WINTER GARDEN — It was the fractured jaw that started it, but it was the constant blows to the head one night that was the deciding factor.
Sarah Artis remembers feeling intense pain as she lay on the floor of her Winter Garden home, having just been punched repeatedly by her then-husband. Her two children were hiding in fear in a bedroom closet.
That night, seven years ago — after years of hiding bruises on her arms and body — she made the decision to leave for good.
“While it was probably one of the worst days of my life, it was one of the best days of my life,” Artis said. “I thought my life was going to end that day, but the reality was that it was only just beginning.”
The battered woman grabbed her pajama-clad children and drove to the police department to file a report. She divorced her abuser, her physical wounds healed, and she eventually remarried.
Her daughter is now 18 and will start college in the fall. To ensure the teen is equipped to protect herself if she is confronted or attacked, Artis is sending her to school with a stun gun and pepper spray.
Artis is a sales representative for Damsel in Defense, a company created by two stay-at-home moms who were concerned about safety but had no way to protect themselves and didn’t know where to find non-lethal protection.
“I feel strongly that women need to have some type of protection, whether it’s from somebody on the street or, unfortunately, someone in your own home,” she said.
She holds her stun gun every time she is walking in a parking lot or pumping gas.
The self-defense products she sells are designed to protect but are also stylish, Artis said. Most of the items customers purchase are pink or Tiffany blue; Artis’ own stun gun has some “bling” on the wristlet.
All Damsel in Defense stun guns come with a built-in charger and a disable pin that renders the stun gun useless if it is grabbed out of the owner’s hand.
Available, too, are personal-protection items like pepper sprays and a sturdy Kubaton striking tool.
“The pepper sprays I have are the strongest that can legally be bought or sold,” Artis said. “The pepper sprays also contain a UV dye so that an attacker can easily be identified for up to seven days.”
Artis’ daughter now carries pepper spray everywhere she goes following an incident in a parking lot when some men were harassing her and her friends.
“They were scared, and they had no way of protecting themselves,” she said. “They locked the door and left. If only she had had something. Even if she didn’t use it, it could have been used as a deterrent.”
Many of the products are on key chains so they can be reached quickly.
There are items for pre-teens and elementary children, too, like the Holla At Me, a personal alarm on a keychain, and the Wristle, a bracelet with a whistle.
The most popular item, she said, has been the Road Trip emergency tool, which features an LED emergency beacon, magnetic head to stick to vehicles, glass breaker, seatbelt cutter, LED flashlight and alarm.
This tool, the pepper spray and the door alarm have been big sellers for parents of college students.
Artis learned about Damsel in Defense when a friend held an online party. She liked the company and its mission statement and became an Independent Damsel Pro so she could sell the products to family and friends. She is the first sales rep in this area, she said.
“I could protect myself and I could help other women empower themselves,” she said. “I’ve talked to older women who are too scared to carry a gun. … There are people who may want to carry a gun but can’t, and this gives them another option to be protected.”
She calls the 60-minute parties “empower hours” and said many hostesses like to serve brunch or social drinks. Her Facebook page is called Champagne & Stun Guns.
To book a show, contact Artis at [email protected] or (407) 375-7953. Products are also available at mydamselpro.net/SarahArtis.
“I know I’m protected, my daughter is protected, and her friends are protected,” Artis said. “That’s my purpose: to save someone. … I open up about my past experience … in hopes that I can provide hope or encouragement to someone else who may be going through what I did.”
IF YOU GO
A women’s self-defense class will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, at VI Levels, 16112 Marsh Road, Winter Garden. MMA instructor Jon Burke will teach the class, which is open to females ages 13 and older.
The cost is $20. Reservations are not necessary.
Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].