For College Women, Mace is an Accessory
By: Halle Rossi
As my friends and I gathered for a fun movie night, we laid the stay-in essentials for display on the coffee table. Snacks, candies, and drinks ready to go…accompanied by five keychains with five pepper spray tubes attached.
Had a friend’s boyfriend not pointed it out, I’m not sure that any of us would have noticed the prevalence of self-defense items in the living room. For women, the sight of small weapons on keychains or pink-colored tasers is nothing new. It’s commonplace. When fear being a part of our daily routine is so normalized, we often don’t give it a second thought.
I remember exactly when I began to be afraid of what men could do to me, and that was when my mother told me a story of when she had just gotten her driver’s license. She went out to her car one day and as she turned to look in the rear window, a man was sitting in the backseat of her car. My mom screamed in fear and ran out, and luckily was untouched. Since hearing that, there has never been a time that I haven’t started my car without looking in the backseat first.
“Growing up a woman has meant many cautionary tales—don’t walk alone, check your surroundings, watch your drink be poured. In truth, it’s exhausting. I just want to feel comfortable and relaxed in public spaces.”
Growing up a woman has meant many cautionary tales: don’t walk alone, especially not at night, and always check your surroundings. Never rent apartments on the first floor. Watch the drink be poured by the bartender when a man offers you one. In truth, it’s exhausting. I just want to feel comfortable and relaxed in public spaces.
For women ages 18-24, the risk of experiencing sexual violence is at a rate three times higher than women of any other age group. At Texas A&M University, where I attend, there have been 134 reports of rape, 522 cases of stalking, 92 cases of domestic violence, and 114 cases of dating violence, all reported on campus property.
Knowing this statistic, it is clear why most women I meet in college carry some item for self-defense with them at all times. I created a survey to grasp the normalcy of self-defense items and there were 167 respondents. The results were as follows:
- 72.6% of women own a self-defense item of some kind, half of which were given as a gift
- 61.1% owned pepper spray
- 24.1% owned a taser
- 21.4% owned a portable alarm
For most, carrying these items simply makes women feel safer and decreases anxiety in everyday situations. For Carly Richardson, a 20-year-old student studying political science in Boston, it’s to help equal the playing field.
When gifted pepper spray as a high school graduation present, Richardson honestly thought it was silly. She knew she wouldn’t put herself in unsafe situations like walking alone late at night, plus – she had training in both self-defense and boxing. One night, however, Richardson noticed a man sneaking off of her porch in her car’s headlights, and since then, the gifted pepper spray has become an everyday accessory.
“It gives me an advantage over a larger, stronger man if anything were to happen to me,” she explained. Richardson says that there’s a difference between doing everything right (like not looking at your phone or having headphones in when walking) and not having a defense available if attacked.
Is it too much to ask to feel comfortable walking outside or to feel as if the odds aren’t against me when it comes to my safety? Will fear always be a part of my daily routine?