The Harvey Weinstein scandal provoked a kind of national catharsis. The floodgates opened and thousands of women stepped forward to publicly reveal that they have been victims of sexual abuse.
Kimberly Corban, today a poised, media-savvy Colorado mother of two, knows the darkness these women have experienced. Corban survived a brutal rape in 2006, when a man crept into her student apartment and subjected her to a two-hour ordeal that left her a shattered 20-year-old.
Corban determined that she would be a survivor.
How Corban eventually chose to feel safe again did not endear her to everyone. Years after her assault, Corban, you see, obtained a permit to carry a concealed weapon. She emerged from the ordeal a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, even challenging then-President Barack Obama on gun control during a 2016 CNN town hall meeting. Corban also cut a spot for the National Rifle Association’s “Freedom’s Safest Place” ad campaign.
For wanting to make women safer, Corban has been vilified by the gun control lobby. “I have been called so many names, threatened so many times, that it almost doesn’t seem real,” Corban admits. But the name calling hasn’t stopped her. A gun, she argues, can make women, who tend to be physically smaller than their attackers, or the elderly or disabled, safer. A gun is an equalizer for the weak against a stronger assailant.
Corban’s father and brother hunted when she was growing up in Greeley, Colo., but other than that, Kimberly had never given any thought to guns, was probably a bit afraid of them. Then her life changed forever.
Her nightmare began around 5 a.m. on May 12, 2006 when Corban awoke in her off-campus student apartment to realize a man was on top of her. Her face was mostly covered, but she could see just enough to gauge time by watching the sun come up through a slit in the window blinds.
Remarkably, throughout the ordeal, Corban, then a sophomore at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, had the presence of mind to concentrate on two things: staying alive and collecting evidence. Corban got the man talking. It was a way to get information. “I kept him talking and logged away everything he said,” she recalls. “I lied my butt off, but I did what it took to survive.”
They spoke in whispers. The rape took place with one of Corban’s roommates asleep down the hall–Corban lied and said it was a male roommate. When her assailant finally left, Corban’s first thought was preserving evidence. “I told my roommate not to touch me, and I urinated into a cup,” she says. “I tried not to talk about the facts until an officer was there to record what I was saying.”
Displaying incredible fortitude, Corban went to great lengths not to disturb her attacker’s semen from her left leg. It was from that DNA evidence that proved crucial for law enforcement. A suspect was arrested for trespassing and taking surreptitious photos of college co-eds a mile from Corban’s apartment. He matched the description Corban had given, and she identified him based on voice and shoes. They collected a DNA sample he volunteered. Corban’s rapist, who was later convicted following a jury trial is now serving a 24-years-to-life prison term.
“You don’t get to chose whether to be a rape victim, but you do get to decide whether you become a survivor afterwards.”
Corban has posted the 911 recording she made when her rapist finally left. “You can’t always grasp the contrast between who I was that morning and who I am now when I speak about this,” she says. Corban says that in the aftermath of the rape her “grades tanked” because of depression and the demands of the trial. She even suffered from stress-induced seizures. But she made the decision to release her name to the public, to put a face on the horrific crime, and later to become an advocate after completing her undergraduate degree and pursuing a master’s degree in criminal justice to help other rape victims recover and reclaim their lives. She speaks on campuses and has a website devoted to victim advocacy. “You don’t get to chose whether to be a rape victim,” she explains, “but you do get to decide whether you become a survivor afterwards.”
Corban, who speaks on campuses and counsels rape victims after years of training as a victim’s advocate, determined that she would be a survivor. “I chose to not let [the rape] define my life,” she once told an interviewer. “I choose how the rest of my life will go. It does not choose me.” For Corban, a big part of surviving was feeling safe on campus. That is why she took extensive training in how to handle a firearm and obtained a permit to carry a concealed weapon, and purchased her first firearm years after her assault.
“At that point,” she recalls, “it was a very personal choice and never a political motivation.” But as debate about gun control laws grew, Corban knew that this affected her, and she was willing to give voice to a perspective different from most. She got involved with the National Rifle Association and taped what became known as the NRA “Freedom’s Safest Place” ad, Corban insisted upon writing every word of the text herself. She would not read someone else’s words; she would speak from the heart. “If that predator or anyone else ever tries to harm my family or me, he’ll have to come through my firearm,” she said. “I will never be unarmed or utterly vulnerable ever again.”
She has urged Colorado senators, considering gun legislation, not to “take away the one thing that makes me feel safe.” In 2016, CNN got in touch with her and asked her to attend a town hall gathering where President Barack Obama, who had just announced that he planned to issue an executive order to create more stringent gun controls, was to take questions.
She accepted the invitation, not having an inkling that it would turn out to be such a big deal. When it was her turn, Corban was impassioned. “As a survivor of rape and now a mother to two small children, you know, it seems like being able to purchase a firearm of my choosing and being able to carry that wherever me and my family are, it seems like my basic responsibility as a parent at this point,” she told President Obama. “I have been unspeakably victimized once already, and I refuse to let that happen again to myself or my kids. So why can’t they see these restrictions that you’re putting to make it harder for me to own a gun or harder for me to take that where I need to be is actually just making my kids and me less safe?”
Obama said that he wasn’t trying to make it harder for Corban to buy a gun but added that “there are always questions” as to whether having a gun made people safer in their homes. Without knowing that Corban regards gun ownership as a serious obligation or that she has undergone extensive training, the President said that “you have to be pretty well trained in order to fire a weapon against somebody who is assaulting you and catches you by surprise,” as if Corban were advocating putting guns into the hands of people who don’t know how to use them.
“We need to get government out of the way to allow us to make these choices ourselves because nobody knows [what we should do] better than we know ourselves.”
What got Corban most was that the President didn’t seem to realize that the decision as to whether to carry a gun should be one made by an individual. “The great thing about our country,” she told IWF, “is that we get to make these choices for ourselves. We need to get government out of the way to allow us to make these choices ourselves because nobody knows [what we should do] better than we know ourselves.” She made this case again when cutting another radio spot when former New York Michael Bloomberg was pulling out the stops to support more gun control nationally. “I know best how to defend myself, Mr. Bloomberg,” she said into the camera. “You do not have the right to tell me how to defend myself.”
Corban acknowledges that being armed would not have prevented her 2006 attack, which began when she awoke with her assailant on top of her, but adds that, if carrying a firearm saves even one woman from being harmed, the backlash she receives is worth it. As a matter of fact, she met that woman at an NRA Women’s banquet, where Corban was publicly recognized by Susan LaPierre, a member of the NRA’s Women’s Leadership Forum. A young woman knelt by Corban at her table and said that she’d started carrying a gun the day after watching Kimberly’s exchange with President Obama on CNN. She made it clear that she took gun safety seriously. Only a couple of weeks later, she used her firearm to protect herself from a violent assailant who attacked her at knifepoint as she left her office. For Corban, it was an example of a firearm’s capacity to serve as an equalizer for a physically smaller woman–and a moving moment in her life not just as a victim’s advocate, but as a Second Amendment advocate.
IWF spoke to Corban in the wake of the revelations about former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. “It’s the same sexual-offender song and dance, even if they happen to walk red carpets with A-listers or perform for sold-out stadium crowds,” she wrote in a blog post on Weinstein and other famous people. She says it is important to understand the nature of the crime. “Rape and assault are not about sex,” she says. “We so often get caught up in thinking they are about sex. It’s not. It’s about power and control. That is where rapists and abusers find their self worth.”
That’s not too far from what Kimberly wrote in an article for Townhall headlined “The Deplorable Elephant in the Locker Room,” in which she grappled with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s assess Hollywood tape. “So when I say I was not shocked by Donald Trump’s use of the ‘P’ word, I mean it,” she wrote. “I had actually come to expect that kind of language. What sickened me was the word ‘grab.’ He isn’t talking about ‘sex’ on that recording. He is talking about power—his power. The hallmark of assault is an exercise by the perpetrator of power and control, and that is what he was describing.” As disgusted as she was, Corban did not tell anyone whether or not to vote for Trump but encouraged people to consider the issues carefully and make up their minds. She regarded the potential Supreme Court appointments that a President Clinton might make as worthy of consideration. When asked about her condemnation of our now-President, she says, “I am still in that boat,” she says. “That kind of talk is never okay.”
On Weinstein, she adds, “Hollywood is an incestuous culture and unless people on the inside speak up, it’s not going to change.” Corban believes that it’s possible to prevent some abuse by creating an environment in which victims are more likely to come forward. “We have to support survivors–it’s as easy as saying ‘I believe you,'” she says. Corban says that this problem can be best solved from the bottom up–by women standing up to the powerful people at the top, and that this will happen only if there is an environment that makes this possible.
The man who raped Kimberly Corban comes up for parole in 2020. Will she attend his hearing?
“Ooooh, yes, you bet I will. I think every case is different, and I can only speak about my rapist, and he deserves to stay in prison for the rest of his life. I did my part when I came forward. I don’t want somebody in an ivory tower deciding that he should be released.”
Today, Kimberly is looking forward to remarrying next spring and adding her fiancé’s two sons to her growing family. “When people ask Michael and me how we met, we say ‘How much time do you have?'” Their first meeting occurred in June 2006. Corban’s now fiancé is the District Attorney who prosecuted her rape case. Though they lost touch for a few years afterwards, they became professional allies and good friends during the past decade before they began dating last year. “He knows the very worst things about what happened to me,” she says, “probably better than anybody alive but for myself. As he says, I’ll never have to explain those details again.”
Corban shouldn’t have to re-live her trauma among her friends and family, but her willingness to publicly speak out about her experience—both her attack and her battle to becoming a survivor by feeling safe and strong again—is an example for all of us.
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis resources, please visit www.RAINN.org for more information or to be instantly connected to their 24/7 online support services, or call 1-800-656-4673 for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.