5 Self-Defense Tools: What to Consider Before Buying

5 Self-Defense Tools: What to Consider Before Buying

Which self-defense tool is right for you?

It depends.

One thing I know for sure, it’s not always what someone else says you should carry.

If you look at the online reviews of most self-defense tools, they are written by men who purchased the tool for themselves or for a female in their life they care about. That female could be their wife, sister, mother, daughter, or co-worker. I believe these men had the BEST intention when they purchased the tool as a gift. They cared about that person in their life, and they wanted to give them a gift that would keep them safe from harm.

I appreciate men wanting to do everything they can to help the women increase their personal safety by purchasing a tool as a gift. The intentions are pure, but the gesture comes off as condescending and feels like mansplaining. This is not me hating on the good guys out there, it’s giving the female perspective.

It would be like my husband buying me a new vacuum because I want a cleaner floor, without asking for my input. If I’m the one using the vacuum, let me pick it out. (and really guys-NEVER buy a vacuum as a present-K?)

Now that we’ve covered that subject, what features do you need to consider in a tool that will be best for you?

It depends.

I’m going to break down different points to consider on the tools I carry in the Diamond Arrow Group online store.

(Side note: I’ve been sent other tools to test & evaluate that are not on my site yet. If you’re interested in becoming a DAG product tester, make sure you’re on our VIP email list!)

  1. J5 Tactical V1 Pro Flashlight

-This small but mighty flashlight fits in your cute clutch purse on a night out, as well as the palm of your hand while walking to and from your vehicle. Plus, it comes in a variety of colors, not just black.

-A powerful 300 lumens will temporarily blind a person, buying you time to get to safety if necessary. If they unintentionally got in your space, their full sight will return soon enough and hopefully they learned a valuable lesson. (when you tell them to get out of your space, they best listen)

-Uses AA batteries (let’s be real, if a tool requires a special battery, it’s not going to get replaced quickly).

-Cleared for travel. My flashlight has traveled in my carry-on bag on airplanes across oceans, gone into major sporting events, and attended concerts with me.

-It’s a flashlight. It helps you see your surroundings at night, can shine into dark shadows, and the car parked next to yours.

-The flashlight is made of air-craft grade aluminum (translation=very sturdy) and the beveled-edge is a great scraping (DNA collection) and blunt-force tool if an attacker gets in your space.

-Using the flashlight at night to illuminate your path is also a prevention action. If an attacker is waiting for a potential victim, they will see the flashlight beam first. Who typically has a flashlight at night? Law enforcement and security personnel. The attacker is not going to stick around to find out who’s at the other end of that light.

-Low price point and a lifetime warranty.

-The only thing I can say in regard to the “not helpful” column is that it’s not going to cause debilitating damage to an attacker. In that situation, you’re going to have to go after their eyeballs.

  1. Mace Spray-Sport

-I specifically carry the Sport version for the hand strap. This tool is what I carry when I’m out walking/running in a more rural or less populated area. Having it strapped to my hand and ready to deploy in seconds, without needing to hold on to it, is a huge advantage.

-Having it strapped to my hand let’s an attacker watching me see that I have a tool that will cause excruciating pain if they pick me as their target.

-The spray is a gel consistency and sprays up to 12 ft. in a single stream pattern. I don’t need to worry about a mist spray that will blow in my own face if the wind is blowing the wrong direction.

-The spray has UV dye. When I spray an attacker, I am “painting” them with an invisible ink that will light up under a UV light. This will help with law enforcement identification.

-The spray is less-lethal but very painful and debilitating for a length of time that gives me a great head start on getting to safety.

-The added bonus in purchasing a Mace Spray from DAG? We include a FREE water trainer with every spray purchase so you can practice shooting the spray and targeting. In fact, I highly recommend purchasing two sprays so you get two water trainers and have a water fight with a friend. Using play to get comfortable with using it makes learning fun and the knowledge will stick with you longer.

-All sprays have an expiration date! Mace specifically prints this date on all their products. You need to replace your spray every few years, even if you’ve never used it.

-Having Mace spray in your purse will not do you any good if you’re attacked. You need to have it in your hand, not at the bottom of your purse. My suggestion: before exiting the building or your vehicle, put the spray in your hand. When you reach your destination and are safe, you can put it back in your purse.

-Playing around with the actual spray and not being respectful of the tool can get an innocent person a face full of “for the love of all things holy make it stop” temporary pain. They will survive, but the pain will last longer than their list of cuss words.

-Not always travel safe. I forgot to move my Mace from my handbag to my checked luggage on a trip and had it confiscated by TSA. The agent was so apologetic because he thought all women should carry Mace, but he couldn’t let me get on the plane with it.

-Depending on your state’s self-defense laws, you need to be able to articulate WHY you used this tool to defend yourself.

  1. Mace Keychain Alarm

-These personal alarms have an ear-piercing sound that activates at the push of a button.

-When walking to your car, having your keys in your hand keeps this alarm handy. I’m not talking about keys between your fingers (that’s a different conversation), I’m talking about being able to quickly get into your vehicle vs. standing next to a locked vehicle while digging for your keys.

-If you wear a lanyard, the keychain alarm can easily clip to it and acts as a visual deterrent to a potential attacker.

-The sound of the alarm is different than a car alarm so people will naturally be more curious as to where the sound is coming from and start looking around.

-This is a tool that can travel with you anywhere.

-This is a tool that you can take on your lunch break walks around your building.

-The alarm has a whistle feature on the bottom.

-This is a tool that will do you absolutely no good if you’re in a rural and less populated area.

-It’s great at waking up sleepy people in the company meeting. (whoops, sorry to accidentally push my obnoxiously loud alarm) Just sayin’.

-If you don’t have this tool in your hand or within easy reach when you need it, it will do you no good.

-In a high-intensity situation where you experience an adrenaline spike, you lose fine motor skills. Pushing the small button on the back may be difficult if you haven’t practice doing so. This is where the whistle feature may come in handy AND help you remember to breathe.

-If the alarm is accidentally activated, it’s not going to hurt anyone.

  1. Mace Personal Clip Alarm

-See the above points under the Mace keychain alarm.

-The difference of this alarm that I really like as a woman, is it clips easily to clothing without causing damage. You can clip this to yoga pants, business attire, or whatever you’re wearing for the day. Women’s clothing is notorious for not having pockets. This clip alarm is a great work around.

-It’s activated by simply pulling the alarm off your clothing item. The alarm sounds when the clip end touches the back of the alarm.

-This is a tool that will do you absolutely no good if you’re in a rural and less populated area.

-This tool will not help you at the bottom of your purse. Heck-clip it to the side of your purse if you don’t want it on your clothing!

-If the alarm is accidentally activated, it’s not going to hurt anyone.

  1. NPE Stabby Tools/Firearms

-NPE stands for “non-permissive environments” which is a fancy acronym for “no weapons allowed.”

You may be wondering why I don’t have these tools listed on my website. Great question. Before I sell or promote a tool that can cause damage to another human, I am going to ask you many questions. I don’t believe in carrying a tool that can severely debilitate or cause death in another human, simply because it makes you feel cool. If you have a specific threat that you want to defend yourself against, I’m here to help guide you through the questions you need to take into consideration.

That includes:

-emotional, mental, and physical planning, preparing, and practice

-legal, ethical, and moral considerations

-a discussion around aftermath and the realities you will face

-a referral to an expert on the specific tool you are considering

Deciding to carry a self-defense tool is a personal choice and is dependent on your lifestyle. No one should be telling you which tool to carry, without asking for your input. That’s what makes the Diamond Arrow Group different than the typical self-defense tool retailer.

I’m not here to sell you something, I’m here to empower you to be responsible for your personal safety in a way that works best for you.

“Don’t base your decisions on the advice of those who don’t have to deal with the results.”

-Anonymous

This Part Rarely Gets Talked About

This Part Rarely Gets Talked About

Last night, myself and other 500rising instructors attended a virtual training presentation on “Legal & Ethical Implications – The art of explaining yourself”. The training was pre-work for the in-person training next month to attain Level II certification. As always, the information Tammy McCracken (founder of 500rising) shared left me thinking, why don’t more instructors talk about this in self-defense classes?

A lot of self-defense training focuses on the physical aspect. How to hit or kick, and the best places on the human body to target. Many times, the training includes a tool that a person can carry to defend themselves and the best ways to use it. This area of study is all about being in the fight.

Fairly new to self-defense training (at least in the everyday women’s self-defense discussion) is situational awareness. How to observe your surroundings using all your senses. How that information is fed from your subconscious to your conscious. How to take action to avoid a physical confrontation. Reading other people’s body language and improving your own non-verbal signals to give off the vibe that you are not an easy target. This area of study focuses on before the fight, and what I geek out about.

The area I don’t see many social media posts, blogs, articles, etc. regarding is the aftermath.

*You became aware of a potential threat to your safety and tried to avoid it. Situational Awareness

*You weren’t able to avoid it, so now you are in a physical fight to defend yourself. Self-defense

*The fight is over, and you are alive. Now what? Aftermath

In the first few minutes after you have defended your life and stopped the threat, how will you feel? What will you do? What are the things you need to do?

Your body’s natural response to a threatening situation is an adrenaline rush. It helps your body react more quickly. It makes the heart beat faster and increases blood flow to the brain and muscles. It’s your “fight-or-flight” reaction. It can also decrease your ability to feel pain and give you a burst of strength to do something you wouldn’t be able to do under normal circumstances.

Coming down from that adrenaline rush can make you feel weak, tired, drained, and barely able to speak in complete sentences. You may be injured and needing medical attention, but you are alive and have the opportunity to heal.

Defending yourself in a fight is an act of violence. You did everything you could think of to avoid getting to that point, but it happened anyway. You’re a mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend…you may never have thought of yourself as a woman who has a “mean right hook” or who knows what it feels like to do damage to human flesh. It can have a mental impact that lasts much longer than coming down from the adrenaline rush.

The aftermath of violence has physical, psychological, legal, and ethical impacts. The topic deserves its own focus as part of a well-rounded training program. The 500rising training last night went just over an hour and barely scratched the surface of aftermath. I’m looking forward to the in-person training next month to deepen my knowledge, so I can share it with you. Together, we can go from strength to strength and change the statistics on violence against women.

“Everything has the opportunity to heal, except death.”

-Kelly Sayre

If you liked this DAG blog post, why not share it with other women you care about?

Don’t Wait For Something To Happen

Don’t Wait For Something To Happen

Learning how to be more situationally aware is not about learning a new life skill, it’s about using life skills you already possess, from the perspective of personal safety.

“Having awareness means using your senses and intuition to notice something is off in your environment. Then, understanding what that means to you and your safety. Lastly, taking action to preserve your safety.”

-Kelly Sayre

Last week, there was a bank robbery and hostage situation in Central MN. It started in the middle of a weekday afternoon. There are not a lot of details being shared yet, but two points I felt compelled to write about for this week’s blog.

First, the suspect displayed erratic behavior in the bank lobby before the situation escalated.

During presentations, I stress the importance of noticing anomalies in your environment. A person displaying behaviors that do not match the baseline. Behaviors you would not normally expect to see in the environment. Anomalies can also be objects you would not normally expect to see in an area, but for the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on behaviors.

Think about what type of behaviors you would normally expect to see while visiting your bank. People are generally quiet, almost in a library-type way. Due to the private nature of personal finances and the importance of security, bank employees and patrons tend to speak in hushed tones. The amount of distance for personal space is also increased, even pre-pandemic. No one wants someone looking over their shoulder at personal identification information or bank account numbers.

Behaviors that would be considered anomalies would be the opposite of what I described above. Someone being loud, getting too close to other patrons of the bank, pacing around instead of patiently waiting to meet with a bank employee.

No matter what type of environment you’re in, if someone’s behavior is an anomaly from the baseline, pay attention. If any of your intuition alarms start going off, leave the area immediately. There is absolutely no reason to stick around to see IF something bad is going to happen. None.

Stay calm and get to safety (leave the environment). Even if you read the behaviors wrong, you’re still safe. If you stay in the environment because you aren’t quite sure the person’s behaviors are threatening, it can get worse real fast. There’s nothing cool or fancy about getting to safety. Hollywood doesn’t make money off showing people avoiding dangerous situations. But real life isn’t Hollywood.

“You don’t have to be right, but I’d hate for you to be wrong.”

-Tammy McCracken

Second, when there is an active situation where lives are in danger, do not GO TO the scene to spectate.

In today’s world, real-time information and updates are shared immediately and broadcast all over the world via the internet. As someone who spends a good chunk of time studying violence and pre-threat indicators, I understand the curiosity when a situation is happening. I talk about the importance of being curious about your environment in order to stay present and notice anomalies. But that’s when you’re already in the environment. Being curious does not mean you should stop what you’re doing, get closer to the scene, and take a seat on the grass. (Yes, there literally were gawkers at the bank situation).

As I mentioned above, when a situation is happening in real-time, it can get much worse real fast. Law enforcement should not have to worry about keeping “spectators” safe. Victims of a situation don’t want to feel like people are watching events unfold, while eating popcorn and drinking a soda, when they’re having one of the worst days of their life. And, the suspect or suspects, may actually feel motivated to cause more damage to increase the perception that they are a “badass”.

Situational awareness is being present, staying curious about your environment, and taking action to get to safety the moment your intuition tells you it’s time to leave.

You already have the life skills needed to keep yourself and loved ones safe. Don’t fight your intuition because you want front row seats to the action. You may end up being a victim to that action.

“This life’s hard, but it’s harder if you’re stupid.”

-George V. Higgins

Fear Mongering and Click Bait

Fear Mongering and Click Bait

Last week, an article was shared with me about an alleged Tik Tok video declaring April 24th National Rape Day. In doing a quick online search, there were quite a few articles talking about this alleged video.

When something gets shared with me, whether it’s a video, article, picture, or a personal account of a woman being attacked, I try to get as much information as I can. I want to learn the details, in order to pull out lessons that will help other woman stay safer. It’s not about figuring out what the victim did wrong. It’s about looking at the tactics or methods used by the predator, and sharing that information so everyone can learn to recognize early warning signs.

In every attack from one human to another (or group of people), there are pre-threat indicators. The indicators are not always recognized, either because the victim does not consciously observe them and misses their intuition signals, or a third party doesn’t recognize the indicators for what they are. Again-this is not a blame game, it’s a lack of knowledge on threat assessment.

The alleged Tik Tok video would be considered a pre-threat indicator. Except, no one could find the video. A friend of DAG, whose job is in crisis management and threat assessment, had his entire team scouring the web for this video. They couldn’t find it. What they did find was a post on social media talking about the alleged video. From that post, mainstream media took it as fact (without verifying there was an actual video), and used fear mongering as click bait.

Now, some could argue that the public needs to be made aware of any and all threats of violence, in order to protect themselves. I disagree.

Real and viable threats? Yes-those need to be brought to the attention of the right people to avoid violence if at all possible.

Fear mongering and scare tactics to get clicks, likes, and shares? Nope.

Not only do scare tactics make the situation worse, it can be re-traumatizing for anyone who has experienced that type of violence in the past. Instead of sharing knowledge to empower women in their personal safety (ex: here’s the warning signs to watch for and options to get safe), it causes panic and anxiety.

What is the most important thing to do when your intuition alarm bells start going off? Stay calm and decide on a course of action that keeps your safety the #1 priority.

How can you build confidence in your personal safety skills? Here’s 4 things to start with…

  1. Get on The Diamond Arrow Group’s email, follow DAG on Facebook and Instagram, and connect with Kelly on LinkedIn. (Share our info with others!)
  2. Practice simple daily habits to increase your situational awareness skills. (Watch this video for ideas.)
  3. Gather a group of friends or family and take self-defense classes. (Are you in central MN? Here’s a FREE class with 500rising instructors next month.)
  4. Research self-defense tools and figure out what would work best for you and your lifestyle. (Don’t know where to start? Email me.)

I don’t want you to live your life in fear of the “what ifs”. There are so many cool people to meet, so many cool places to travel to, and so many cool adventures to experience.

A diamond through an arrow symbolizes courage moving forward. Let me help you build confidence in your personal safety skills so you can live life on your terms.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

-Mary Oliver

Sneak Peek at the DAG Book

Sneak Peek at the DAG Book

I’ll be in a self-imposed, writer’s isolation this week to work on book edits. Since it’s blog week, I thought it would be fun to share an excerpt with you. A sneak peek/VIP insider info sort of thing.

The excerpt below is a “diamond” in the rough (hahaha…get it? ;-p).

DAG Book (still trying to come up with a title!)

“One night, just as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard a loud bang and saw a flash of light through my bedroom curtains. I was too terrified to move. It had sounded like gunfire. I didn’t want to look out my window for fear that the person would see my curtains move, and know I was awake. I called 911 and two Sheriff Deputies showed up. It was late at night, but I was wide awake.

The one Deputy kept testing my memory by repeating back incorrectly what I said.

Deputy: “you said you heard two shots”

Me: “no, I said I only heard one”

I lived in a newer development with small city lots. The neighbors on the bedroom side of my house told the Deputies they hadn’t heard anything.

The two Deputies were professional and took my statement. When they left, I started doubting what I had seen and heard. Maybe I had dreamt it? Maybe it was a firecracker? I didn’t sleep that night, even with Diablo next to me.

I few weeks later, I heard two men’s voices outside my bedroom window, late at night. Again-I froze in bed and silently cursed Diablo for sleeping soundly, while I lay in fear. Where was my scary pit bull protector when I needed him?

After I didn’t hear anything for a few minutes, I assumed it was the neighbors and went to sleep.

While making coffee the next morning, I looked out my front window, down onto my driveway, and saw the explanation for the two male voices I’d heard the previous night. A vehicle had pulled into my driveway (it was winter and the recent snow was a great evidence collector), the passenger had gotten out and walked up to my front door. The driver had gotten out and walked around my house, to the base of my deck stairs, and back to the vehicle.

I remember feeling absolutely terrified.

My mind started racing. Was this related to the weird noise I had heard a few weeks ago? Were they casing my house? How ballsy to walk around my house in the winter, when I could easily see their tracks the next morning. Was this a psychological game and they were intentionally trying to intimidate me?

At the time, I was working on a law enforcement event in town, so I called one of my contacts. I shakingly told him about the tracks I was seeing around my house. I also mentioned that I thought I had heard a gunshot a few weeks prior. I felt so helpless and scared. I kept thinking, “WTF is wrong with me? I’m living by myself and I don’t have a single weapon in my house. (yes, yes-technically I had a variety of weapons in my house, but “affordances” wasn’t in my brain yet). I don’t have a plan as to what I would do if someone tried to break into my home. Obviously, my dog isn’t going to be any help.”

If we look at fear as a motivator instead of a hindrance, it can help us improve our lives. I didn’t want to live in fear in my own home. I needed to take accountability for my personal safety and create a plan.

My LE contact calmly reassured me that most likely, the individuals had mistaken my house as someone’s they knew. After walking around, they probably realized their mistake and left without incident. It was a reasonable explanation and it calmed me down.

It’s important to point out I had a law enforcement contact I knew and trusted enough to call and ask for advice. If I hadn’t had that connection, I would’ve been faced with the decision to either call the police non-emergency number or shrug it off and act like it wasn’t a big deal. As a single woman, living alone with her cuddly pit bull, I have to admit I probably would’ve shrugged it off.

I’m not saying it would’ve been the wrong choice, it simply would’ve been the choice I picked. As women, when we tell someone about something that freaked us out, but nothing bad happened, we hear “See? It was nothing.” We may even be told we were “probably overreacting”. This perpetuates the habit of downplaying our intuition when we sense something is off in our environment.

If I had called my Dad that morning instead of the LE contact, he would have done his best to reassure me that everything was fine, that I was okay, and then he would’ve whispered out of the side of his mouth “don’t tell your mother, it’ll freak her out”.

The message, “if something scared you, but nothing bad happened, you are fine. BUT…keep it to yourself because it might cause worry in someone else”, gets ingrained in our head.

Do you see the screwed-up messaging women get about their personal safety?

We need to change the conversation and talk about the real things women face. We need to talk about what violence towards women really looks like and how to create a plan that works for them. We need to stop making women feel like they should keep their fears to themselves because heaven forbid we make someone else uncomfortable.”

5 Things Every Company Needs to Know About Domestic Violence

5 Things Every Company Needs to Know About Domestic Violence

Before the pandemic, it was easier to miss the signs of domestic abuse in employees because the physical line between work and home was tangible. The mindset was also, domestic violence is a personal matter and not something a company should get involved in.

During the pandemic, as many employees worked from home, the signs of abuse had an increased chance of being spotted in the virtual realm. But co-workers didn’t know what to do with that information, let alone employers.

This change brought to light a new challenge. I’ve heard it best stated by Steve Crimando, MA, CTM “it may be the employee’s home, but it’s the employer’s workplace”. The challenge is now that employees are working at home, what liability do employers have when that home environment is dangerous? What happens if an employee is hurt, or even worse killed, while working from home?

In an article on Domestic Violence and Its Effects on the Workplace:

“Domestic violence is no longer a private affair when the office becomes the setting for continued abuse through stalking or harassing phone calls. However, when this happens, victims of domestic violence are more likely to share their experiences with a coworker.

For this reason, some companies choose to train their employees to recognize early warning signs of domestic violence. For example, employees learn to look for the following signs:

  • Decreased employee morale
  • Reduced work interest and productivity
  • Lashing out at coworkers or clients
  • Constrained co-worker relations

When supervisors fail to recognize these signs as symptoms of domestic violence, the affected staff member could be dismissed. This can increase replacement, training, and recruitment costs.

However, companies can develop plans for addressing such situations while ensuring confidentiality and safety for the staff member involved.

The 5 things every company needs to know about domestic violence:

  1. 1 in 5 adults is a current victim of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse
  2. 25-40% of all workplace violence is domestic violence related
  3. Roughly 18,000 acts of domestic violence in the workplace each year (1 in 4)
  4. 57% of all mass shootings are related to domestic violence
  5. Domestic violence has no boundaries and can happen to anyone

Domestic violence effects the motivation, productivity, and morale of all employees, not only the victim. As business owners and leaders, there are things that can, should, and must be done to support employees. Making the effort in the workplace to address domestic violence is a win-win both for employees and companies. Here is an online calculator that gives companies an estimate of the financial impacts of domestic violence in the workplace. What does DV cost your company?

As I’ve been talking to anyone and everyone about this new concern, with so many companies considering keeping a work from home/hybrid workforce, I hear over and over again…

“I never even thought of this from the business responsibility aspect! What do I do? How do I make sure my company is complying with Minnesota state employment laws? What considerations do I need think about when it comes to risk management? How do I know what resources are available in my area? How do I handle this with confidentiality and in accordance with HIPAA?”

For a company to ask one person to shift through the mountains of information online, search for regulations and standards that apply to the company, and create a comprehensive plan and strategy for training going forward, is a lot.

That’s why The Diamond Arrow Group has partnered with Melinda Gau of Quinlivan & Hughes, a MN employment law expert, Mahowald, a commercial risk management company, and Anna Marie’s Alliance and VictimsVoice, two phenomenal organizations focused on providing services to victims of domestic violence, to offer a virtual working workshop on Emergency Preparedness Planning for small to mid-sized businesses in Minnesota.

The purpose of an Emergency Preparedness Plan is to facilitate and organize employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies, natural and man-made. A poorly prepared plan, likely will lead to a disorganized evacuation or emergency response, resulting in confusion, injury, and property damage. While the workshop will provide an overview of all considerations in emergency planning, we will also spend time focusing on domestic violence and its effects on the workplace.

Not only will attendees be provided a short presentation on the most up to date MN employment law considerations for small to mid-sized businesses, they will also have time to review their company’s current emergency preparedness plan and make changes in real time. Providing a virtual workshop that allows attendees time to actually work on the document, while having access to experts to get their questions answered in real time.

All for less that the cost of working with a lawyer individually for one hour.

The virtual workshop will be held next Tuesday, April 6th from 8-12pm. Companies can register for one flat fee and have their entire risk management department or committee attend. If you are a business owner, get signed up now by clicking on the link. If you are an employee, forward this to your supervisor. If you would like me to talk with the decision maker at your company to let them know about this virtual workshop, send me an email with their contact information and I’d be happy to follow up with them.

If you read my last blog post, you know that I know of a bright, beautiful, smart woman who is in a domestic abuse situation right now. As you are reading this, she is in a personal hell that is unfathomable. I will do anything within my power to help her get safe, because I also know of a woman who became a victim of her personal hell.

In honor of Sharon Love, former employee of Mahowald.