Women with Weapons

Campus officials must fully understand the threat female weapons violators pose to their institutions. To address this issue, women officers or staff should be on hand during the weapons screening process.

She slashed her victim across the chest viciously. I have never seen anything so brutal and never did again, even in my two decades of law enforcement. Afterward, her victim was strapped to a stretcher, drenched in her own blood and appeared to be fighting for her very life.

This was the first time I had ever witnessed an edged weapons attack. It was my senior year at Central High School in Macon, Ga., and this event would be one of three edged-weapons assaults at the school that year, including my own. I would be cut with a razor not 50 yards from where she was horribly slashed. Thankfully, I was not injured nearly as badly.

Regardless of their age, women who use edged weapons can be horrific in their aggression as evidenced by an elementary student who stabbed her victim with a butcher knife at one of the same district’s elementary schools years later. While female weapons violators most often carry and use edged weapons like their male counterparts, they also use firearms, blunt objects, chemical agents and stun weapons to attack their victims.

Keeping in mind that women have performed quite well in combat, it should be no surprise that there are females who will not hesitate to carry and use weapons under certain conditions. During the Vietnam War, North Vietnamese women and girls killed a number of our soldiers. During World War II, countless German troops on the eastern front failed to return home after Soviet female fingers pressed the triggers of submachine guns and rifles.

Women can be quite deadly when armed and motivated to kill.

Improper Procedures Lead to Women Being Overlooked

Campus safety officials should understand that prevention and mitigation measures designed to prevent weapons assaults should take female attackers into account.

One of the main challenges for addressing weapons violations involving female perpetrators is how suspected violators will be searched. Although there are far more female officers on campus than there were several decades ago, many agencies still encounter situations where female officers are not readily available to assist with weapons screening.

For example, during a recent assessment at a high school, we observed officer assigned to screen students with a metal detector as they entered the school. He did this without assistance from any female officers and without an adult witness present. Because the officer was not patting down females, the metal detection program was nearly useless and could be easily compromised by a female weapons violator. Why? Because it is not uncommon for females to carry firearms, knives and other weapons for male violators. This is particularly true for young women associated with youth gang members, motorcycle gangs, drug dealers and other dangerous individuals in our society.

Another issue related to female weapons violators involves the use of readily available disguised weapons, such as lipstick knives and hairbrush daggers. Not just the stuff of James Bond movies, these items are frequently carried by female violators as a means to avoid detection.

Female violators also often use accessories commonly carried by women to conceal traditional weapons, such as razor blades. And many experienced police officers and jailers can describe occasions where female violators have concealed a razor in a bra or a handgun in their vagina.

Threat Assessments, Enforcing Consequences Curb Attacks

Most of the techniques that have proven successful in countering male weapons violators show similar success for reducing the risk of female violators.

Reducing triggering behaviors such as fights that precede weapons assaults, multidisciplinary threat assessment teams, and clearly communicating and consistently enforcing consequences for weapons violations on campus work well for violators regardless of their gender.

Weapons assaults involving female attackers have been part of the campus scene for decades, and a number of recent attacks demonstrate they still occur with some regularity.

In a report released this January, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) found that 27 percent of girls age 12-17 surveyed had participated in a serious fight at school or work, group against group fight or an attack against others with the intent to inflict serious harm. The data from this report should be of concern to all campus officials as it indicates female violence levels in society in general rather than only in K-12 settings.

As with weapons assaults by males, attacks carried out by female aggressors can dramatically impact the campus organization, its employees and those it serves. The brutal slashing attack I witnessed in the late 1970’s left a deep impression on me and the dozens of students who witnessed it. I am sure it left an even greater and horrific impression on the young women who experienced it.

Michael Dorn serves as the executive director of Safe Havens International Inc. He can be reached at mike@weakfish.org.

This article was originally published in 2014.

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About the Author


Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a global non profit campus safety center. During his 30 year campus safety career, Michael has served as a university police officer, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. He served as a school system police chief for ten years before being appointed the lead expert for the nation's largest state government K-20 school safety center. The author of 25 books on school safety, his work has taken him to Central America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East. Michael welcomes comments, questions or requests for clarification at mike@weakfish.org. Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

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