Stalking victim: you are your own first responder

Nicole Goeser has been a passionate and fearless advocate for the Second Amendment for over a decade now, and her activism comes from wanting to spare others the pain that she’s lived with since her beloved husband Ben was murdered in front of her by a man who’d been stalking her for some time. On the night of her husband’s death Nikki complied with Tennessee law and left her lawfully-owned and legally carried firearm in her vehicle rather than break the law and carry inside the sports bar where she and her husband were running a karaoke event. Her stalker, on the other hand, had no issue violating that law or the law prohibiting murder, and he shot and killed Ben Goeser without anyone being able to shoot back.

Ben and Nikki Goeser were just having fun. Their karaoke business was a hobby, not a living. And Hank Wise soon became a loyal customer.

“He would come in and sing, he would sing Dierks Bentley songs and he would sing some love songs and he would dedicate them to me,” said Goeser.

But then Wise told Goeser that he loved her and that she should leave her husband. She rebuffed him. He wrote to her again, she blocked him. Her husband eventually talked to him.

But he kept coming to shows.

“He stopped singing, by the way, he wasn’t singing anymore. He would just stand there in the crowd and stare a hole through me,” said Goeser.

Finally, one night he found them at Johnny’s sports bar at a show they didn’t even advertise. She asked management to ask him to leave, she knew now she was being stalked.

“I was watching him, they were asking him to leave, he backed up and unzipped his jacket and pulled a 45 caliber handgun out of a shoulder holster. Ben is running the karaoke show, and he comes up behind Ben and shoots him in the head. Ben falls and continues to fire six rounds and continues to fire in front of 50 other witnesses,” said Goeser.

Goeser has channeled her grief and anger into empowering others to protect themselves, and currently serves as the executive director of the Crime Prevention Research Center in addition to using her platform to lobby for greater protections for the Second Amendment and our right of armed self-defense. Now Nikki and co-author Debbie Riddle are using National Stalking Awareness Month to urge women (and men) who’ve been the victims of stalking to take their experience seriously, and to keep in mind the old adage that when seconds count, police are minutes away.

An order of protection may be necessary, and victims should consider that if they feel it is right for them. Nikki and Debbie both believe it is also time for a convicted stalker registry all across the nation. However, we think that law enforcement needs additional training on the seriousness of stalking and the potential for extremely harmful and deadly outcomes if they do not act. This mindset of “call us when something bad happens” has got to go.

A victim’s safety plan may include moving, address confidentiality program, name change, career change, protection order, security cameras, extra door locks, taking different routes to your job, making sure everyone in your inner circle knows about the stalker, not being alone, self-defense training and situational awareness training.

Not every victim will choose the same safety plan. It is an individual decision, but it is essential to know all of your options to make the decision you feel is right for you.

Nikki now has a lifetime order of protection against her stalker. She also chooses to carry a legally concealed firearm to defend herself and loved ones, and has taken firearms training classes that include laws on justifiable use of force.

Laws against stalking have improved over the past several decades, but even with these improvements, the victim should understand that ultimately they are their own first responder.

As Nikki and I discuss on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, a gun isn’t a magic talisman that can ward off all acts of violence any more than an order of protection is a suit of armor that prevents any harm from coming to the person who obtained it, but both can be valuable tools if you’re ever in that scary and stressful position of being stalked; whether by a stranger, an ex, a former coworker, or a nodding acquaintance who’s become obsessed with you.

Another key to successfully dealing with a stalker, based on Goeser’s own experience, is persistence. When Nikki learned that her husband’s murderer was still trying to contact her from behind bars, she was tenacious is getting prosecutors to go after him, and in March Hank Wise is expected to finally stand trial for using the federal mail system to harass her. If convicted, Wise could face an additional five years in federal prison, which would be a good thing, given that he’s eligible for early release in less than a decade.

Goeser has obtained a lifetime order of protection against her husband’s killer if he ever is set free, but she says she’s also adamant about carrying her firearm for self-defense and wants other women take their own Second Amendment rights seriously, especially since many of the resources available to stalking victims are utterly silent about self-defense. I appreciate Nikki speaking out on this topic, as painful as it is for her, and I hope that you’ll check out our entire conversation in the video window above (the show starts with a brief recap of SHOT Show, but the interview is there, I promise).