From the Forum – Personal Protection: Other than your wits, what do you use?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Jen Morrissey

Personal Protection: Other than your wits, what do you use?

“I’m curious as to whether people are carrying mace. I recently purchased a Sabre brand canister of mace that is supposed to attach to a keychain for my girlfriend. We live near 14th & U (just providing context as to where we live) and she has been in some questionable situations, through no fault of her own, when out and about. Also, we see all the reports about stabbings/shootings/flashings which elevates our concern.

I felt a little weird about getting the mace as she didn’t ask for it, but it’ll help provide me with a (false?) sense of security when she actually starts carrying it with her. As an aside, if you purchase mace, it needs to be registered with mpdc.

So, who here is carrying mace and have you registered? Have you had to use or threaten to use it?

Thanks for weighing in!”

You can see all forum topics and add your own here.

54 Comment

  • Whatever you do, DON’T carry a Masterlock in your pocket or use it as a “brass knuckle.”

    Women need to go back to carrying a brick in their purses like Bettie Page.

  • As a safety seminar at my office led by the DC police, the officer noted that keys in your pocket can be used as an effetive weapon. Close your first around them with as many keys juutting out as possible. makes an effective weapon in a pinch. Also, if someone grabs you by the neck from behind, always turn your head to the side. That makes it easier to breathe. Those two pointers always stayed with me! Also, on sidewalks, use relfections in large windows to assess who’s behind you (if you feel the need).

  • I’ve considered it, but I wouldn’t be able to bring it into work, so I wouldn’t be able to carry it with me 80% of the time (if I go out on a weekday, I generally don’t go home first).

  • I believe you are required to register mace with MPD in order to carry it legally in DC. It would also be wise to have some basic orientation on how and when to use it. Other than that – to each their own. I have other effective personal safety methods which don’t involve mace (keys in above comments is a good one).

  • I carry a small device called a yawara stick. It looks pen-shaped and is made from varying metals. It only takes a small amount of pressure to cause severe pain in someone’s arm or leg. Really severe pain if you put effort behind the jab. One guy told me he carries a heavy fountain pen for the same purpose.

  • Krav Maga and boxing training

  • When in a pinch, I’ve always found fists, elbows, knees and feet to be useful. Don’t have to register them, always know where to find them. And you can’t accidentally leave them at home.

  • This is when I practice my Janov Primal Therapy. Another effective method is to just go crazy!

  • Emmaleigh504

    If my boyfriend bought me mace I didn’t ask for and none for himself I would get the impression he didn’t think very highly of my ability to exist in the world.

    • Not really… I worry much more about my girlfriend when she walks alone in the city at night than I would about myself. That’s because she is much more likely to be the victim of sexual harassment/assault than I am as a guy. If someone attacks me it is probably for money or property, which I could give up and most likely avoid harm. A young woman probably doesn’t want to give up what a sexual attacker is looking for.

      • Emmaleigh504

        So you think she can’t take care of herself. At least talk to her and see if she wants the mace.

        • Why are you always jumping down every guy’s throat? Look, I’m a woman, and a lesbian. I think this whole spiel is really tired unless someone actually IS disrespecting women. A concerned boyfriend buying his girlfriend mace to protect herself is not disrespectful and does not imply he thinks she’s unable to exist in the world. I’m guessing if you have a sig other, he or she knows that you’d be offended and not be so presumptuous as to buy you mace without asking first. Maybe the OP’s girlfriend isn’t as touchy and such a thing would not offend her…

          • Well now I know what not to get Emmaleigh504 for Valentine’s Day next year!

          • Emmaleigh504

            I just get tired of the helpless female spiel. Carry one with the discussion, I’ll bow out.

          • I agree. As a woman, I understand the mantra that women are potential victims because we ARE potential victims for reasons other than property and money. I hate that fact with everything I’ve got but I’m not going to pretend that it’s not true. This gesture on behalf of a concerned boyfriend doesn’t strike me as putting his girlfriend in a weakened or deferential place or indicate that he thinks less of her ability to handle herself out in the world. It’s real concern for her safety and hopefully, she’ll never be in a position to have to use the mace.

      • It would be better to just tell her you’re worried about her and suggest that she carry mace. Or even ask that she buy some and carry it as a favor to you. Let it be her choice. Just buying it for her without talking to her about it or discussing your concerns for her safety sends a paternalistic “I-know-what’s-best-for-you” message.

        • So instead of actually showing your concern, you’re nagging her and giving her an errand to run. Just what every gal wants. *eyeroll*

        • Let me be clear. My gf did not ask me to buy her mace, but I did consult her. Before I purchased the mace, I sent her a link to view the product (I’d previously expressed concern about her safety on other occasions) and that I thought it would be good for her to have mace. I probably should have included this in my original post, but didn’t realize the conversation would go on this tangent as what was relevant (in my mind) was what others were using and if they’d ever had to use or threaten to use mace/tasers/whatever.

    • Well, your mileage varies.

    • I really don’t think that is what the OP is implying here. As a woman, you have to acknowledge that there are certain dangers we face that guys just don’t. It’d be naive not to. Not to mention guys are typically physically larger and stronger than most women, so mace might serve to even the playing field.

      • Emmaleigh504

        Those were my thoughts on mace/pepper spray. I’ve done just fine without it. I walk with purpose and bitch-face and have never had a problem in DC or other high crime cities. It also seems like it would be a total PITA to have to carry that sh!t around, too big and annoying for my tastes.

        • The size was a slight concern (about 3X the thickness of a keychain maglite if that helps), but for the cost of literally less than $10, I got over the possibility that it may sit in a drawer.

        • Yeah, I’ve never been murdered before, so I’m pretty sure I’m immune to it

  • I took a really helpful workshop offered through DC Impact. It emphasizes situational awareness as well as practical strategies for getting out of harms way. The workshop is being offered a few times this fall at Bancroft Elementary.

  • Gymkata.

  • I live at 11th and U and carry pepper spray. If I’m walking alone at night in a sketchy area, I hold it in my hand. Fortunately, I’ve never had to use it and hope to never have to. I know that it should be registered with MPD, but I was told by my local station that I’d have to go downtown to police headquarters to register it and was too lazy to do so. My theory is that, if for any unfortunate reason I needed to use the pepper spray to defend myself, I’d rather be arrested than stabbed. It gives me a sense of security.

  • I have an assisted opening pocket knife (not a switchblade, chill out) on me 95% of the time. Not really for protection, but because it has a ton of handy uses during the day. But you’d better believe it’ll get used if the need arises.

  • I used to carry mace and found it was more of a hassle than the slight protection it might offer. When attached to my key chain, it made my keys too bulky to carry in my pocket. Then, I found carrying the mace in my purse made it incredibly awkward to have to dig in my bag for it if I ever tried to use it. Finally, it got taken away from me when I forgot to leave it at home before going through some security line. Ended up a waste of money more than anything.

  • I know a LOT of people in DC who carry stun guns, even though they aren’t legal here. Their view, which I think is incredibly accurate and valid, is that the only way they will ever get caught with it is if they have to use it, and if that’s the case it’s a LOT better to deal with a minor infraction like having an un-permitted stun gun than the alternative of what might have happened if you did not have one. Stores in Virginia and Maryland are supposed to check ID to make sure you’re a resident of those states when you buy one, but many don’t, and I’ve heard many people say they’ve gotten away with saying “Oh, I just moved here from DC and don’t have a new ID yet”. Or, the foolproof way is to just drive out to West Virginia, where they don’t check ID to buy one.

    • Unfortunately, that’s false. Metro sometimes has random bag checks, there are a TON of secure buildings in the city – I’d wager that most professionals have to pass through them at least once or twice a month – and it’s possible for it to accidentally fall out of your bag. I believe that the penalties are pretty hefty if you’re caught with one. Not worth it.

      • Well, I’d think if someone knew they had it on them and tried to use Metro and saw they were doing a random bag check (which, for the record, I have never encountered once in fifteen years – I have only heard about them on the news), they would politely decline, go back to the street, and get in a cab. And I don’t think most people would carry it around with me during the workday anyway. I think they’d probably leave it at home unless they were going out somewhere, so secure buildings aren’t an issue.

        And the penalties can’t be that bad if you don’t actually use it. Remember that case from a month or two ago where the guy in NW saw a kid being attacked by dogs, ran inside, got a handgun, and shot and killed the dogs? Then it comes out that the handguns, while legally purchased in Virginia, were never registered in DC after he moved here? The DA dismissed all the gun charges before they were even filed. I hate to say it, but if you’re young and middle class, especially if you add female to that demographic, the justice system just doesn’t pursue stuff like having a disallowed stun gun in your handbag. You’re just a frightened little girl all alone in the big scary city trying to protect herself, or at least that’s what any first year law student defending you would say to the jury, and any prosecutor with more than fifteen minutes experience in a courtroom knows that will work every single time. You’ll probably get a fine and they take it away from you if it’s your first offense.

  • I have to ask, and I’m not being facetious: what stabbing and shooting reports specifically elevate your concern? Your girlfriend, unless she’s involved in selling drugs, is statistically more likely to get hit by a Metro bus than stabbed on 14th Street.

  • Does anyone have any stories of how having mace on them got them out of a bad situation? Just curious.

    • No argument regarding use of mace to defend against an attacker with a knife or a little bit of muscle, but how exactly would having mace be of value if an attacker has an actual gun? I’m not being facetious – you cite shootings as one of the reasons you want her to have mace. Really?

      • I agree, that if someone is pointing a gun at me and we both have a clear line of site, I wouldn’t attempt to use mace. I can think of other situations where a gun is involved where mace could be applied.

    • What you’re asking is one of the things I wanted to know. I guess since there’s been no responses on the matter, one can judge that not many people that saw this post use/carry mace or for some reason didn’t want to talk about it (seems unlikely). I do find interesting the different methods/tools others are employing.

      • I’ve had to use mace before. It was about 4am NYE/NY day and I probably shouldn’t have been walking home alone, but I was. I was walking up 17th St and two guys were following me/cat calling. I figured they were just drunk frat boys and kept walking, but I got to my apartment building on 17th and T and one of them bear hugged me from behind and didn’t seem like he was about to let go. Luckily, I walk with mace (the kind you bought that attaches to a keychain) in my hand and was able to wiggle free enough to mace him in the face. He was writhing on the ground, and (again luckily) his friend saw this and left him there/ran away, and I safely made it into my auto-locked building. I realize the situation could have been much worse — the guy I didn’t mace could have gotten pissed and done something horrible to me, but either way, it helped in my situation and I’m glad I had it on me.

        • Thank you for sharing this. It’s really shitty what happened to you and hopefully life screwed those guys in some other way down the line. Thankfully you were able to get out of the situation before it could escalate more than it did. I have a couple of questions, but understand if you’re not comfortable responding. Did you call the cops and file a report? If so, what happened with that? Do you still carry mace? Thanks again for sharing.

          • No problem! I didn’t call the cops to file a report. Partly because my mace was unregistered and partly because I was sort of in denial that I had been in any serious danger (but serious enough to use mace; I don’t know, I was in a weird headspace) and then I felt like it was too late. In retrospect, I wish I had. I do still carry mace and I’ll go ahead and register it now that I know how easy it is (thanks for that!).

  • Re: Registration. The relevant DC Code Section on registration presumes that the “self-defense spray” is being purchased in DC. (“A person 18 years of age or older must register the self-defense spray at the time of purchase by completing the standard registration form.” DC Code 7-2502.14). It doesn’t address mace that is bought elsewhere, and then brought into the District. So I’d argue that you could buy the mace in VA or MD, bring it to DC, and the registration requirement doesn’t apply.

    Also, a registration requirement for mace is ridiculous. The only effect that it might have is to deter law-abiding people from getting a self-defense tool (and thus, perhaps, create a few more victims of violent crime) .

    • Another silly thing about the requirement to register pepper spray in DC is that DC criminal code does not provide a penalty for failing to register it. So, it’s pretty much unenforceable. Cans of pepper spray do not have serial numbers either, so the registration form doesn’t match up to any particular pepper spray. At any rate, you can order pepper spray on Amazon, have it shipped to your DC address, and then take it to MPD HQS at Judiciary Square. Just tell the officer at the security entrance that you’re there to register pepper spray, and someone will escort you to the Firearms Registration Section which is right behind the security desk at the main entrance.

      Also, if anyone is looking for a recommendation on amazon, get the Police Magnum OC-17 pepper spray. The 0.5 oz can on amazon fits in your hand easily.

    • I called MPD to double-check– The officer I spoke with said it has to be registered regardless of where it is purchased. Few places in DC sell it because the merchant also has to register it if it’s purchased in DC limits, so they assume most people are buying it in MD/VA or off the internet. I agree the requirement is ridiculous, but for what it’s worth, it was very easy– MPD mailed me a card within 2 days and it took literally 1 minute to fill out (no fee).

  • It’s time to allow concealed carry for guns in DC.

    Everywhere else it has been introduced in the country, interpersonal crime rates fall (criminals prefer property crimes to attacking a possibly armed citizen) and we do not get the Wild West.

  • I used to work at a rape crisis center, and in the many self-defense trainings I attended, the instructor always discussed the idea that carrying mace was only helpful if you were skilled and practiced in using it, and possibly not even then. It can really be a danger to you: an attacker can use it against you, or you can easily accidentally spray yourself, thereby making yourself unable to fight back.

    An intensive self-defense-type of class is much more helpful, as you actually practice the moves and become comfortable with them. In addition, as one commenter above noted, acting crazy if you sense danger (muttering to one’s self, even urinating on one’s self, as gross as it sounds) could also help: an unpredictable victim is a less “”attractive” victim to any would-be attacker.

    Also, walking with confidence is always one of the best things you can do: an attacker also wants someone who appears more vulnerable.

    If you are in a position where you are being attacked, trust your instincts: sometimes fighting back is the right thing to do; sometimes, it’s not. (It depends on the personality/motivations of the attacker. With some criminals, fighting back will dissuade them. With others, it might make them hurt you more. Your instincts will tell you.

    Finally, read The Gift of Fear by Gavin deBecker.

    • Yes, what LeDroit said.

      Mace isn’t a panacea and can easily backfire – not only does it not always “disable” the attacker but it can have the opposite effect (enrages them so you’re worse off). Or you get sprayed so you’re more vulnerable.

      Second “Gift of Fear” recommendation.

    • Agreed. I’ve been through a lot of personal security training through my work as I travel to some pretty harsh and insecure environments. I personally won’t carry mace or any other self defense weapons because as a slight (strong, sure, but I’ll never not be small) woman I know they are likely to be used against me if an attacker is larger than myself or if I am outnumbered.

      As silly as it sounds, situational awareness and going with my gut are what I trust and usually keep me ok. The only time I was a victim of a violent crime was not in the US and it was in a situation where I overrode my gut feeling that something was wrong. I know that a lot of this is luck, but I can only control a portion of my reality and I can’t let what I cannot control govern my existence.

      • Everyone talking about going with your gut, but what if your intuition is really bad?

        • I think in many cases mace or pepper spray is a lot like plastic surgery. Hear me out – most plastic surgery, if done well, is subtle. When people see you that haven’t seen you in a few months after you’ve had your nosejob or whatever, they just say you look really good, or really well rested, and they ask what’s different because they can’t quite put their finger on it. What’s different is your confidence. I had a good friend in college who got her nose redone and to be perfectly honest, I can’t see much of a difference looking at side-by-side before and afters. She had a big nose before and she has a big nose now. I always thought it looked fine, but it bothered her to no end. There is a HUGE difference after, though, in her *confidence*. She smiles more, she is more outgoing – all because she doesn’t think she has to worry about this big huge nose she thought she had. And it makes her a lot more approachable at parties and bars. She credits her nosejob for her wonderful new life, but the truth is it was her attitude before that kept her from getting dates, not her schnoz, and now the attitude has changed a lot more than the nose.

          Pepper spray and mace can have a similar effect. Walking down the street with it in your hand, you may *feel* more in control, and more able to take on whatever may come your way. You may be more alert, looking around more. You may *look* more confident, which has a serious deterrent effect on a criminal. They don’t want to attack someone who looks like they’re paying attention and like they might put up a fight. They want the quiet, introspective person who’s not paying attention and who’s making it easy by flashing jewelry or cash or gadgets and who looks like they won’t even know what’s happening until it’s over.

          So, it might be worth having even if you’re not sure you would ever use it or if you’re scared you might use it incorrectly and even if you’re risking your attacker using it on you, because it might make you *feel* like a badass enough to make the bad guy think it’s just easier to hit the next target instead of you.

          • That’s a very interesting analogy and I have a feeling there is a lot to what you’re saying. While looking confident isn’t going to deter 100% of attackers, you are probably perceived as less of an easy target if you look like you know what you’re doing.

          • It can also provide a false sense of security – because you have mace/pepper spray you may take more risks than you would if you weren’t carrying mace/pepper spray.

Comments are closed.