August 23, 2015 is a day I will never forget. It was early afternoon on the Sunday before the start of my Junior year at the University of Cincinnati. I’d woken up in a daze, searing pain in my pelvic region, with no memory of the night before. As multiple investigations and witness testimonies later confirmed, I had been followed home from a house party by a monster I did not know. That stranger raped my incapacitated body and left me stumbling and blacked out to find my way home. I am a survivor of sexual assault.

Listening to and participating in the national conversation about sexual violence, I noticed a recurring theme from women and survivors who are on the political Left. Why should women be responsible for taking steps to prevent being raped? Why can’t we just teach men not to rape? To be sure, these are often the same people who oppose women possessing firearms. After all, why should we change our lifestyles by obtaining a weapon when it’s the perpetrator who’s committing the crime?

In a perfect world, women wouldn’t need to change our lifestyles to ensure safety. This isn’t a perfect world, and the reality is that evil exists, and we will all encounter people who mean us harm. We can try as a culture to better encourage parent upbringing that “teaches men not to rape,” but ultimately rapists already know rape is wrong. It’s an evil that goes against humanity itself. We cannot control the actions of others. However, we can take some measures to minimize certain potential threatening situations. Buying a gun is a wise step in this endeavor.

The anti-gun lobby argues that women shouldn’t own firearms because we would simply be overpowered by the male attacker. Not only is this a sexist idea, it comes from skewed data taken mostly from specific instances wherein the woman lives with a domestic abuser. People with domestic abuse convictions of any kind are already barred from legally obtaining a gun. Living with an abuser severely impacts the statistical likelihood that your gun will be used against you.

However, this does not affect data on other violent encounters women have with perpetrators. In fact, a study conducted from 1992 to 2002 found that injury to a woman significantly decreases after the use of a weapon. Furthermore, a 2013 study conducted by the CDC concluded that defensive gun uses range from 500,000 to 3 million annually. It is clear that guns save far more lives than they unlawfully take. Women are safer armed than disarmed.

February 13, 2018 is another day I will never forget; it was the day I decided to take my safety into my own hands and legally purchase my first handgun. By this time, a couple years had passed since my assault. I had already taken necessary actions to report my rapist and undergo extensive therapy to minimize my levels of PTSD. I was in a good place mentally, but I still struggled to feel safe even in my own home. Buying my first gun was indescribably empowering. Learning to shoot at ranges was as healing as it was fun. Soon after, I enrolled in the NRA class for conceal carry permits so I could take my protection with me wherever I went. I became responsible for my own safety and life.

Victims of sexual assault often wrestle with the need to control every aspect of their lives to make up for the time it was taken from them. I sincerely empathize with this dilemma. I would never pressure someone who has a fear of guns or who is in danger of harming themselves to carry. However, I do genuinely encourage all mentally stable women and survivors of sexual assault to consider arming themselves. I have made peace with the fact that a gun would not have saved me the night I was raped, as I was under the influence and also under the legal age to purchase a handgun. This does not render my gun useless. I look to the future with hope in my heart and a holster on my hip thanks to the virtuous Second Amendment. Guns may not save you from every potential threat, but they could save you from many before you even have the time to call 911. Dear women and survivors of sexual assault: take your life into your own hands. Buy a gun.

Jennifer S