The Police National Legal Database website’s Ask the Police feature recently answered the question: “Are there any legal self defence products that I can buy?” “The only fully legal self defence product at the moment is a rape alarm. These are not expensive and can be bought from most local police stations or supermarkets. There are other self defence products which claim to be legal (e.g. non toxic sprays), however . . .
. . . until a test case is brought before the court, we cannot confirm their legality or endorse them. If you purchase one you must be aware that if you are stopped by the police and have it in your possession there is always a possibility that you will be arrested and detained until the product, it’s contents [sic] and legality can be verified . . .
You must not get a product which is made or adapted to cause a person injury. Possession of such a product in public (and in private in specific circumstances) is against the law.
There are products which squirt a relatively safe, brightly coloured dye (as opposed to a pepper spray). A properly designed product of this nature, used in the way it is intended, should not be able to cause an injury.
However, be aware that even a seemingly safe product, deliberately aimed and sprayed in someone’s eyes, would become an offensive weapon because it would be used in a way that was intended to cause injury.
Got that? If you’re being attacked, try not to hurt the person you’re fighting off.
Despite having both a wife and a daughter, the thought of procuring a “rape alarm” for either of them had never really crossed my mind. Maybe that’s because there are better options available. An alarm? Are they serious? Car alarms go off and are ignored all the time. Would a randy yob intent on inflicting grievous bodily harm on a woman be deterred by an alarm?
A British company called Safe Girl Security thinks so. The website sells devices that generate a 130+ decibel alarm. The website goes on to claim that a personal alarm “wards off 97% of potential attacks.” Safe Girl Security fails to provide a citation for this figure, although it appears often in the online sales literature for British personal alarm vendors. (One says the number came from the Home Office.)
Curious about the mind-set of the folks selling these devices, I connected online with the founder of Safe-Girl, Andrea Clark.
Ms. Clark founded the company in 2011 in response to “a couple of scares just as [her] eldest was due to start walking home from school without an adult.” She’s had personal experiences with violence in the past:
The very same month I started Safe Girl, I entered into a new and what turned out to be a highly abusive domestic relationship. Some 18 months later, having suffered both physical and emotional abuse, I finally escaped and started a very personal journey of my own. This meant rediscovering myself: exploring how I could fall into such an abusive relationship, so blindly and willingly, without understanding what was going on for so long, despite all the physical blows and emotional torment….
It is now my absolute passion and mission to educate all girls and women about safety issues both out on the streets and inside their own homes and relationships. I want to empower as many women as possible to be in control and to help them see the danger signs. Once we have the knowledge and the tools to make better decisions, and know ourselves more, we are better equipped to be safe and strong, physically and mentally. It’s powerful stuff.
“Powerful”? Sure. Self-knowledge and actualization is empowering. Know thyself and all that. Avoiding the wrong types of people. Yes, very important. Having the strength, skills, and mindset to be able to stop a determined attack on one’s person is also empowering. But we’re talking about a noisemaker here.
I asked Ms. Clark if she would carry a firearm if she could. Her response was . . . well, she didn’t respond at all. Perhaps the idea of carrying a firearm is too much for the British mind to contemplate? I would’ve expected someone in the personal self defense business to have a ready answer for the question. She did not.
Returning to the facts of the matter – or the lack thereof – I searched for the report that supplied the 97 percent deterrence figure for personal alarms. I found this publication on tackling domestic violence put out by the British Home Office in 2005. At p. 87, it appears to consider “the use of personal alarms and mobile telephones by women who have experienced violence” as being a “target hardening” strategy. And . . . that’s it.
Wishful thinking? As usual. And as always, someone pays the price.
[Hat tip: NRA-ILA.]
DISCLAIMER: The above is an opinion piece; it is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship in any sense. If you need legal advice in any matter, you are strongly urged to hire and consult your own counsel. This post is entirely my own, and does not represent the positions, opinions, or strategies of my firm or clients.