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Photos by Chris Heising and Courtesy Sig Sauer Academy
Imagine waking up in your bed from a dead sleep only to find yourself blindfolded and unable to move, with a stranger on top of you holding you down. Your hands are tied, and you’re being told not to talk. If you think this would never happen to you, you may someday learn you’re very wrong. This is exactly what Kim Corban thought until her life was unexpectedly turned upside down.
Kim is a daughter, sister, wife, college graduate, accomplished business professional, and above all a fierce mother of four wonderful children. When you first meet Kim, you can’t help but admire her determination and positivity. Kim doesn’t portray herself as a victim of sexual violence, and without knowing her story, you’d never think she was the survivor of a heinous crime. If you don’t read any further, let this be your biggest takeaway: There is no demographic or segment of a population where sexual violence does not occur — it can happen to anyone, which means everyone should take steps to protect themselves. Here we’ll explore Kimberly Corban’s story from victim, to survivor, to ongoing advocate.
U.S. Department of Justice statistics indicate that rape and sexual crimes are the most underreported categories of violent crime in America, with a staggering 76.8 percent of sexual assaults not reported to the police in 2016.. This is due in part to many survivors viewing the crime as a private matter, fearing reprisal, wondering if they’ll be believed, feeling embarrassment, or citing lack of concrete evidence. Sexual abuse is far more prevalent than most people realize. In fact, it’s estimated that 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
In 2006, Kim lived in Greely, Colorado. Like most of us, she was comfortable in her routine, and going about her daily business on the assumption that tomorrow would come and be similar to the previous day. That didn’t happen. On May 12, 2006, Kim’s world was torn apart. She was awoken in the early morning hours, blindfolded, and pinned to her bed. For the next several hours, she lived through what many would consider to be their worst nightmare — held against her will and brutally sexually assaulted in the perceived safety of her own home.
Eight out of 10 rape victims know their attacker; Kim did not. Only six out of 1,000 perpetrators end up in prison for the crimes they’ve committed. Fortunately, Kim’s attacker was caught, successfully convicted, and sentenced to 24 years to life in prison for his attack on her.
Above: An assault can happen anywhere. Attackers often research the patterns of their victims through social media. Learning methods of self-defense, such as carrying a concealed firearm, is one of many ways you can defend yourself.
RECOIL OFFGRID: What were your initial thoughts when you awoke and realized something was wrong?
Kim Corban: I was lying face down and asleep, and when I woke up I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I tried to get up out of my bed and was immediately pushed back down. At first I felt fear, and then it was survival — I thought, I can’t exit the situation, so what do I need to do to get out of it?
Instinctually, what was your first reaction?
KC: I did not have any means of combating someone. I was in a dead sleep when I realized this was happening. I couldn’t see anything. I was blindfolded so I could only hear what was going on, and I was told not to talk. I had one roommate who was home, but I had no idea where she was or what had happened to her. I thought she was probably dead. My hands were tied so I didn’t have the ability to fight back. I didn’t know how to respond — I was helpless. There was no getting out of it physically for me so I froze.
Can you walk me through those few moments when you realized you may not survive?
KC: My adrenaline was high. It was when he started to undress me I knew that if he’s willing to break into my house and rape me then he’s willing to kill me — I needed to survive. I was trying to have measured responses and I figured it was more than just my life at risk here. In the shock I was experiencing, I thought my best chance at survival was to appear nonconfrontational and comply.
Above: Sheena Green, who also contributed to our What If? column elsewhere in this issue, is seen here demonstrating self defense with an edged weapon. She’s a certified firearms instructor and co-leads the Des Moines, Iowa, chapter of The Well Armed Woman.
What was the point in your mind when you said to yourself, I’m going to survive this?
KC: It was a fight to survive. I thought, I have to live through this and try to remember as much as I can and catalog it in my mind, so this doesn’t happen to anyone else. I would talk to him and tell him things like I have an STD, or that I’m claustrophobic, hoping that would matter, and he would untie me so I could get away. It didn’t matter.
He continued with the rape, and when he ejaculated on me he turned me around and I wondered if this is the point where he kills me. My blindfold moved slightly so I could see out the window and I had a sense for the time of day. I just kept talking. Talking kept me alive to this point, so I kept talking. After the rape he held me captive for an hour, and I kept talking. I even told him it was OK what had just happened, hoping that he would leave. He finally asked for a glass of water, told me he was going to come back and take care of me, and I heard the front door of my apartment opening and closing.
At what point did you know that it was safe to call for help?
KC: When I heard my front door open and close, I looked out the window down at the sidewalk and the parking garage to see if I could see him leave. I couldn’t, so I had no idea where my attacker was. I grabbed my cell phone, which was in my room, and called 911. I remember muffling the phone, so he would not hear any sounds if someone picked up — still not knowing if he was in the apartment. The service at this point was not good, so my call kept getting dropped. I still couldn’t hear anything, so I took a chance and ran across the hall to check on my roommate. She was alive, and we realized he had left the apartment. Sixteen minutes passed before there was any police response. It seemed like forever.
How has your experience changed your belief system?
KC: Prior to the rape, I was sheltered. I just didn’t think this could happen to me. I never actually even considered that this could happen to me. That mentality is a psychological defense to make us feel like we have control, but unfortunately, we don’t always have control. Sexual violence is not a discriminatory crime — I know that now and am very situationally aware of my immediate surroundings.
Above: Sig Sauer Director of Training and Special Events, Hana Bilodeau, demonstrates martial arts techniques to a group of students.
Since the incident, what steps in your personal life have you taken?
KC: I made the decision to carry a firearm, not because I fear what can happen, but because I know what can happen. Carrying gives me control. I’m still recovering mentally and emotionally, and that means a lot of therapy and someone to talk to even on those days when you don’t think you need it. For me, it’s also about speaking up and being a voice for other survivors. After my experience, I didn’t want to just find a way to live as a survivor, I wanted to find a way to thrive. I found I was able to do that by becoming an advocate, sharing my story, and helping other victims.
Becoming a victim presumably left you feeling vulnerable. What have you done to change that?
KC: My first goal was to not live my life in the role of a victim. My second goal was to help at least one other person to not experience what I did, and give people the confidence to talk about it without feeling ashamed to help others. I accomplished both of these goals by becoming an advocate. I told my story, and I tried to make others feel like it was alright to share and take action to take their lives back.
What home security measures do you use now that you didn’t before?
KC: I moved to an upstairs apartment. My previous apartment was on the ground level, which left me vulnerable. We installed an alarm system, and while we all know that won’t necessarily prevent crime, it’s a deterrent and awareness mechanism. I have a huge dog. I also got properly trained and educated on firearms safety and use, I understand “stand your ground,” and I now carry. I also have a lot of situational awareness — for instance, I don’t post anything specific on social media, and I am constantly monitoring what’s happening around me.
What one piece of personal safety advice would you offer to others?
KC: Know your options, get educated, and decide what’s best for you. Your needs and protection can change over time so you have to constantly evaluate what those are. Nobody knows what’s best for you other than you. There’s a lot of judgment about owning firearms, but I got educated first and then made my decision — and for me it’s the right decision. Keep an open mind.
Through Kim’s story, it’s clear that we must be prepared to physically stand our ground to protect ourselves. You can work on acquiring skills on how to deliver basic hand-to-hand strikes, learning the anatomy of the body to exploit weaknesses in your enemy, learning to use an object as an improvised weapon to combat an attack, and finding ways to create distractions. Being committed to personal defense and survival could one day save your life or the life of another. Locate a trainer in your area to teach you countermeasures to various forms of physical attack.
Carrying a firearm for personal defense, as Kim has done, may not be viable for everyone or every setting — but don’t dismiss it either. Handgun ownership and use is a huge responsibility and is deserving of research and education to decide if it’s the right choice for you. Research your home state’s laws and firearm regulations, specifically concealed carry laws, home storage laws, and laws of self-defense. If you make the choice to carry, it doesn’t begin and end with the purchase of your firearm. Your focus should be on becoming comfortable with the basic mechanics of the firearm and building a solid foundation through continuous instruction and practice.
In closing, we think Kim said it best, “Survival is something you do every day, and you have to make the choice to fight for it. You can keep moving forward and have bad days. I have learned to do that. I made the choice to carry, because carrying is one more tool in my toolbox to equalize the odds. It gives me the ability to protect myself and helps me not live in fear.”
Learn more about Kim Corban at Kimberlycorban.com or her podcast, “Life As She Knows It” by visiting https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/life-as-she-knows-it/id1341369533?. Follow @kimberly_corban on Twitter & Instagram and @kimberlycorbansurvivor on Facebook.