Public Safety: How Can a Girl Defend Herself?

Pub-crawling his way around Manhattan one evening last May, a burly Bronx meter reader named Steve Callinan dropped into a bistro and spotted Raven Novie, 21, a statuesque blonde receptionist who was dining with her equally fetching cousin. "Wannadrink, girls?" Callinan pressed. When they rebuffed him, Raven said, he spewed assorted four-letter words; the manager ordered him away, and he retreated to the bar. As the girls were leaving, Raven claimed, Callinan threatened her with fists as well as words.

Apparently frightened, Raven took out a pen-shaped tear-gas gun, squirted Callinan in the left eye and ran—hotly pursued by...

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