You're a single female and you live in an apartment unit tucked away in the back corner of the complex. You hear a commotion outside your apartment. You stick your head out the door to investigate and you hear the mortifying screams of a female coming from a car parked in a dark corner behind a large metal storage container. Her unrelenting cries and screams give you certainty that there is a rape is in progress. You instinctively call 9-1-1 to report the incident and the dispatcher asks you for a license plate number, which you risk getting because the lot is dark and you must get closer to the car.
You expect police to show up quickly, but the delay makes you feel powerless to help someone in great distress.
Nobody else in the complex seems to hear -- or care -- that a woman is being brutally sexually violated. Seconds of screaming seem like eternity and you become angry that those who are sworn to protect are nowhere to be found. By the time police arrive 10 to 15 minutes later, the perpetrator has driven off. Your teen son thinks the woman may have been thrown in the truck.
This disturbing scenario played out Tuesday night, Feb. 26 at a Modesto apartment complex, leaving the reporting party haunted by the memory of the troubling screams of the victim, and second-guessing her actions.
Sickened to hear of the incident, I immediately began asking myself what I would have done had I been there. It seems unclear to me what would have been the right response that would have resulted in a guarantee of a bad guy being stopped and zero harm coming to me.
Doing nothing would not have been an option with which I could live.
I bounced the scenario off of a ranking Ceres police official, who suggested that there is no pat answer for the "best" response since everyone's ability to stop or intervene is different than the next. (Let's face it, anyone who decides to intervene may become a hero to the victim but is setting one's self up to become a victim or one who ultimately has to take a life.) The officer shied away from offering "what to do" advice. After all, if a private citizen takes the advice of an officer and ends up getting his teeth scattered across the parking lot or his intestines blown out of his back could decide to file a lawsuit in this litigious society we live in.
The Modesto rape had sent me into some serious soul searching: If my grown daughter was being raped would my response be different than if she I was to stumble onto the rape of someone else's daughter? Because there's no father who will let that happen to his daughter, I'd risk injury or death to protect her. Imagine doing nothing and later having to explain to the woman's parents why you did nothing to help their daughter.
But you start running through other thoughts: Why get involved when all that will happen is I get hurt helping a woman who probably knows the man and has chosen to stay with this loser in an abusive relationship?
What is the right thing to do when a fellow human being is screaming? Do you drive your car behind his to block him in and throw your keys over the fence so he can't come get them from you? That could certainly cost you a car, plus there's no telling if the rapist would stop his violent act to try to tear you in half in an attempt to escape. What if the rapist has a gun or knife and kills you since he's obviously an animal and violent toward a defenseless woman?
Do you yell fire instead of rape to summon help since people tend to run towards fire and away from rape? After all, at least 10 people witnessed a man raping and beating a woman in August 2007 in the hallway of a St. Paul, Minn., apartment complex and did nothing to help her.
It's probably never wise to simglehandedly confront a man who could brutalize a female. But what about the old adage of "security in numbers"? Would a prudent course of action be rousting several male neighbors to take the suspect out of the car and pin him until police arrive? But then again, what if the attacker comes out of the car, blasting away and killing all the men who came to the woman's rescue?
What about the appropriate response of an armed bystander? Certainly a gun emboldens a good Samaritan but there is a real psychology at play when a person decides to confront a bad guy. Carrying a gun into a violent crime could beget more violence for all parties involved. Do you rap on the window with a gun to ask the woman if she needs help? Or do you shoot out the car tires so he can't escape and shatter the window with the butt to get his attention? No doubt the gunshots will illicit 9-1-1 calls, which may not be bad since a Code 3 response would have likely come from a "shots fired" call to 9-1-1. What if the guy fails to surrender and charges toward you? Are you prepared to shoot? Where will you shoot him? Do you shoot to kill or shoot him in a vital region, such as the groin, to double him over?
The bystander in this story later called Modesto Police and demanded answers to the tardy response. She continually had to defend her judgment to this detective as to how she determined the woman was being raped. In the off chance that a screaming woman is actually being raped or being killed, why wouldn't police run a lights and siren response to every call of someone screaming for their life? If police and/or dispatch could not determine the severity of the issue they should have been asking more questions at the time of the reporting. What should she say next time to dispatch that will make them take her words seriously and treat the life of the girl being raped as important as the life of one of their own fellow officers?
We live in a dangerous world. Two Santa Cruz police officers were killed last week investigating a sexual assault case. We cannot forget the two men killed last year during a routine Prescott Road apartment eviction. Nor should we ever forget the woman fatally shot decades ago while sitting at a red light on southbound Oakdale Road at Briggsmore Avenue because she was "smacking her lips." And in Ceres last year men falsely imprisoned a woman for nine days where they beat and terrorized her. The men are linked to the McClure Avenue triple homicides.
While politicians are trying to take gun rights away, we should be encouraging more people to arm themselves SO THEY CAN PROTECT THEMSELVES. I celebrate how the good guys can win and take a stand against evil. First to mind is how Jim Gollnick, 69, last year used his .38 caliber handgun to defend himself who attacked him in his Millcreek Drive garage in Ceres and shot the parolee assailant square in the rectum.
Mass shootings now take place in kindergarten classrooms. We are surrounded by evil people who do evil things.
We must fight politicians who seek to disarm Americans. We must demand to get rid of ridiculous policies that prevent good people from defending themselves, including "gun free" zones similar to the University of Nevada that prevented rape victim Amanda Collins from her ability to defend herself and shoot serial rapist James Biela in 2007. Biela went on to rape and kill Briana Denison.
I think it's prudent that law-abiding citizens think long and hard about what kind of country we want to be if we decide to let bad things happen. And like those who love freedom needing to be willing to defend freedom, arm yourselves and do what it takes if you and take the most prudent course of action.
And if I were a Modesto resident, I'd be rattling the cages at City Hall to get them to change how they respond to calls about screaming women in this ever more dangerous world.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know at firstname.lastname@example.org