"It's a fucking shame you weren't killed when that scumbag raped you, you fucking despicable, lying, lowlife, Right-Wing, Neo-Fascist CUNT!" That was the message Kimberly Corban found waiting for her on Facebook early last year.
It was sent by a man upset about her gun-rights advocacy. Violent, sexual harassment and threats like the one Corban received are a common experience for many female gun activists.
In interviews with the Washington Free Beacon, four prominent pro-gun women detailed the deluge of vitriol and attempted intimidation they face. Each shared their own experience with death and rape threats as well as threats and hatred directed at their children. Each explained how they'd been forced to involve law enforcement during credible threats to their safety.
All the women who spoke to the Free Beacon have had to alter their daily lives in order to minimize the risk that someone angered by their advocacy might find their homes or where their children go to school. They guard their social media accounts, remain keenly aware of their surroundings, and train their children on what to do in the case of a home intruder. Some of the women have even made efforts to disassociate their names from their property records due to harassment.
And, of course, they train with and carry guns.
Corban first became involved in activism after surviving a rape as a college sophomore in 2006. As her rapist's case was still making its way through the court system, Corban began speaking out about her experience. She said her desire to help other survivors is what drove her.
"I started speaking out on campuses before we even had sentencing," she said. "My attacker was found guilty at trial and I released my name to the media immediately following that because I just wanted to help one person not have to go through the same experience I did. That's what my mission in life has been ever since then. So, when I would go and speak on campuses or to groups, I was well received. I didn't get the negative commentary or backlash. It was telling my story."
Once she began sharing her view that women should be able to own and carry firearms for their own self-defense she was met with a different reaction.
"I've been speaking out about sexual assault and rape and victim trauma for 11 years now, and it really wasn't until I ‘came out' as being conservative or pro-gun that I started receiving any backlash," Corban said. "It's horrifying. It reinforces why I carry. Nothing about my message or my experience changed. All that changed was how other people were interpreting that."
That's also when the threats and harassment began.
In January 2016, Corban was invited to ask a question of then-president Barack Obama during a CNN townhall event. She asked him why he wanted to make it harder for her to carry a gun for her self-protection and the protection of her children. The backlash shocked her.
"After the townhall on CNN aired, I mean, I wasn't prepared for the outreach to me as a person so I didn't have my social media locked down nearly like I do now," she said. "I had people writing heinous things on a picture of my daughter with her first birthday cake. They're writing terrible things about how they hope she gets my gun and shoots me. I had people direct message me saying my rapist didn't finish the job, he should've just killed me.
"I had one guy actually look up where I work, find the address, and send me a postcard with disgusting words that didn't quite reach the legal definition for probable cause but I turned that over to the authorities."
"You truly are a soulless, self-righteous, self-serving bitch with sick gun fetish. Do us all a favor & blow your own brains out," Twitter user Lou Aguilar said to Dana Loesch on Oct. 3.
In October, nationally syndicated radio host and National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch announced she was moving in part because of threats made against her and her family. She said the media reaction to her move was overblown. "The reaction by some media made me mad. ‘Dana Loesch Flees Her Home' I think was one headline," she said. "Like I fled my house in the middle of the night or something."
The move, she said, had been planned for a long time and wasn't done in a panic.
"I know that I'm from southern Missouri but we don't pack in trash bags. I was like, ‘Seriously, come on, I'm going to hire movers for crying out loud,'" she laughed.
Still, threats did play a significant role in her family’s decision to move.
"We'd been talking about moving for some time just because it's a security thing," Loesch said. "It just makes us feel better if we're able to take our names off stuff to where people can't just find your address. It makes the kids feel better. My youngest, he's unnerved by it. He's aware of it and it makes him uncomfortable."
At one point a harasser managed to figure out Loesch's cell phone number and home address.
"In terms of threats, violence, at least every week there's something and 99 percent of it I don't take seriously. Then when they get your cell phone number—that's different. I was public about that which maybe I shouldn't have been but I always think the best disinfectant is sunlight. Someone opened up an account on Twitter and their handle was my cell phone number. Then they were posting pictures of my house and saying the craziest, awful stuff."
She filed a police report on the harasser, but the situation hasn't yet been resolved. "We're working with an investigator on that," Loesch said. "That's an ongoing thing."
Loesch blames a certain segment of liberal activists, represented by groups such as Antifa and Occupy, for much of the harassment. "It's the violent left," she said. "It just never made sense to me to denounce violence, violently. To violently denounce violence. To show you're more peaceful using violence doesn't make sense."
"Stick that gun in your cunt bitch and pull the trigger," Twitter user John T. McFarland said to Jenn Jacques in September 2015.
Jenn Jacques, a visiting fellow with the Independent Women's Forum and editor at large for BreachBangClear.com who has been recognized by the National Shooting Sports Foundation for her work promoting gun safety, said she's often stunned by the hypocrisy of the harassers and thinks online anonymity enables their behavior.
"I've heard a lot of ‘do us all a favor and swallow your gun,'" she said. "It's just so bad. The thing is they all claim to be against gun violence. They all claim to be the tolerant left but they are literally the most violent, heinous people out there. I'm sure a lot of it is that they're hiding behind a computer screen."
After Bob Owens, a respected gun writer who worked closely with Jacques at BearingArms.com, took his own life in May, Jacques said she received a wave of harassment. While most reacted to Owens's passing with grace and compassion, a group of gun-control activists reacted by tormenting his friends and family through vile messages on Twitter and Facebook. Jacques said some even encouraged her to kill herself.
"After Bob died, people would be like ‘one down, one to go,'" she said. "How could you say that to anyone?"
"This bitch needs to get off the Internet, she's an embarrassment to black people. This sill coon lives in a pink and fluffy world where there is some sort of equality. I hope that the kkk lynches," commenter SR posted on a YouTube video by Stacy Washington.
Stacy Washington, a nationally syndicated radio show host who had her column suspended by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after penning a column criticizing comparisons of the National Rifle Association and ISIS, said her position as a pro-gun black mother adds a racial aspect to the hate she receives.
"I had this one guy who used to email me all the time and post on my YouTube videos," she recalled. "He once accused me of being married to a white man and he wanted to rape me and my daughters."
She said she, like the other women the Free Beacon spoke to, has had to involve the police on a number of occasions.
"I had one where it was like, ‘Okay, this person lives in St. Louis, this person is advertising on Facebook for somebody to beat me up or to find where I live and hurt me,'" Washington said. "I was really kind of rattled by that one because of the things that he posted online. It seemed like he was basically just sending out an APB to any crazy person in St. Louis to look me up, which means it could just be going on forever."
The women who spoke with the Free Beacon said they were often specifically targeted for being women, and they believe the harassment they receive is designed to intimidate them.
"I think it is, partly, being a woman because I felt that it's their intention to intimidate us into thinking that we're wrong," Jenn Jacques said. "Like, ‘Oh, well, this stupid woman, she doesn't know what she's talking about. I'll let her know in this way and then she'll stop being an advocate for the Second Amendment.' They're essentially trying to bully us into staying quiet."
"The hate, the vitriol, that we see spewed at us for being a female that someone doesn't agree with is sickening," said Kimberly Corban. "It shows just how sick and twisted people are and that there is real evil in this world. I always like to say that ‘I don't carry because I'm scared of what could happen, I carry because I already know.'"
"When you think about it, to try to make people afraid of speaking out about their beliefs and to make them fear some sort of retribution in doing so is a form of terrorism," said Dana Loesch. "It really is. No one should have to live their life like that, regardless. Even across the political aisle from me. It applies the same way."
She posted about her death and rape threats in the #MeToo hashtag on Twitter because she feels the stories of pro-gun women are often ignored or rationalized when they should be treated the same way as others.
"I noticed all this stuff with the ‘Me Too' thing," she said. "And I just noticed it always seems that whatever conservative women experience, it's immediately discounted. It's almost like they're asking for it because of their politics. It should just all be bad. People should learn how to speak with a civil tongue in their head. People should repudiate all of that."
Matt Vespa, an associate editor at Townhall.com, said he hasn't faced the same kind of harassment despite his pro-gun writing.
"While I have written extensively on the Second Amendment, I have never received any death threats for my pro-gun rights positions," he said. "I guess can consider myself lucky that I've never had to get the police involved due to my political activities. I can advocate for the Second Amendment without fear of retribution from the hordes of progressives who take to social media to harass and, yes, issue horrible threats to people who are supportive of gun rights, specifically the women in the conservative movement."
All of the women who spoke with the Free Beacon are mothers and said attacks on their children were the hardest to stomach.
"You kind of get numb to them a little bit until they bring in your kids," Jacques said. "I would never say that about my worst enemy. The one that really hurts, that I get often, is ‘Well, someday you'll shoot one of your kids and then you'll see how wrong you are.' Or say, ‘Someday your kid will have an accident and shoot themselves. Then you'll know.' And it's like, ‘Are you kidding?' That's why I teach gun safety. That's why I am a huge advocate for the Eddie Eagle program."
"They go there because they know it really scares you," said Stacy Washington. "It keeps you up at night. The only time I really think hard about whether or not I'm doing the right thing about being out in the public with this stuff is when something comes through about the kids."
The women said they take a number of precautions with their kids' safety in mind. They all go to great lengths to keep their home address and the location of their kids' schools private. Many also teach their kids, especially the older ones, basic safety measures in case anyone ever did try to follow through on a threat.
"We have a safety code," Washington said. "If I yell a certain thing from anywhere in my house, my kids know to leave the building. They know, also, where to go in the house to lock themselves in to shelter in place. They're all aware of how to use firearms."
Despite the torrent of violent, sexualized threats, and harassment these women have to deal with as a part of speaking out in favor of gun rights, they don't let it dictate their lives. They refuse to live in fear or give up on their advocacy. They do, however, prepare for whatever dangerous situation might come their way and do what they can to avoid them.
"I never have my location on," Jenn Jacques said, echoing the other women. "I only tweet that I've been somewhere after I leave. I'm very, very guarded, especially when my kids are there. I'm very hyper aware. Even when I take pictures of my kids at school, when I post them on social media I make there are no logos. When I post a picture of my car, I make sure my license plate isn't showing. You're constantly aware of, ‘Okay, what am I posting? How could this affect me? Could somebody trace me to where I'm at?'"
The women said it's about taking precautions without letting them completely take over how they and their families live their lives.
"I don't want my life dictated by fear," Loesch said. "I don't want to be afraid. I'm not afraid. I'm not going to run my life by being afraid of threats or anything like that. That's not how I'm going to operate, but you take precautions. You definitely do."
"The privacy settings on all of my social media had to be completely redone," Corban said. "I had to delete a lot of pictures that might have had any kind of information as to where I live or what my phone number might have been…. It's not overreacting—it's reacting normally to a not-normal situation."
She, and the rest of the women, said they simply refuse to be cowed by threats.
"I have worked so hard, through coming back from an assault, through therapy, through trying to become the person I was before and a better and stronger version," Corban said. "I've worked so hard to not live in fear. I won't let these people intimidate me into living my life in fear once again."