Every 92 seconds an American is sexually assaulted, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network known as RAINN. Statistics often come at odds with the common misconception that assault only happens in a dark alley perpetrated by a stranger. For example, most rapes go unreported and victims tend to be women who know their attacker, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s states on their website.
From rigorous self-defense classes to several apps on smart phones and new safety devices still hitting the market, the lengths women go to in order to feel out of harm's way has almost become akin to getting a degree in safety.
Kathleen Gallagher, a personal safety expert and founder of Safety Chick, spoke with Oxygen.com about safety devices. Gallagher is a survivor of stalking and worked with lawmakers in California to pass an anti-stalking law after her case.
“Personal safety is personal,” Gallagher said. “It's what makes you feel comfortable. Personal safety products are wonderful because you know different types of personal safety products go with different types of safety situations.”
Some safety devices in the past have received backlash for blaming victims and not focusing on holding perpetrators accountable. However, Gallagher says she thinks some safety devices can make owners feel more confident and empowered.
“Crime has always been at the forefront and I think that what I'm hoping to see and change is that personal safety products, education, the safety chick, all becomes a very, just matter of fact, daily routine,” Gallagher said. “It's not about being reactive. It's about being proactive because when you live caring about your personal safety it translates into every aspect of your life.”
CEO and Co-Founder of BlingSting, Andi Atteberry, founded the safety device company with the idea to design items that appeal to women. Her father used to buy her and her mother items like pepper spray. She says the dark packaging and masculine branding often led to the safety device being out of sight, out of mind… making it harder to access if there ever was an emergency.
“It was just so forgettable that it would end up in the bottom of the bag, you know, buried or the junk drawer. We’d shove it in our glove compartment,” Attebury said. “We just kind of joked as a family, you know my mom and I are girly and we love pink and sparkles, we said if pepper spray and this whole product category in general if it was actually designed and packaged to appeal to a girl who likes sparkles and things that are attractive you know what would be so bad about that. It would actually be something that--if we made it right--that we would want to carry.”
Blingsting now sells safety devices that range from pepper spray to stun guns in colors ranging from pink to mint green.
Here is a look at some safety devices and what Gallagher thinks users should know.
First up, pepper spray.
The pepper spray is designed as a keychain, to be easy to spot or easy to access in case of an emergency, according to Attebury.
“We've gotten it into just some retail outlets that never thought about carrying pepper spray or self-defense products because of this new spin that we're taking...,” Attebury said.
Laws vary by state on if pepper spray is legal to buy, ship, and use. Be sure to check out local laws as well as when it’s okay to use pepper spray. Improper usage could be a criminal offense. For example, age requirements can differ and in states like New York where the device can only be sold by an authorized dealer.
Gallagher adds pepper spray can sometimes be hard to use.
“If there's wind of any kind, if there's rain, you can get splash back,” Gallagher said. “It burns your eyes and then the attacker can get you. If your assailant is on drugs of any kind, a lot of times they're not bothered by the pepper spray and it can just be an antagonist."
If you’re thinking of travelling and want to bring the item with you, keep in mind pepper spray cannot be carried on a plane and must be checked in when flying, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
Next up, Stun Guns.
Blinsting dubbed their product the “Stunning Gun” and it’s described as compact so it can fit in most bags. Laws restrict buying, selling, or possessing stun guns in several states. Be sure to check your local laws before attempting to buy or use stun guns. Stun guns and tasers also cannot be carried on while flying on an airplane, according to the TSA.
Gallagher expressed some reservations in regards to stun guns because it might call for you to be close to or touch an assailant.
“Once you’re in a hand-to-hand combat situation it’s a 50-50 proposition,” Gallagher said.
Another item blingsting offers are personal alarms.
“I always thought the problem with these items was that you throw them in your huge purse that you're going to get to them if you actually were startled by someone and needed to use them,” Attebury said. “You can't say hold on. Let me dig through my bag and find my device. So these are made to be bag charms and if you turn it over there's this little pink panic button and you hit that.”
Attebury says the alarms have been used to prevent some frightening scenarios for some customers.
“I have had a couple girls say that they use the alarm when someone was approaching them. One was at a grocery store parking lot in California and then another… used one when an aggressive dog was actually coming towards her when she was walking her dog,” Attebury said.
Alarms can attract attention and buy users time to get out of a dangerous scenario, according to Gallagher.
“If someone is coming at you and you pull that pull pin you know it’ll attract attention and it’ll buy yourself time to get out of a dangerous setting,” Gallagher said.
And finally, an emergency escape hammer for the car
The hammer could be used to help escape a car submerged in water or to help exit a car following an accident.
“You break the window easily and this little blade here cuts the seat belt,” Attebury said.
To learn about becoming an advocate for survivors and concrete ways to hold perpetrators accountable organizations like RAINN, the country’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, offers more information on their website. The network tries to provide resources to survivors and pathways to volunteering, fundraising, and changing policies to prevent sexual violence.
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