In October, 2008, I began dating someone and quickly realized that he owned multiple guns he kept lying around the house, and he was fond of conspiracy theories and paranoid about the “government trying to take his guns away.” Though sometimes controlling, he’d never been abusive, so I did not fear any violence when I went to break up with him in February, 2009. But when I was leaving, he grabbed me and pressed a gun to the back of my head. He asked, “Do you think it’s loaded or not?” He let out a low laugh, and pulled the trigger. I heard a click. In his shock about the gun not firing, he loosened his grip on me and I was able to break free and run out the door. I never looked back. I compartmentalized things and kept it inside for so long- I never even told my own parents.
Years later, watching news of yet another horrific incident of gun violence, I held my daughters close. I never wanted them to know this pain and terror, so I joined Moms Demand Action. I volunteered with them for months before unpacking everything that happened to me. I’d struggled to identify as a survivor because nobody died as a result of gunfire, and I wasn’t shot. But other volunteers helped me realize you don’t have to be physically injured to be injured by gun violence. Being threatened with a gun IS gun violence and it leaves lasting impacts.
Today, my heart races in crowds when someone is too close behind me. His laugh still haunts me. I stop in my tracks when I hear a laugh like his. My body betrays me- I taste adrenaline, I shake. Laughter should be enjoyable, but for me it can make me physically sick.
Once I felt confident to tell my story, things happened fast. I finally told my parents, I testified in my capital requesting to pass background checks, and I introduced a presidential candidate at a fundraiser. I have found my voice and my support system and I now feel empowered.