HURON – She was a college freshman in Minnesota when she was blindsided by a violent attack by someone she considered to be a friend.
But Kristi (Swisher) Gorinas has long since moved on from an experience that makes someone a victim of a violent crime every three seconds in the United States.
“I’ve gotten over being a victim and feeling sorry for myself,” the 1988 graduate of Huron High School said.
In her mind, she’s not a victim, but a survivor.
But her personal experience while in school at the University of Minnesota at Mankato has been her inspiration in developing a product women can use to effectively fend off attackers.
So is the fact that she is the mother of five girls, the oldest now 19, about the same age Gorinas was when she was attacked.
She calls her idea “Defendables Wearable Self-Defense,” a small plastic pod that can be worn discreetly and filled with the strongest form of pepper spray.
“It can stop an attacker for up to 45 minutes,” she said. “You just need a couple of seconds to get away that you wouldn’t normally have if you didn’t have anything.”
In late November, she will have the opportunity to share her idea on a world stage at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, India.
She was chosen as a U.S. delegate by the State Department to attend the coveted event. More than 10,000 people from the country applied, and she expects fewer than 100 will go.
One of the keynote speakers at the Nov. 28-30 summit will be Ivanka Trump.
“I want to bring this product to her attention,” Gorinas said. “I should have an opportunity to meet and talk with her.”
After her college career, she worked in human resources for more than 20 years in the Midwest. She and her family moved to Atlanta in 2002.
With five young children, Gorinas found it difficult to return to a job outside the home and she began developing baby and children’s products.
“As my kids got older, I started changing from toys and baby products, having five girls needing safety products, something to protect themselves,” she said.
Gorinas is a jogger and, with that college incident still fresh in her mind, owned a can of pepper spray. But she would more often than not forget to bring it with her.
“How does it help having a can of pepper spray sitting in my garage if I don’t have it when I need it?” she said.
It was a few years ago that her creative mind began thinking of ways pepper spray could be carried discretely, so instead of sitting harmlessly in the garage it could be worn on the body as protection at all times.
Product development takes time, and for the past two years Gorinas has been developing a small pod that can be clipped to a bra strap or a belt buckle or hidden elsewhere on a person.
The Defendable Wearable Self-Defense product she has come up with is in the prototype and testing phase as she continues to look for the right partner and investor to launch it worldwide.
The prototype is smaller than a half dollar and a little larger than a quarter.
Gorinas said she thinks it resembles the Millennium Falcon from the Star Wars movies.
“It really looks like that quite honestly,” she said.
Oval shaped, it measures an inch by an inch-and-a-half and is half-aninch thick. It has a dual safety trigger so it’s not accidentally dispensed, the user pushes down and forward to release the pepper spray.
When someone is approaching and is still six to 10 feet away, that person’s intentions remain unknown, Gorinas said.
“You don’t know you’re in danger until someone is in your personal space and touching you,” she said.
Releasing the pepper spray in an attacker’s direction might mean the user gets some of it on them, but they will be prepared for it.
“But it is still a shock to the attacker because they won’t know it’s coming,” Gorinas said. “You only need a tiny amount to stop an attacker.”
Gorinas said she has worked with a number of law enforcement officers and military personnel, who, in their training, have to be hit with a taser and pepper spray to know its effect on them.
“One hundred percent of them will say they prefer to be tased than pepper sprayed because it’s so potent,” she said.
Fewer than 15 percent of Americans carry safety devices, she said. Globally, 70 percent of women will someday be a victim of an attack, and 55 percent of those attacks occur at or near their home.
“Three quarters of the attacks actually happen with someone you know, an acquaintance, because you’re least prepared,” she said.
But it’s not only women that she thinks should carry personal protection.
So, too, should seniors, those with disabilities, and men, she said.
The U.S. government has budgeted $1.4 trillion to combat violence against women, Gorinas said.
She is hoping to be awarded a government grant to help her get her product to those people who are most in need at no cost to them.
“I don’t need a million dollars, but I need some funding to finalize the product,” Gorinas said.
Her website is Defendables.com.
Photos courtesy of Kristi Gorinas
Early prototypes of the “Defendables Wearable Self-Defense” system, designed and developed by Huron High School graduate Kristi (Swisher) Gorinas of Atlanta, Ga.