if there's one in your area.
posted by smich at 11:10 AM on May 31, 2011

I'm sorry for what has happened, and just wanted to add something I didn't see in this already great list.

A door brace for your apartment might be another thing to look for to prevent it being busted open. Though this may not be a perfect solution if you are on the first floor.

I do think that moving up a floor, changing rooms, or just changing apartments is a good idea as well as informing neighbors. Always remain conscious of your surroundings as well. Best of luck.
posted by SollosQ at 11:12 AM on May 31, 2011

I'm so sorry this happened to you, but you already sound incredibly proactive about protecting yourself and remaining on guard.

I was gang raped during my first year of college and went through a similar period of my life where I turned into Lara Croft - took self defense classes, learned how to box, slept with mace under my pillow, dumped out any drink I'd left unattended (even for a second), misinterpreted every sudden noise as another attack, another warning sign that I WOULD NOT MISS this time around.

I spent three years on a constant vigil. I slept 4 hours a night, at most, spent all my energies making sure that I was protected, checking the locks on my door and sleeping with the lights on. I didn't trust anyone (my rapist was my boyfriend and his frat boy buddies who I thought were my friends, so, that gives rise to fun trust issues) and studied every man's face, trying to figure out who was a rapist, who was a violent shitbag who face I'd scrape off if he ever came within three feet of me.

The paranoia was all-consuming, and I lost so much weight that I wound up in the hospital suffering from dehydration and exhaustion. My doctors diagnosed me as anorexic, but it went deeper than that: I had let the rapist, and the rape, run my life, and I thought that if I could micromanage all the risks that are necessary when walking around in the world, then I would feel safe. The truth was that I'd never felt more scared. The hospital stay was a wake-up call, as was the time when my good friend put a hand on my shoulder one day after class and I nearly ripped her arm off in a panicked self defense move.

I realized that not only was I futilely trying to stave off the infinite onslaught of danger in the world, but that it was because I was blaming myself for having been raped in the first place. I thought, underneath all the layers of rage and fear, that if I'd been less trusting and more guarded then maybe it wouldn't have happened, so now that I'd gotten what I deserved I'd have to make damn sure it didn't happen twice.

You need to protect yourself. You need leave your apartment, because it's forever haunted by what happened to you there. You need get a restraining order against your rapist, you need to show his picture to your neighbors so they know to watch out for him. You need know how to physically defend yourself against an attacker, and you need to know how to run like hell and scream at the top of your lungs if you're ever in that situation again. You need to continue therapy for a long long time and allow yourself the space to heal emotionally.

But you also need to know that the world is full of risks, and if you try to stomp out every last inkling of danger then your rapist wins. So please, move out. Start over. Lift weights or exercise to get strong and healthy. Take care of yourself. Talk to the people who love you. You're going to be fine, but know that it takes more than just mace and a guard dog to get there.
posted by zoomorphic at 11:23 AM on May 31, 2011 [32 favorites]

Here's a really thorough comment by Smedleyman on Tasers vs. Guns for home defense.
posted by desjardins at 11:33 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
I really appreciate the encouragement and support.  Although I don't know any of you, I do feel the strength and love you're sending my way.  It helps, so please don't stop.  

For those who have been through something like this and really feel my pain, thank you for sharing.  During those times where I'm at my lowest and feel completely alone in this, I think of all the brave women (and men) and (worst of all) children who have experienced a rape, and how their situation may have been so much worse than mine, and how they must have felt alone, too.  I feel buoyed by the knowledge that I will survive this just like so many other people have survived this--it's not some personal burden that I carry alone.  

But I don't want someone to read this post and feel guilty for having been raped in the past and not coming forward.  You have to do what's best for you, depending on your circumstances.  Sometimes, being told that coming forward is The Right Thing To Do can make you feel like keeping quiet means you're doing something wrong, when you didn't ask to be placed in this position in the first place!  So if you feel, for whatever reason, that you can't come forward and report your rapist, it's okay.  It doesn't mean you're doing something wrong. But here's the thing: keeping quiet can start to make YOU feel like you did something wrong.  I'm a smart girl.  Rationally, I knew that I didn't deserve to be raped--no one does.  But I was carrying around this huge secret as if I was the one who had committed a crime and couldn't bear for anyone to find out.  I felt like I knew I was strong & I'd be okay, so I wasn't protecting myself the way I'd protect someone else.  If I witnessed this guy raping a young girl, I wouldn't say to myself the next day "it already happened so there's nothing you can do to help her, better just try to wipe it from your mind."  One of the things that made me finally go to the police was forcing myself to think about my rape, but without seeing it through my own eyes as the person being raped.  The imaginary me stands in my living room and watches this girl say "No!" to this guy and everything that unfolds after that.  It doesn't matter what she's been through in the past or how tough she feels inside, I just want to yell "NO!  YOU CANNOT DO THAT TO HER!" and I just want to help her.  So I'm working on it.  But it's a reminder that sometimes we take better care of other people because we think we're strong enough to handle things others can't.  We're all strong, but it's not always as simple as just picking yourself up and brushing yourself off.

A note on restraining orders: you can't just go to the police and get a restraining order against someone without evidence.  Filing a police report isn't proof that a crime was committed--anyone can go to the police and file a report.  Now detectives will have to investigate to see if they have any reason to believe that he did this, since there's no evidence except my word against his.  If they find enough evidence for a prosecutor to press charges, a jury is still going to have to believe me over him.  People falsely accuse others of serious crimes--an accusation doesn't equal guilt.  If I was a guy and a girl said I raped her when I know I didn't, I automatically go to jail?  Of course it can't be that way.  

If you file a police report saying a crime was committed against you by another person, they are prohibited from trying to contact you--it doesn't matter whether there's evidence or not.  When detectives contact him and he finds out that he's been accused of rape, they'll tell him that he can't come near me, so it's as good as a restraining order.  But neither of those things are going to keep me safe.  He knows that rape is illegal and was willing to take that risk--I doubt he'd worry about the consequences of violating a restraining order, especially since the consequences of raping someone is higher.  I expressed these fears to the police (who were kind, btw) and their answer to everything was: if that happens, call 911.  It's not their fault--their hands are tied in these situations.  I'm asking them to keep him from trying to scare or hurt me?  They still haven't decided whether or not he raped me!  It's all about what the detectives find later this week.

The guy who raped me is not going to run away--he's trying to pursue a career that he needs to be in this location for, and it's a career that he WON'T have if he's a registered sex offender.  GOOD!  He should have thought of that before he raped me.  It also gives him reason to keep me quiet.

But being angry and indignant and knowing I'm doing the right thing won't keep me safe.  Being smart is my only chance, so keep up the suggestions everyone. :)

Thank you.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:05 PM on May 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

I've been where you are. You got good answers here. Memail me anytime.
posted by angrycat at 12:30 PM on May 31, 2011

OP you said he will be interviewed next week; that is short notice for moving house and many of the other great suggestions posted. Here's a new one (multipart):

a. Get outta dodge - the most negative impact to him happens in the next couple of weeks. If he decides to come after you to intimidate you, it'll be soon, before all his colleagues get interviewed. Can you work remotely or take off time?

b. Get far enough away (that you won't run into him) and in a place he doesn't know about. He knows you and that is a disadvantage for you, but you know him, and that knowledge is a key point in your favor. Also, best to go somewhere that is to your advantage, which brings me to:

c. Get training while you are out of town; if you are working put the classes first and do work around them (krav maga, shooting, tear gas, whatever..). If you are on vacation, consider a 'camp' where you will be resident and surrounded by people trained in various types of combat.

d. Make the rest of your plan while you are out of town.You have eliminated the impulse attack by being gone. Make a plan for the vindictive attack (you could start a move, give notice, hire a moving firm, and get friends to hit the pavement to find you a place; you could arrange to get a service dog and find an already trained animal (ex-police/or ex service (army/marines) dog); you could get licensed for a shotgun and spend time at the range, learning to use it... - and so many great suggestions above, but one more is read gift of fear.
posted by zia at 12:31 PM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

OP, I just want to suggest that you may be interpreting his confidence in his ability to rape you as signaling a similarly high confidence in his ability to retaliate. Perhaps this is not so. Perhaps he was so confident he could rape you because he believed you would never report it. Once he finds out that you did report it, that confidence could vanish and be replaced by fear and the desire to avoid further consequences. This would motivate him to stay far away from you and do noting even vaguely retaliatory.

A lot of bullies turn into cowards the moment that someone confronts them or stands up to them. He was bold once, but he may never be bold again.

I do agree with the suggestion that you take a self-defense class so that you have an action plan.
posted by prefpara at 1:15 PM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Like everyone here, I'm sorry for what happened to you.

There is much good advice, but I hope I can add a little.
1) Martial arts don't work.
2) Pepper spray really does.

I'm 6'2", 235 pounds, and fairly athletic. I have a brown belt in judo, and I'm a very good fighter on the ground. I really do know how to kill with my bare hands.

Here's what I've learned, in a nutshell: martial arts are close to useless.

It's taken me years to get good enough to win most bouts, and I still lose many against people who are smaller and worse than me. You, because of your size and strength, are working at a significant disadvantage. Certainly, with time and practice, you could learn to defend yourself--but you want, correctly, to be safe now.

I wholeheartedly recommend pepper spray or bear spray. I know you couldn't reach it, and I think you probably want to have something more reliable. But pepper spray is the most reliable self-defense tool there is, if you're carrying it, and especially if it's a large, powerful can.

I know because I've been pepper sprayed. I've actually been sprayed a couple of times. The first time I was at a protest, and a cop hit me with just a glancing blow. I was fine, but I certainly lost the urge to rattle the social cage, and the woman next to me, who did not receive a glancing blow, was not fine at all. She melted on the spot. She hit the ground weeping with snot everywhere.

Embarassingly, I've also pepper sprayed myself. Perhaps you could test your pepper spray on a friend like me. I assure you, it really, really works. Yes, you might not be able to live in your apartment for a while, and yes, you will likely be affected by the blowback, but you will be able to flee, and he will be in too much pain, I am almost positive, to hurt you.

Peace to you.
posted by bexpert at 1:17 PM on May 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

I keep a folded-up tripod next to my bed. It's top-heavy, and easy to swing.
posted by Diag at 1:27 PM on May 31, 2011

If you're in Los Angeles and you'd like help with anything, big or small, memail me.
posted by kitty teeth at 2:13 PM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I like zia's suggestion of getting out of Dodge. He can't hurt you if he can't find you. If you have to stay in town, because of work or whatever other reason, you should consider staying at a friends. Staying at several different places might throw him off, too.
posted by annsunny at 2:49 PM on May 31, 2011

If you're in Los Angeles and you'd like help with anything, big or small, memail me.

Likewise, if you're in the east bay area.
posted by special-k at 2:55 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing please don't use a gun. Bullets have a long range and they ricochet; in a built-up area it would be very very easy to injure someone else. I also don't think you are anticipating the full agony that you would experience as a result of killing or injuring another human.

Also nthing see the rape crisis service. They will know exactly how to advise you in this situation.
posted by tel3path at 3:29 PM on May 31, 2011

You might find this helpful also.
posted by tel3path at 4:00 PM on May 31, 2011

I agree with other people's suggestions about a camera. Put up a camera somewhere where it tapes the entrance to your apartment. Then go stay with a friend for a week following his interview. After that, go look at the camera. (Get someone else to change the tape/battery during that week if necessary). You should be able to figure out whether he approached your apartment during that time, and you will have evidence of this for the police. Alternatively, the camera will be gone or damaged, which will also tell you something.

Either way, you will have a better idea of how concerned you need to be.

If he has approached the apartment during that week, and I were, I would move. If not, I would be able to relax my guard a bit.

If you can't find a video camera that would do the job, a motion-activated still camera would probably be fine. I've seen this stuff advertised online before but don't have any specific recommendations for you.
posted by lollusc at 5:18 PM on May 31, 2011

I'm going to SF for a conference next week, and work is putting me up in a swanky hotel. The room is yours if you need it, I can crash on my cousins couch. Just drop me a memail.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 5:34 PM on May 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

Just a note that getting a dog and falsely claiming it is a service dog is a very bad idea. When your "service" dog doesn't act appropriately in public it reflects badly on legit service dogs. Also, an emotional support animal is not the same as a service animal (service animals have to perform at least 3 specific tasks, iirc) and emotional support animals are not allowed everywhere like service animals are. Too many people abuse the service animal laws.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:11 PM on May 31, 2011

See if there is a "Model Mugging" self-defense class in your area. This is not a "martial arts" class. What is taught is how to deal specifically with issues like this

If not, I would recommend traveling to one.
posted by goalyeehah at 10:34 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

And good on you for letting others know about this. Stay on the right side of the energy : )
posted by goalyeehah at 10:34 PM on May 31, 2011

You are so strong, and it makes sense that you want to do everything that you can to stay safe right now. I don't have any advice on the gun thing, but I do know about sexual assault resources.

Here is a link through the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault that lists resource centers/phone numbers by county, if you're interested in resources/support.

You can call and talk about anything you are feeling and thinking right now or in the future, including talking through safety options that you're considering. You have a lot of options here, and I can tell from your words that you have the intelligence, courage, and strength to keep doing what you need to do to take care of yourself.

Everything that you're feeling is a really normal response to the trauma you've survived.
It won't always feel like it does now.
posted by Atalanta at 12:23 AM on June 1, 2011

I just wanted to add that I also sympathize with what you're going through and think you're incredibly brave for reporting the crime.
posted by anotherkate at 1:28 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have not had this particular set of circumstances, but have had the safety concerns and been the family/friends with people in your situation. You are very brave and your anger is a tool you're using wisely to survive this tragedy.

I would suggest for the next two weeks while you get things organised for self-defense classes, tazers etc, that you call your friends and ask them to help. I completely understand not wanting to get your family involved - even if you have a good relationship with them, struggling with their grief over what has happened can be too much to handle when you're focusing on just getting through the day. But if you have friends in the city who you trust, tell them as much as you feel comfortable with (I don't want to/can't talk about it but there is a risk to my safety) and ask them to meet you before/after work and accompany you home. If you have trusted female friends, ask them to stay over.

You probably want to be completely alone right now until this awful month is over. But having people who will help quietly around you could make you feel safer. I did this for someone, and have had the same thing done for me, and it was enormously helpful to me to feel that there were other people looking out for the possible assaulter, that I had people to stand guard while I slept. Doing it for the other people made me feel grateful that I could help, not imposed on or at all burdened.

Thank you for what you're doing.
posted by viggorlijah at 2:49 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

you can't just go to the police and get a restraining order against someone without evidence

Actually... yeah, you pretty much can, because your sworn testimony counts as evidence. Certainly enough to trigger a hearing. Granted, if you want the temporary order transformed into a permanent one, you're going to need more than that, but getting a restraining order does not require you to prove he raped you beyond a reasonable doubt. All you need to do is fill out one of these to get you started. As long as all you're asking is that the person stay away from you, i.e. you aren't asking that they avoid any particular place, just where you happen to be, and you aren't asking them to move out or pay any money, the burden of proof is pretty low. A judge may grant such an order simply on the basis that he believes that you reasonably fear for your safety. Then again he may not. But getting the order sworn out doesn't penalize this guy beyond that, and won't require him to register for anything, so it really may not take all that much to get.

I think you need to sit down with an attorney, because your description of the process here really doesn't match what I, as an attorney, understand about the protective order process. To the extent that it's okay to give legal advice here, that's my advice to you: I don't think you understand your situation as well as you need to.
posted by valkyryn at 8:44 AM on June 1, 2011

shoesietart mentioned what I was going to say. I'll add that California is particularly lenient in what is defined as a service animal and classifying a personal defense animal seems reasonable.
posted by chairface at 1:53 PM on June 1, 2011

"There's not enough evidence to charge him with my rape--I waited months, never got a rape test, he was in my apartment with me, no witnesses--whatever,"

I think your motive for reporting this to the police is courageous and selfless and truly honorable.
I don't know what you mean "there's not enough evidence to charge him"
I'm not a lawyer, but I believe a formal testimony is enough to charge him, charging someone with rape doesn't require a lot of evidence in California. Whether it makes it to trial and conviction is another story.
The record of a charge would carry more weight than just a report.
But pursuing such a thing does require far more effort than it should. I can't advise you on that.
As with some other things, the effort itself may be self-empowering, I'm not sure for you, in part because I don't know you or your circumstances among other things.
And there are people more knowledgeable in these things than I am.
I do suspect, in part because of your own suspicions but mostly because of what you've described, that he may be a serial rapist. That is just a suspicion.

As to self-defense:
"I feel like I have no choice but to get a gun. Please help me think of another option."

Shotguns are excellent for home defense. The question there is whether you are philosophically ok with seriously harming (perhaps killing) someone.
I would decide that now. In a calm, rational state.
Because if you train - whether you train with your hands or with a firearm - you will respond not with your ethics or your heart but with the training.

Let me get the gun stuff out of the way. desjardins posted my earlier comment on firearms.
Some exceptions - that comment was for comparative options for a general home intruder.
Your guy would be considered "motivated."
I would not use anything but lethal ammunition.

You're petite, but if you can get away with a larger gauge do it. With proper technique there's no reason why you couldn't shoot a .20 gauge.
(A Remington 870 is a decent starter model and they make a tactical .20 gauge (7 shot, you're going to want to keep shooting), you can get one with a recoil compensation stock (Knoxx is ok) for under $600. Slugs are good if you're in tight. #3 buck would slow someone down too.)

Under California law you can get a permit to carry a concealed firearm (or other weapon) if you have “good cause.”

Coupled with a restraining order (valkyryn's excellent advice) and a rape charge, that might be good cause.

You can, as RJ Reynolds said, carry tear/pepper gas, etc
Although again, I believe you can carry a firearm in CA under certain circumstances. I'm not big on handguns (apart from larger ones). I still call them "sidearms." But there are some defensive options there. I don't like sprays or electricity. (My crew and I used to taser each other to see who could stand it the longest and we put pepper spray on our tamales.)

Effectiveness is debatable. I do like the sprays with the dye markers. Gives police a big heads up on who to look for. That might be after the fact. Not to sound morbid.
There is some latitude here. In most things I'm pretty laid back. Hell, almost everything really. When it comes to interpersonal violence I'm fastidious and precise. So my tolerances are pretty narrow. That doesn't refute anything said above. But what I'll put my life on is thinner than "works 99% of the time."

Speaking broadly, in terms of hardware - what you're doing is trying to gain time to make another move to get more time and/or gain control of a situation. So what is effective varies, in part by what you might be trying to do and what you're capable of, but also on the time your surroundings allot you.
So think in terms of budget.

If you shoot and kill someone (in self-defense), there's little question you have all the time in the world after the fact, you can afford to wait for the police.

Sprays, tasers, you start to have variables in time. Ok, I pepper spray him, I have 'x' time to move away to a safe distance to call the police (given he's neutralized for 'x').

Hand to hand combat, same deal (given you don't cripple or kill him). You injure his groin or windpipe you have a larger time product for evasion than if you knock him to the floor.

I'm sorry to take up so much time with this as it seems almost academic given you want options other than firearms but it's important to look at both sides of the equation and you can walk around with a concealed weapon, legally, given you do the documentation.

However this is, as I think many people have pointed out obliquely or otherwise, more about software than (weapon) hardware.

I'm smart and rational, and have been on my own for 10 years.

These are the most dangerous weapons at your disposal. Everything you need is right there in that sentence.

There is the street smart advice that DarlingBri, etc, mentioned - alter your routine, moving isn't a bad idea if you can afford it financially and emotionally (and get a dog), video camera, talk to the police about security, get involved in a rape crisis center and talk to them about security, dead man switch phone calls, etc.
Definitely begin self-defense training but the benefit there isn't adding to your defensive arsenal, it's the change in mindset.

He really needs this to go away, and he'll know the only one that can make it all magically go away is me.

I could not agree more with zoomorphic on the point that you cannot learn to hit or hit back so hard you can eliminate danger. It's not what you can deliver, it's what you can take and keep going.

This is also why my advice on firearms is both irrelevant and at the heart of the matter.
Killing is more than ending someone's life. Can you end the threat they hold to you?
Ending someone's life is the most expedient, and too often the only way to do this.

However you do have options. More importantly you know you have options. And most importantly, you are seeking them.

This gives you a world of advantage over him.
No hyperbole there. He's all alone, you have all the advantage. He's committed himself to a course that he cannot change, you have a variety of options. You know what he is and what he's done, you and your future actions remain unknown to him.

According to the FBI (I'm thinking of Hazelwood and Burgess, but the information is applicable) the amount of force used during a rape provides insight into the motivations of the rapist and in the main, minimal force (that is technically speaking "minimal" as in non-injurious forced used for intimidation purposes) is used. Conversation also tends to be minimal and used to intimidate. In this case, and in many other cases, rapists don't employ many specific behaviors in order to preclude detection; they tend to have other means of avoiding detection. In some cases social pressure and, again, intimidation.

So - your primary enemy is intimidation. Whatever threat this individual poses to you physically, his main weapon is intimidation. And that is also his weakness.

You are smart and rational. This alone poses the greatest threat to him. You've been on your own for 10 years, that means you know your environment.
The key element in winning any battle is knowing the terrain.

You do need to understand your situation better. Knowledge is power.

I'll start from first principles: you are supported and protected by a vast network of friends and allies. The people here alone, strangers you may perhaps never meet in person, have extended their hands to help you.
You have 10,000+ years of growth in codified law and a system in place designed to protect and support you.
You millions of years of evolution saying 'protect female' behind you. I can't tell you how badly I would like to put this guy and everyone like him in the ground. There are plenty of people who feel the same. And there are laws on the books for that reason. And we pay taxes for law enforcement for that reason.

You see, you do have many fathers and brothers to protect you. You are absolutely not alone. We are the reason people like him hide themselves. We're on your side, not his. Plenty of us see our mothers or sisters or daughters in you.

HE'S the one that should be afraid. HE'S the aberration. HE'S the one in YOUR world.

Until you make that change in your mindset no amount of training or hardware will help you.

From there you're free to make any tactical/security decision you like. You will have gained the initiative rather than reacting from a position with diminishing options.

Please know I hold you in high regard, but the terms you have used indicate you are in retreat (for example "no choice" etc.) This is not at all intended to be a criticism.

Very rarely do people have to think in these terms and the most common response is to avoid conflict. For whatever reason. And with that goes the loss of initiative.

Unfortunately there is this equation of initiative with violence. Typically though, if you have and maintain the initiative, you will have control of a situation and things will only get violent if you choose that or if you lose the initiative (and lose control).

So - go on the offensive. Make him run for cover and look to retreat. It will allow you more options.
As to how - again, some people have alluded to method - HeyAllie mentioned circulating photos of him to neighbors. That's an excellent way to use your environment to your advantage.
Document everything. Do what you can legally. Use social pressure to your advantage.
Think about his habits, his friends, who might be sympathetic to you? Does he have people who don't like him? Why don't they like him? Does he have ex-girlfriends? Do they have any advice or anything to say?
What does he know about you? When might he attack you? Can he get away from work? Do you know people at his work?

If you are uncomfortable with carrying a gun, there's still no reason not to get a permit. If he thought you had a gun and were willing and able to use it, would he back off?
If not, why not?
You can afford to be visible and open. He can't. In fact the more visible and high profile you are, the safer you are. He, on the other hand, can't stand under that scrutiny. You have nothing to hide. He does.

And again, he's not the threat. The intimidation he's trying to use is.

Really, physical force hasn't ensured victory since the human brain started expanding, much less since Samuel Colt. Humans trapped and killed tigers before firearms, you can figure out how to neutralize his physical threat. Do not allow him to beguile you into thinking that is the only factor.
Violence is rarely the answer. When it is, yes, it's the only answer.
But you have already put yourself mentally in the situation of him at the door, you with no time and no options but a gun.

If a tiger charged into where I'm at right now ... well, ok, I'm more than prepared. But I'm f'ing crazy compared to most people. As you said, you don't want to live that kind of life. Hell, I don't most of the time, but it's what I'm good at (ah, there's a few good points I guess).

What I don't do though is allow that sole situation to dictate my response - whether I'm prepared for it or not.

I don't wait for the tiger to charge in the door to get me. I don't allow the tiger to dictate the terms. I find out where the tiger is. I find out where it likes to hunt. How it likes to hide. Then I burn all the tall grass. I destroy the tiger's environment. I destroy his food source. I leave him exposed and hungry without coming anywhere near him and risking myself. And I don't fire even one shot at one tiger, I don't harm any tigers at all - yet the threat of the tiger is gone.

What you have, brains, guts, knowledge of your environment, is all you need to do it.
Fortunately, you -also- have a wealth of support at your disposal. He on the other hand is completely alone. Despite the illusion, he's the one that's isolated. Don't allow him to trick you into thinking otherwise or thinking you have to do things by rules which benefit him.
Because you're right - he needs this to go away.
He. Needs.

No matter how smart he is or isn't, he has less options than you do - indeed, he's chosen that - and he's only really got the one weapon: intimidation.
And you're going to overcome that. By whatever means you choose.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:18 AM on June 4, 2011 [16 favorites]

I didn't have time to read the other responses, so forgive me if this is repetitive, but I'll say this:

As much as I support gun ownership among civilians for self defense, I believe that if you do not WANT to own a gun, you shouldn't buy one. A huge part of gun ownership is wanting to practice shooting, training with it, and spending time researching the legalities of its use. Also, if you don't feel as though you could willingly aim the weapon at a human being and kill them, you shouldn't be bringing a gun into a confrontation.

I would say, however, that it couldn't hurt to try a gun rental at a shooting range. For about $30, you can gain some useful experience with a firearm and help yourself make the most informed decision possible.

Still, gun ownership is for people who want it. If that's not you, you're right to be wary.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 11:19 AM on July 9, 2011

My heart goes out to you. I am so sorry for what you had to go through. And thank you, on behalf of all women, for having the courage to report him.

Nthing move to an apartment that allows dogs. Get a large dog-- German shepherd, doberman or a pit. Not a bodyguard per se-- more like an incredibly powerful and highly trained boyfriend with a fatal bite.

Alternatively (and I apologize if this has been mentioned before), I wonder if you could stay at a safe house temporarily. I know these are primarily for domestic abuse victims, but a quick google search says that some are also for victims of sexual violence.
posted by enzymatic at 7:41 AM on September 2, 2011

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