BY SHAFAQ PARWEZ
For some people, talking about their problems is considered taboo. And asking somebody for help is also looked down upon. These victims never feel empowered.
It has always been worse for women, who have endured being assaulted, both sexually and physically – and watching as it was shoved under the rug. It was not something that anybody liked to mention to anyone – or anybody wanted to listen to. With the rise of social media, people have found more ways to communicate and learn from stories around the world – stories of persecution and stories of blatant exploitation. These shared stories signal to the victims they are not alone. And, it has brought out the good in people and has clearly marked what should and should not be allowed to prevail in society.
Female empowerment has created an environment in which women are no longer considered the weaker sex. Women are also encouraged to take the initiative when it comes to defending themselves.
A local inventor is helping women with this.
“I have three daughters; they shouldn’t have to put up with people who won’t go away,” said Philip Cressman, a Waterloo resident and a retired Canadian Forces captain.
With an upright posture and a welcoming vibe, Cressman has the look of the average next-door neighbour you would like to chat with, whether about the numerous tasteful paintings hanging on the walls in his beautiful home, or about more serious matters.
It is in his workshop in the basement that Cressman designs practical and handy devices for everyday life. He often finds inspiration from his friends.
“Most of the women I’ve talked to tell me how people don’t get it,” said Cressman, talking about sexual advances on the streets and in nightclubs. “They just don’t get it.”
He wondered what he could do to make sure these women do not have to deal with anything traumatic in their lives.
After deliberating for a few months, Cressman finally came up with “the Dazzeler;” a small tool with big benefits.
This strobing flashlight is ingenious both because of its practicality and small size. The device fits easily in the palm of the hand and can be carried around anywhere. The device delivers three hours of flashing light before the battery needs replacing.
The prototype is 10 centimetres long and is receiving good feedback from friends, family and customers. It is small and can fit into tiny clutches which women are most likely to carry to nightclubs. The dazzling flashlight weighs no more than 60 grams and has a non-slip design.
“You don’t have to charge it and you don’t have to worry about the distance between you and the attacker,” said Cressman.
Unlike pepper spray, which some carry in their handbags despite it being illegal in Canada, the Dazzeler does not require a certain level of proximity to be effective. Also, it comes with a small lanyard and can be hung on the zipper of any bag. With minimum effort, the victim can easily escape attack by shining the strobe light in the attacker’s eyes.
Cressman said his device is a “new defence against sexual harassment” and is an effective way of avoiding harm and yet, completely harmless to the attacker. There is no permanent damage caused to the eyes.
It has been found that shining the light into an assailant’s eyes for one second is all that is needed to escape. The device has a button on its lower end which, when pressed, activates a powerful strobe light.
Although designed for women, the shockingly powerful light can be used by anyone who feels threatened or vulnerable. It is the safest means of ensuring no harm is done before police or any help can reach the scene.
The strobe light works in a way which temporarily leaves the human brain in a state of disorientation. Momentarily blinding the attacker, the light pulses frequently in duration to cause psychophysical effects inside the brain cells resulting in mild vertigo. The spell of disorientation lasts for a few minutes giving the victim time to escape.
The device will still “dazzle” and take attackers by surprise even if they were to look away or shield their eyes and it is effective in daylight as well. The only way the strobe light can fail to deliver is if the attacker has heavily tinted glasses.
In addition to an attack, the strobe light can be used to signal friends and family in huge crowds by pointing it straight up into the air or can be used simply to light the way in tunnels or on dark streets at night.
Cressman was quick to point out it was harmless to practise with. Since it does not cause any permanent damage, he encourages customers and friends to try it. Cressman said not once has he found the device to be ineffective.
In Waterloo Region, a total of 415 cases of sexual assault were reported in 2015. Many others go unreported because some victims feel just talking to friends and family or keeping quiet is the best way to deal with it.
Cressman sells the Dazzeler for $46 and has produced one batch so far. He is gathering funds for a second batch.
The 71-year-old Cressman also produces folding ceramic knives and has a few designs for sale on his website www.ceramicknife.org. These can be used on yachts and ships to cut ropes.
The local inventor said he was not interested in running a big business but was happy with his personal inventions. Using his experience from the military, Cressman said he will continue to come up with better and affordable products for the public.
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