Oregon City, Oregon is an historic town. It was the first incorporated city west of the Rockies, sitting aside the Willamette River and just downhill from Willamette Falls. The Falls necessitate locks, and the first multi-lift navigational locks were built there. In 1889 the first long-distance transmission of electricity in the U.S. was from those falls to nearby Portland, and Oregon City can boast both the oldest Masonic Lodge west of the Mississippi River and the only outdoor municipal elevator in the U.S.
Oregon City is also the seat of Clackamas County, and in the middle of town sits the county courthouse. It’s there that restraining orders are issued, and last November Jan Moffatt got one issued against her abusive husband or 35 years, Timothy. He’d said over the years that if she ever tried to leave him he’d kill himself and take her with him. She believed him.
Unfortunately for Jan, her restraining order didn’t deter Tim from carrying out his plan. Abusive and angered at the court order that kept him from victimizing his wife further, in January he picked up his gun and shot his wife in the chest while she sat in her SUV. He then turned the gun on himself, and later died from his injuries.
He’d managed to kill himself, but the other half of his threat didn’t work out all that well: Jan, severely wounded, was pulled into a nearby garage by a concerned neighbor. Tricia Upex sheltered her and got her to the hospital, where she survived.
There are two things we can learn from Jan’s ordeal. First, just because you’re shot doesn’t mean you’re going to die! When Tricia dragged Jan into the garage and shut the door, Jan was scared she was going to die. Tricia told her matter-of-factly “no, you’re not!” While exact numbers vary a little bit year to year, you can expect to survive a handgun wound better than 80% of the time. Despite being hit in the chest, which is where we train people to shoot if they want to stop an attacker, Jan survived. Good medical care helps, but a resolute attitude (and a neighbor with the same attitude) helps tremendously.
If you’re the one who gets shot, remember that being wounded doesn’t mean you can’t fight and it certainly doesn’t mean you’ve lost! Don’t give up; tell yourself today that if you’re ever attacked and wounded, you’ll do whatever it takes to survive. (I recommend you read the book Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales for some great insight into why some people survive and others don’t. It should be on the shelf of anyone who seriously studies and trains in self defense or survival.)
The second thing we can learn — and perhaps this should really be the first thing — is that restraining orders are useless as protection. An abusive husband, one who’s been that way for over three decades, isn’t going to be stopped by a piece of paper with a judge’s signature. He really planned to kill himself and make sure his wife died with him; what would make anyone think that someone willing to be that violent would be stopped by a sheet of 20# printer paper?
This is not to say that Jan shouldn’t have gotten the restraining order; of course she should. But if you’re in that predicament, or know someone who is, you need to think ahead: what if the person named in the order doesn’t respect the law? Does someone capable of murder really care that much about what is, in comparison, a minor infraction?
When dealing with physically aggressive people, a victim has some protection options. First, get out if at all possible. Find a place to go that the other person doesn’t know about. In the case of domestic violence, there are well-hidden shelters to which victims can go and sleep easily.
If that’s not possible, establish some sort of early warning system that will indicate someone is trying to make entry into the residence. Establish a plan of action that revolves around the concepts of evade, barricade, arm, communicate, and respond. Rehearse that plan and include any other people in the household that may be in danger too. There are resources that can help.
Let any employers know about the situation. It’s embarrassing to share such intimate details with others, but having other sets of eyes watch out for the dangerous person gives more chances to evade a confrontation. Plan an evade (escape) and barricade plan there too, and be sure to establish specific triggers for the implementation of that plan.
Finally, carry a defensive tool at all times. Many people balk at the idea of carrying a gun, particularly if they might have to use it against someone they’ve been intimate with, but it remains the most efficient way to deal with a lethal threat. If a firearm isn’t suitable, pick one of the less-lethal alternatives. The civilian Taser is an excellent choice for that role. No, they’re not 100% effective, but they’re better than most of the alternatives.
Finally, remember that restraining orders are broken on a regular basis all over this country. Relying on one as a measure of safety is short sighted at best, and a deadly mistake at worst. Focus on protecting yourself from the threat and let the restraining order serve as the paper trail to establish your innocence should you need to use lethal force to defend yourself.
-=[ Grant Cunningham ]=-
- Posted by Grant Cunningham
- On February 4, 2015