I am typing this letter from a Starbucks in Tallahassee, where I am situationally aware, trained, and well armed. Although I do not expect anything drastic to happen today, I am still prepared if something does go down—either to get the heck out and dodge, or tackle whatever happens head on, and I am prepared to do so with deadly force if needed. Although I now maintain great situational awareness everywhere I go and have self-defense training in disarming, and in fighting off, an attacker, there are times where I am legally left without the tool that could best level the playing field in protecting me—my gun . . .
Currently under Florida law, I am not allowed to carry on my campus, Florida State University. On my campus that reported 17 sexual assaults in 2014; on my campus that uses maybe 10 uniformed officers at any given point in time to protect the whole campus; on my campus that refuses to back campus carry as a way for women to legitimately protect themselves from assault; and on my campus which claims sovereign immunity when they are unable to protect these women: I am told I am safe and I do not need a gun.
While President Thrasher and university officials would have you believe that I am not defenseless, and even, that I am safe on campus, I would beg to differ. I already used pepper spray once; do you want to know how that ended for me? I was left shaking and crying, half-naked on campus grounds, with cut marks all over my body. That’s what pepper spray did for me.
As a gun rights activist, I can write all day about our Second Amendment rights. I will throw down statistics like how 0.1 percent of rapes were completed when women used a firearm as compared to a 34 percent completion rate when women used any other form of self-defense. Or how with the exception of two, all the mass shootings since the 1950’s have been in gun free zones. Stats are easy to discuss, but when it comes to talking about being raped, my throat gets dry and my hands freeze up. It’s a lot harder to write about nightmares than it is to write about numbers.
And I do have nightmares from being raped on campus. Sometimes they are so bad I wake up at three in the morning sweaty and terrified because in my mind I am being raped again. In my mind I am there: I am forced into a secluded area, forced to unzip my pants, forced to lay down as tiny cuts are made all over my body and a man I do not know rolls on a condom and forces himself on top of me.
I remember how cold the asphalt felt as I distracted myself from the sting of the knife. I remember looking into his eyes and realizing there was no emotion behind them, no sympathy just sadism. And I remember thinking: this is how I’m going to die and then getting up after it was done, tears streaming down my face and neck wondering how I even survived.
I was already raped once off campus my freshman year of college, but this time I used pepper spray. This time I ran, heading for those blue lights staggered around campus to signal the police I was in danger. I did everything right but when he pulled a knife I stopped fighting. Instinct told me to cooperate if I didn’t want to get stabbed to death, and here I am today—sitting at Starbucks, simultaneously trying to remember the exact details and forget this ever happened.
I fight for my Second Amendment rights because I believe I should never have a chance of getting raped again. I won’t deny the possibility of getting injured, but my gun gives me a chance that pepper spray, stun guns, and pocketknives never will. It prevents a knife being held at my throat and the voice of a stranger promising me he won’t kill me. And I won’t be denied the right to have that chance of surviving a potential attack rather than being assaulted again.
Sen. Diaz de la Portilla, why are you so adamant in denying me my right to protect myself and have a gun on campus? Why have you not schedule the campus carry bill for the Senate Judiciary Committee you chair? Why have you not met with me for 15 minutes since October when I began sending you and your legislative assistant weekly emails asking for an appointment?
I hope this open letter will engage opposition to campus carry. I hope everyone will understand why it’s so important that the bill be scheduled for a vote. Senator Diaz de la Portilla: Don’t let me be raped on campus again, let me arm myself, and whether you vote yes or no, at least schedule the campus carry bill for a vote.
Lopez-Rivas is an undergraduate student at Florida State University. She is an intern at the University’s College of Social Work and is the Women’s Representative for Florida Students for Concealed Carry.