As I write this, there is a serial rapist in my neighborhood. In the last few weeks, he attacked 4 women within a few miles of my home, and succeeded in raping 2 of them. He says he has a gun, and he definitely uses a knife. The police haven’t caught him yet, and everyone knows he will probably keep attacking more and more women until they do.

Two victims were in their 20’s, the one, in her late 50’s, and one was about 40. In one of the homes, he broke into a back porch, and then lifted a sliding glass door off its track. Once inside, he found the circuit panel in a closet and turned off the electricity before raping the occupant. In another home, he used an open window, not uncommon on a late summer night, as his entry point.

After two completed rapes, the rapist got a surprise when he tried again. This time, the woman was in an upstairs bedroom while her daughter slept downstairs. When the man entered her bedroom, he had his knife ready. But this woman fought back. She had no weapon of her own, but she fought back. Her hand was cut in the fight, but the attacker ran away. She and her child were safe. The police detective said, “She is a very strong lady, and she did a nice job protecting herself and her child. She had determination and will; nobody was going to hurt her or her child.”

The fourth woman also surprised him, by screaming instead of giving in. He ran again, and has not been caught.

He clearly favors hunting for victims in areas that are dense with condos, townhouses, or apartments. This undoubtedly makes it easy for him to quickly go from one to another, trying windows and doors until he finds one unlocked.

As you can imagine, women all around this suburban area are frightened, and the newspapers and TV news are fueling the fear. The advice that is constantly given: lock your doors, don’t go out alone at night, stay alert.

Lock your doors? Of course! But most locks aren’t enough to stop someone determined to get in. It won’t take this guy long to figure out that he could just use a glass cutter instead of depending on the resident’s carelessness.

Don’t go out alone at night? None of the women attacked so far were out at night, alone or otherwise. They were all at home, supposedly the safest place for them to be.

Stay alert? That’s a good bit of advice that we should all follow, but none of the women who were attacked would have been saved by being more alert at the time the crime started to happen to them.

This kind of advice is insensitive and inadequate. Nobody talks about how to fight back effectively!

When I heard about what was going on, I was glad that the door from my deck has two locks, and that the sliding glass door to the sunroom is always locked at night. And we have a security system that is always on at night. But I’m equally glad that if this guy shows up in my home, he’ll get more of a surprise than the unarmed woman gave him when she fought back.

Neighborhood women are on TV talking about the nightmares they are having. I dreamt about the situation, too, but in my dream, I saw him breaking in one door, so I grabbed my gun and called 911, and by the time he made it through the second door I stopped him cold. I have lost not a minute’s sleep over this situation, because I’m prepared for whatever happens.

When awake, I went through a rehearsal of opening the lockbox, retrieving the gun, and picking up the phone. This is the same process that I teach students in AWARE’s class on self-defense with handguns.

Situations like this are learning experiences. We haven’t lived here long, and we are still fine tuning our security processes. Thinking about various possibilities of what this guy might do made me realize that, if he changed his attacks from night to day, one of the places I spend the most time (the computer, of course) could be vulnerable. Perhaps it is time to get another lockbox for another gun, upstairs.

I may be the only woman for miles around who isn’t afraid. Whether the police catch him or not, I know I’ll be safe, and that kind of confidence makes fear unnecessary. I only wish that more other women were equally prepared. This is a good time to start educating them.

This article was reprinted from Women&Guns Nov-Dec, 2003, Copyright © 2003, Lyn Bates