Robin Padilla was leaving a Roseville mall at 3 p.m. when she was confronted by two young men.
"A guy walks up to me and says, 'Hi, I'm really nice.' I said, 'OK,'" Padilla said, describing the recent encounter. "Then another kid came out between the cars and said, 'We're not going to hurt you.'"
Padilla then lifted her hand to reveal her pepper spray and said, "Who wants it first?"
The men walked off.
"Had I had it in my purse I would have never had it out in time," she said. "They were too close and closing in on me."
Padilla teaches women how to use less lethal weapons for self-protection as an independent director for Damsels in Defense, a national company with local contractors who serve as consultants. The company sells pepper spray, stun guns and other non-lethal weapons.
Those weapons can be an important part of a self-defense plan - and like many weapons, they're in demand. As sales of non-lethal weapons grow steadily, the number of people seeking concealed weapons permits also is growing exponentially in some California counties. In 2009 34 Sacramento County residents had concealed weapons permits; by the end of 2014 that number had grown to 5,786.
"I'm definitely seeing more women," said Mandy Autrey, who runs Gun Lady Firearms Training. "I get them in one of two ways. Something has happened and now they realize they need to defend themselves or they need some information and the ability to defend themselves just in case."
Autrey, a law enforcement veteran who has been an instructor for 18 years, says women are excellent students who understand the responsibility of carrying a concealed gun.
"There is a whole different world you step into when you get a gun to carry concealed. It requires a different mindset," she said.
Obtaining a concealed carry permit and a weapon can be expensive. There are county and federal application fees, background check fees and required lessons. The gun can cost $500. And you may want to pay for professional training after you get your permit and buy a gun so you can keep your skills sharp.
But that additional training doesn't mean you'll be able to stop all attackers using a concealed gun. Self-defense instructor Conrad Woodall said law enforcement studies have shown that a victim doesn't have the time to dig a weapon from a purse before he or she is attacked.
"We call it a 21-foot-rule," Woodall said. "It takes only 1.5 seconds for an attacker to close 21 feet. That is not enough reaction time for a victim."
Padilla said that's one reason she chooses non-lethal weapons. She can carry them openly.
Women who do not want to carry a gun or a non-lethal weapon have another choice for personal security: Learn how to fight.
"It's not about how pretty your strikes are, it's how much you can endure," said Chris Wilson of King Krav Maga, which trains men and women in the Israeli fighting system. "Martial Arts are all sport that derived from self-defense. Krav Maga is a self-defense system, developed for civilians."
In Wilson's class, intersex sparring lets women experience what it feels like to be attacked by someone stronger and larger. Tonya Macias of Sacramento has been taking Wilson's classes for two years.
"A man's grip is a man's grip and this sport will help you defend yourself against multiple men and adjust to their capabilities," Macias said.
Wilson also offers private classes to women with disabilities or health issues. Cheryl Silva has osteoporosis; she said Wilson has showed her how to fight off an attacker.
"Some of the moves hurt my wrists because of the osteoporosis but with my elbow, I can use my full force," she said. "I feel very confident that I could fight."
Yet confidence and fighting skills aren't necessarily the most important parts of a self-protection plan.
"That will to live and keep fighting is what is going to get you home," Wilson said.
"You have to have that mindset," Autrey added. "Whether its guns or knives or fist to fist. There is a good chance you will get hurt. You have to stay in the fight and not give up."