Australians Have Started Ordering Anti-Rape Shorts
They're slash and tear resistant, and feature a 130-decibel siren.
Australians are now among women from tens of countries worldwide who are wearing anti-rape shorts and underwear to protect themselves against sexual assault. 'Safe Shorts' are made out of slash and tear resistant material, and feature an alarm system that activates when someone tries to tamper with them.
The product was created by German woman Sandra Seilz, and initially began as a personal project after Seilz was confronted by three men while jogging on a running track in the middle of the day. “Three men came in front of me, one tried to pull down my running trousers, and another grabbed me while the other tried to rape me,” Seilz tells VICE.
“I'm the lucky one, because there was a man with a dog, and the dog ran towards the men and they ran away. [Later], when I was sitting at home, I thought: ‘What could have happened there?’
A few months later, following the mass New Year sexual assaults in Hamburg and Cologne in 2015, Seilz decided the product should be made for all women and began working with a designer.
The final product can be purchased as running shorts or underpants, and provides several levels of protection:
The crotch area is made out of cut-resistant material, and a cut-resistant cord is attached to the waist and pelvic areas (fastened once the wearer has the shorts on). The cord is then secured with a clip that you lock with a small coded padlock and is connected to a loud, 130-decibel siren that goes off if someone tries to remove or tamper with the pants. The wearer can also set off the siren themselves if they feel threatened.
Seilz says she received an Australian order for Safe Shorts several weeks ago. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of sexual assault victims in Australia reached a seven-year high in 2016, with 23,053 cases recorded. That same year, 17 percent of women said they'd been sexually harassed in the past 12 months, compared with 15 percent in 2012.
Demand for the product will see production move from the Czech Republic to India in six weeks. Seilz says this will allow for higher quantities and better quality, as well as a big reduction in the selling price. The shorts currently retail for €95 (AU$145) for the underpants and €128 (AU$197) for the running shorts.
“We have a lot of requests from South America, South Africa, India and Asia, but the problem is the high price,” Seilz says. “We need a cheaper price so all women across the world can buy the Safe Shorts if they want.”
So far, orders from more than 35 different countries have been made through the Safe Shorts online store, and the company has distribution partners in Sweden, Norway, Spain, South America, Canada, and the United States.
The products have been criticised by some women, who say the onus should not be on women to stop rape. But Seilz wants women to have immediate protection. “When a man wants to rape a woman, he isn’t interested in rules and laws and so on. He wants to satisfy himself,” she says.
The 2015 New Year sexual assaults in Cologne occurred at the peak of the European migrant crisis, and caused some in Germany to take an anti-migrant stance. This can be seen in the far-right political party Alternative for Germany gaining representation in 14 out of 16 states in the 2017 German elections.
Seilz, however, is quick to stress that immigration into Europe was not why she felt people needed her product. “Rape is a problem we had more than a hundred years ago," she says, "and we’ll have the problem in years to come."
This article originally appeared on VICE AU.