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Meredith Holt, Published June 01 2012

Protected in pink: Sisters serve up safety with Damsel in Defense

FARGO - Dee Ann Magrum wanted to buy her 18-year-old daughter something to protect herself on her outdoor runs, but she didn’t know where to look.

Meanwhile, the Fargo woman’s sister, Debbie Henke of Park Rapids, Minn., had read about a new direct-sales company called Damsel in Defense.

“I thought, ‘Oh, I gotta find out about this,’ ” says Debbie, who has three sons in their 30s.

“I never worried as much about my boys, but now my nieces are growing up, and my friends have girls who are growing up,” she says.

Damsel in Defense makes personal protection pretty with pink stun guns, pepper spray disguised as lipstick and a safe hidden in an AquaNet can.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, one in six women in the U.S. will be a victim of sexual assault.

“They need to protect themselves,” Debbie says.

Damsel in Defense “pros” see their products as an accessible way to arm women in hopes of decreasing their chances of an attack.

In March, Debbie and Dee Ann became the 210th and 211th pros to join the company, which has grown to over 600 in 32 states.

The sisters have done a vendor show and about a half-dozen parties since they began selling the products in March.

“It’s very new for us, but it’s exciting,” Dee Ann says.

Stunning line

The Damsel in Defense line includes stun guns, pepper sprays and other security products.

Items range in price from $10 for a keychain alarm to $95 for a stun gun that looks like a cellphone.

Dee Ann and Debbie say their customers are most excited about the alarm and pepper sprays.

“Those have probably been the hottest sellers,” Debbie says.

She thought the stun guns would be more popular, but says many women are afraid of them.

“It’s kind of scary to do it,” she says, but the sound is more shocking (pardon the pun) than anything.

The most powerful Damsel stun gun is the “Pack a Punch,” which delivers 7.5 million volts of electricity.

Debbie’s husband tried one of the five stun guns on their son’s leg. “He said it felt like a knife,” she says.

If you’re going to carry a stun gun in your pocket or purse, she says you have to get a concealed weapons permit through the city.

North Dakota law bans stun guns from bars, state and federal buildings and casinos – even with a permit.

Apparently the pepper spray also packs a punch.

The sisters tested it at a family gathering by spraying a tiny amount into the sink.

Dee Ann started choking when she sniffed it. “We cleared the house out it was so bad,” she says.

The keychains contain 18 percent pepper spray. “That’s the strongest you’re going to find on the market,” Dee Ann says.

The pepper sprays also contain a UV dye that remains on the skin.

“If you were to spray your assailant, and if they got caught at a later date, the cops can identify them under a black light,” Dee Ann says.

The “Sock It to Me” keychain weapon can be used to stab soft tissue or hit bony surfaces.

“Your fists aren’t going to do much, but this will,” Debbie says of the stick.

All of Damsel in Defense’s products are nonlethal, covered by warranties and backed by satisfaction guarantees.

‘Don’t stop here’

The company emphasizes pairing their products with self-defense training.

“Don’t stop here,” Dee Ann says. “Learn everything you can about self-defense.”

In less than eight months, representatives have sold over $1 million in Damsel in Defense personal protection products.

A girl’s mother requested a show for her and her college friends, and the girl’s father told the sisters:

“If you save just one life, you help just one woman, you guys have done what you’re supposed to be doing.”