[su_dropcap style=”flat” size=”5″]M[/su_dropcap]y story begins in October 2006 when I became the target of a ruthless stalker – Michael D. McClellan. In March 2012, he was ultimately convicted of two felony counts of stalking, and sentenced to 10 years in prison – not eligible for parole until February 2017. This was the first felony stalking conviction in Indiana, and the events leading up to it were terrible. Over five years my life was uprooted. I was let go at work and filled with uncertainty and fear, living in seclusion, hiding from my tormentor.
During this time, all of my online presence was under the name HidingHilda – Hiding, because I was hiding and Hilda, which is a combination of my full name, Dawn Hillyer. At the time guns were not a part of my world. Hiding was my natural instinct, and I just wanted to crawl under a rock. The humiliation, the fear – and not only for myself, but everyone around me – was just too much. Once McClellan was incarcerated I decided I wasn’t going to live that way when he got out, so I took charge of my own safety. I took gun classes, got my concealed-carry permit and purchased a Glock .380 that I named Hilda.
Now, I am always and literally hiding Hilda.
HIDINGHILDA, LLC WAS BORN January 1, 2015 out of the need for peace of mind and the love of style. Carrying concealed firearms is not something to take lightly. Safety and protection are of the utmost importance, and being a business professional I also had an image to maintain. Fringe and studs weren’t going to cut it.
HidingHilda offers some of the top brands of CCW handbags and accessories designed to safely conceal a weapon, self-defense items, holsters, books, jewelry and CCW clothing. I even just recently came out with a line of HidingHilda CCW handbags (or purses) that are manufactured in Fort Wayne, Ind.
WOMEN ARE BECOMING their own heroes and refusing to be victims. We are seeing the numbers of women who are obtaining their concealed-carry permit grow substantially. There is a strange and amazing confidence that comes with knowing you’ve got this, whatever “this” may be.
Last April, my stalker was recently and unexpectedly released two years earlier than expected, and with no notice to me. Apparently, if you get your college degree while incarcerated, you can not only shorten your sentence, you can skip the parole board as well. He ended up serving just three years of his 10-year sentence. It was time to put my money where my mouth was. I was determined never to live afraid or in hiding again. I will continue to talk about it, live out loud and, if need be, I will be my own hero.
LAST NOVEMBER I got a call letting me know about the stalker’s release and that I could possibly be in danger. The caller stressed that I needed to be vigilant. Indeed, McClellan was arrested for violating his parole the Monday after Thanksgiving. Found guilty of violating his parole on two counts, he was released with time served. I’m not running or hiding. I’m going about my life with Hilda at my side.
During the initial trial, it was determined that McClellan had stalked his ex-wife before me, as well as someone after me. Since the trial, I have been contacted by a number of people across the country going through similar experiences and who are afraid for their lives. I am now speaking for a lot of people. HidingHilda is personal. It’s a part of who I am.
THIS EXPERIENCE has been part of a national conversation on Cam and Co., a series on NRA News, regarding women obtaining their licenses, guns, protection and how it relates to domestic violence. I speak at stalking/domestic violence conferences and training seminars, as well as offer support and resources to other stalking victims. HidingHilda also donates proceeds to provide scholarships for training those who work with stalking victims.
My business isn’t the only positive outcome stemming from a devastating beginning. I am also an advocate for stronger stalking laws, which included adding stalking to the 45day victim notification requirement that went into effect July 1, 2015. In an interview with Katie Couric, the story of my experience with a stalker aired nationally on Investigation Discovery’s Stalked: Someone’s Watching in their season-four opener in December 2013. I am now the chapter leader for the Hilda Fort Wayne Chapter of The Well Armed Women. I have also been on The Gun Guy, as well as several local stations.
IT IS AMAZING WHERE all of this has taken me. I never would have thought that in my 40s I would go back to retail or work gun shows on the weekends, not to mention drive a pickup truck just so I can haul around my purses. I couldn’t do this without the support of my family and friends, in particular Chris, my children and my parents. They have been at my side through this journey. They provide strength, support, love and motivation through it all.
It has been God with runway lights – I couldn’t have ever dreamed this is where I would be. I love putting women’s departments in gun stores, holding Ways For Women To Carry classes, seeing a first-time shooter hit their target and empowering women in general. I love providing a source of strength to those who need it. ASJ
Editor’s note: If you would like more information about HidingHilda, you can visit them at hidinghilda.com or Facebook.com/hidinghilda.