Thursday morning, July 12, 2018 I treated myself to some extra sleep and didn’t wake to my normal 5:20 alarm. My husband and I were up late the evening before working on a project and I allowed myself the luxury of a few extra minutes of sleep. I am a busy mom of three small children, so early morning, before sunrise, is when I can fit in my workouts. This gift of time meant that I wasn’t leaving my house until around 6:30 for my morning run, an hour delay to my daily routine.
This extra time gave my regular run a new vibrance, simply because the sun was up; I was excited to be able to enjoy the daylight! The sun also made for a much warmer run than average. The temperature was already in the mid 80’s with high Kansas humidity. I dressed in black biker shorts, a pink sports bra, my favourite running shoes, my phone on my arm, headphones in my ears with music that had a heavy beat and hit the pavement with a smile for my morning tempo run.
The first two miles of my four mile run were status quo - my normal route. But at the two mile mark, I came to a point in my run that I could continue through the neighborhood like I do everyday - under the safety of houses, people and a well lit street OR I could go through the Nature Center - a wooded path that winds by a small little lake. I didn’t take much time to think about this option as I hadn’t been in the nature center for months. A change of scenery and some hill work in the center, would be a great change of pace!
As I was running through the center, enjoying the music and the scenic trail, I came down a hill and to my left, in front of a picnic shelter, I saw a one person navy tent. The tent was positioned right in front of the shelter. I instantly had a gut instinct that something was off. It felt wrong; and the hair on my neck was bristled. The music in my ears was loud; causing my whole sense of hearing to be gone. Before I had time to think much about the bad feeling or try to talk myself out of any danger, a man grabbed me from behind. He lifted me up off the ground and began shaking me violently and carrying me toward the shelter, toward the tent.
I was in complete shock. Was this real??? I was flailing in his arms and nothing I was doing was stopping him. He was moving swiftly and I was at his mercy. He was so much bigger and stronger than me...I felt like his rag doll. This is when I realized, I was alone in a wooded park, no one was coming to help me, no one even knew I was in the park. I had to save myself. And...wow, was this music loud and distracting.
This is when the voice of my brother came loudly and clearly into my head. My brother, who is an Army Ranger Veteran, has spent many a dinner talking to me about “What-If” situations. What would I do in certain scenarios that he created. One of the scenarios being what if I was attacked while on a run...what would I do. And I heard him loud and clear. He always told me to fight, never let them take you away, never let them get you to the ground, and go for the joints.
So that’s what I decided to do. I decided to fight. From the moment he picked me up, I could feel his intentions in my lower back...what his plan was for me that day. And I was not willing to let him steal that from me. That was not his to take. My goal, my whole being, was in fight mode because I was getting home to my family.
And this is when the real fight began. I flexed my foot and began kicking him in the shins and kneecaps. Several of my blows were missing, which was extremely frustrating, but several were also hitting. And each contact made him get slightly off balance. These hits were also infuriating him and he turned into a dirty, mean fighter...hitting, biting, scratching. None of this phased me or changed my plan...I had a goal and a focus. Get away. Finally, after I don’t know how many hits, he fell forward slightly and to the left. This finally got my feet to the ground which now gave me even more power to fight.
At this point I started throwing hard elbows to his ribs and gut. I was hitting and hitting, over and over, as hard as I could. In my mind, I was telling myself to break his rib, so that it punctured his lung, so he would fall and I could get away. I just needed a second to run. My outfit and the sweat from my already two mile run made it hard for him to find a way to keep his grip on me as I was fighting him. He often had to re-grasp as we both struggled. Each time he would regrip I would hit harder, move my hips lower, and just keep moving with my whole body.
Finally, he lost his grasp. The moment I had been fighting for - and I took off sprinting, ripping the ear buds out of my ears. I never looked back. I’m a competitive runner and have been coached to never look back at your competition, it slows you down and takes away precious milliseconds. I just ran to get away. I ran for my life. I ran for my children. I ran for my family. I ran for myself.
I waited to call the police until I got out of the nature center and back into a populated area. The police took the report and searched the nature center. The area was clear and the tent was gone. He was nowhere to be found. I gave the best description that I could to the police with the information that I could remember.
*wearing new white Adidas shoes with dark stripes (navy or black)
*wearing off white (cream) painters jeans
*wearing long sleeve white t-shirt
*his hands were a very pale skin tone with freckles and clean, short nails, his left thumb had a larger freckle on the thumb joint
*he had short facial hair
But...this is where my story really begins. After I called the police, the story got out on the Facebook Police Scanner pages in my hometown. It didn’t take people long to figure out the attempted sexual assault and attempted abduction...was me. And the rumors began flying through town quickly...a lot of the information being shared was inaccurate. This made me mad, because I fought off so many of the things that people were assuming happened to me during the attack.
This fueled me to share my story on my personal Facebook page; to put the facts out there...what really went down.
Sharing my story brought on an avalanche of women sending me messages telling me THEIR story of when they were attacked, sexually assaulted, raped, a near escape from a situation, a scary incident that happen to them while they were on a run or a walk. I was overwhelmed with the amount of women in my life sharing their #metoo stories. It was such a heavy burden to carry. But it also fueled me in a desire to do something, to make a change for the women in my community.
I made a phone call to my son’s Taekwondo instructor to ask if the school would teach a self-defense class to the women at the gym where I work. Prime Martial Arts said, yes, with no hesitation. I then asked more of them, I asked if they would keep teaching classes to as many women as we could, in as many places as possible until everyone that we could reach was trained in self-defense, for free. And they said yes, again.
In the past five months we have had twenty self-defense classes with a full schedule for 2019. We have had over 1,000 women take a class so far. We have gotten donors and sponsors to provide handouts and self-defense keychains. But, I wanted something more. I still was searching for something that I could use personally when I go for runs. Something that I could recommend to participants in our classes to help keep them safe on runs. I had a few things that I was looking for specifically in a personal safety device. I wanted something that would be loud - an alarm to attract attention. I wanted something that would be QUICK and EASY to activate the alarm. Finally, I wanted something that would send a signal to people right away to let them know I was in trouble and where I was exactly so they could send help and come to help.
After an internet search, I found what I was looking for: Run Angel. This device met all of my requirements - FINALLY!!! I contacted the company and shared my story and asked if they would join in a partnership to offer Run Angel to participants who attended one of my classes - they instantly agreed!!!
Now...I share with my story with YOU so that you can learn from me. So that you can make yourself and those who you care about, safer.
Remember...when in doubt palm-heel to the nose, don’t let them get you to the ground, don’t let them take you away, go for the joints, fight, have a plan and prepare for the worst.