Inspired by TOMS Shoes creator Blake Mycoskie, who donates a pair of free shoes for every pair purchased, Austinite James Shaw decided to start a similar mission, but with pepper spray.
Shaw, owner of the online company Resist Attack, distributes free pepper spray to women throughout Austin. Resist Attack sells many kinds of nonlethal self-defense weapons such as stun devices, pepper sprays and home security products. Since the launch of his mission in July of 2011, Shaw has spent all of the website’s profits on pepper spray giveaways.
Since arming every woman in America with pepper spray is a huge endeavor, Shaw said he has focused his efforts on women who are the most at risk, he said. He said he is most concerned about women with a history of battery or abuse through connections with local shelters and police stations, women who are frequently alone at night and women who are traveling or are away from home, such as businesswomen and college students. According to Resist Attack’s website, pepper spray is nonlethal, effective, legal and accessible tool in guarding against physical attacks. Since its inception, Resist Attack has handed out more than 800 pepper sprays, according to the website. “Female students are probably not going to go out and buy pepper spray,” Shaw said. “So I came up with a way to put it in their hands for free.”
Shaw started his family-owned business after bringing his daughter on college tours. He said he noticed how many female students were away from home without much protection, and came up with his mission — to give a free pepper spray to every woman in America.
He has held giveaways with UT student organizations such as the Texas Feminists, Texas Zephyrs and Omega Phi Alpha, as well as at Kinsolving Dormitory, an all girls on-campus hall. Shaw said he plans to visit Kinsolving on Jan. 26 again for a giveaway and to speak at a female self-defense program sponsored by the UT Police Department.
Texas Feminists President Jenny Kutner said Shaw’s efforts are empowering and very admirable. She was the first person at UT to help Shaw plan his giveaways around campus.
“You can’t expect every woman to take a self-defense class in order to protect herself,” Kutner said. “It’s a huge endeavor, but it is completely realistic to give each woman on campus pepper spray.”
Kutner is also a member of the Orange Jackets, another student organization helping promote Shaw’s pepper spray campaign.
“It is important to expose yourself to the pepper spray and understand that if you spray a perpetrator, you will most likely feel the effects of the spray as well,” said UTPD’s crime prevention officer Darrell Halstead. “I relate it to eating a jalapeno pepper and wiping your eyes with your hands after handling it,” he said. “Without practicing and without utilizing the pepper spray, you’re doing your self a disservice.”
Halstead said policeman always carry pepper spray while on duty and use it against attackers during ongoing assaults.
“Pepper spray is very, very effective,” Halstead said. ”The ultimate goal in any type of any self-defense product is not to go toe-to-toe with the bad guy or to put him in handcuffs. It’s to create an opportunity to escape.”