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Are there prevention apps for sexual violence in your country? Learn about some prevention apps that currently exist and how they work.

Are there prevention apps for sexual violence in your country? Learn about some prevention apps that currently exist and how they work.
February 9, 2021 STERAbuja

Sexual assault continues to be a prevalent issue all over the world affecting at least 1 in 3 women. Several steps have and continue to be taken to address what has undoubtedly become a pandemic. One of them involves technological intervention, which includes the creation of apps to prevent sexual violence.

It is important to state that survivors are not responsible for sexual violence when it occurs and should not have the burden to prevent it. The responsibility and blame for any form of sexual violence will always be the perpetrator. However, these apps were created to provide additional safety measures to their users and in some cases provide help for survivors of sexual violence.

  1. Kasala

About the app

It is a personal safety app that allows users to create their own secure network and send SOS alarms to other app users around their location at any given time for personal safety. Stand To End Rape Initiative (STER) has partnered with Kasala to provide support services to survivors and persons who may be in danger.

How It Works

The application has a “Talk to STER” feature that enables users to seek help through the app if they are being sexually harassed or abuse. Upon activation, survivors will be immediately connected to STER’s support team comprising of psychological and legal professionals who will provide some level of support that is needed to navigate or escape the situation. STER’s website, client intake form, and phone number are contained on the app.

Other features on the app include;

  • SOS alarm that notifies users guardians ( registered personal security network of friends and family) and other Kasala users that the user is in danger
  • Live streaming feature that enables audio and video to be automatically recorded and sent to a user’s guardian in real-time
  • Community policing feature that allows users to send alarms to other Kasala users nearby who can come to their rescue if the user’s guardians are not present
  • GPS tracking in real-time when an alarm is sent out
  • Fake calls that simulate an incoming call to users phones and allows them to escape an unpleasant or threatening situation

 

The app is available for free on Google PlayStore and the IOS AppStore

 

  1. Circle of 6

About the app

One of these apps and probably the most popular is “Circle of 6”, the winner of the White House “Apps Against Abuse Challenge”. Nancy Schwartzman, a filmmaker, media strategist, and catalyst for social change founded it in 2011. She was recently named of the “Top 50 Global Leaders Working to End Violence Against Women”. It is currently operative in 36 countries and almost all campuses in the United States with over 300,000 users worldwide. Unfortunately, it is not available in Nigeria at the moment this article is being written.

How it works

The app works on both iOS and Android and has been described by users as easy to use. It allows users to build a circle consisting of six people from their phone contacts. With one touch, the app can either text, call, or chat with a user’s “circle members” a pre-written emergency message as well as their current location so the user can be found. It was designed mainly to prevent sexual violence as well as to help people who may find themselves in a dangerous or comfortable situation get out of it safely and quickly. The impact of the app has extended to middle schools, high schools as well as social media. It is available for free in the iTunes App Store and on Google Play in countries in which the app functions.

  1. Bsafe

About the app

It was founded by Rich Larsen and his daughter, Charlene who was a victim of sexual assault at the age of 16. The father and daughter duo have described their mission as working to ensure that other families do not go through this trauma. The app’s slogan “Bsafe- Never Walk Alone” emphasizes this. The company has also partnered with a technology company to create a version for campuses in the US.

How it Works

The app has several functions. One is an SOS button, which sends an SOS message to the user’s guardians when tapped. When the SOS button is activated, audio and video recording are activated for up to 5 minutes and it is immediately streamed live to the user’s chosen guardians. These recordings are available even if the phone is destroyed or turned off. It records even if the phone is obscured in a jacket, pocket, or bag.

Another function is the “follow me” function which allows users to share their locations with guardians or trusted friends who would be able to follow their movements and ensure they arrive safely at their destination. Other functions include making emergency phone calls, turning on a flashlight, and a loud alarm that frightens attackers when activated.

The app is available on both the Google play store and the apple store. However, it is not free. Users enjoy a 7-day free trial with all features included after which they decide on a subscription fee of either $7.99 or $5.99 per month.

It is available in almost all countries and in English and Norwegian. Testimonies from users of the app indicate that it has prevented users and their loved ones from sexual violence, other forms of sexual assault, and even death.

  1. Sister

About the App

This is a fairly new app as it was launched in 2020 so the information on it is still quite limited. It has been described as a “geolocation app for women made by women.[1]” On the website, it is stated that the app aims to end the insecurity that women often feel, prevent possible threats as well as respond in emergency cases.

How it works

The app has two main features; prevention and emergency. One of the functions in the prevention mode is that it allows users to share their live location with trusted contacts that can then follow them in true time. It also asks for the destination of the user and provides the user with information such as the fastest and safest route on the map as well as nearby police stations.

The app using the information collected for destination sets a time it should take a user to get to their destination. If the user does not confirm arrival within that time, an alarm would go off that can only be deactivated by the user with a pin. The user also uses this pin to alert trusted contacts of their arrival to their destination as well as to stop sharing their location.

For the emergency feature, users have access to an SOS button that can be activated to notify trusted contacts that they need help. The app also displays emergency contacts that the user can call with just one click. When the SOS button is activated, the app can also record and take images of what is happening around which will be stored in its cloud.

As at the time this article is being written, the app has over 10,000 downloads on the Google play store. Sister is free and available worldwide for both Android and iOS devices.

  1. UrSafe

About the App

It has been described as the first and only hands-free, voice-activated personal safety app. It launched in 2019 and was created by two medical professionals, one of them chooses to remain anonymous and the other is Ruma Patel. The third co-founder is Navy veteran, Heath Phillips, a long time advocate fighting against sexual assault in the military. Its aim is to protect users in almost any assault situation.

How It Works

Users are required to pre-record a safe word which they call out during emergency cases in which they do not have access to touch their phones. The hand-free trigger is programmed to the user’s voice so it cannot be accessed or shut off by another person.  Once the trigger is set off, the app instantly video records the scenario, sends the user’s name and location to law enforcement agencies, and stores a video of the incident on a designated receiver’s phone.

The receiver is a trusted contact chosen by the user when setting up the app. This way, the video is still available even if the user’s phone is destroyed. The video can also be used as proof for survivors. It also has a hands-on function that activates all the functions above when the user taps an SOS button.

During the creation of the app, consideration was made to sexual violence and assault cases that take place on ride-share apps in which individuals may not have the time or have access to activate a button on their phone.

UrSafe is available for free in over 240 countries including Nigeria.

  1. KiteString

This is not an app but more of a web-based tool that can be used for safety. It requires a bit more planning than most of the other apps but can still be very useful. A user has to input an emergency contact, go online and inform Kitestring how long they are going to be out for or how often they want to be checked on. Kitestring will text the user to make sure they are safe and if it does not get a response, it then alerts the chosen contact that something may be wrong.

It contains both options for free users as well as one for a subscription. Free users are only allowed to designate one person as their emergency contact and use the service eight times per month. Unlimited usage costs $3 per month. It is available in Nigeria as well as in most countries.

  1. Toranj

About the App

It is the first personal safety app designed solely for Iranian women. In Iran, two-thirds of married women experience a form of domestic violence. The app was founded by United 4 Iran, a tech organisation based in Silicon Valley focused on improving the lives of young Iranians through apps in a partnership with NetFreedom Pioneers, a non-profit committed to expanding information accessibility. Within the first few months of launching, the app was downloaded over 40,000 times.

How it Works

Similar to the Circle of 6 app featured above, the app allows users to choose a trusted group of people who they can reach out to during an emergency. With just a few taps, users can choose from various pre-written text messages to send to their circle. The app comes with two already drafted messages: “Call the police” and “Get here fast”. It also contains a function that allows users to share their GPS location with trusted friends.

The app also serves an entirely different function in its mission to offer long-term help. It contains a compiled database of counselors, therapists as well as lawyers who offer services to survivors of domestic violence at no cost. The last section of the app offers legal advice to women, which includes documents, sample briefings, and other resources to help abused women navigate their way through a divorce in a challenging legal system. It also offers a self-assessment of romantic relationships for users.

The app is free but only available in Iran and on Android devices only.

  1. Bthere

About the app

This app was not created as a safety app but as an app that incentivizes friends to hang out in person.  Founded by Ben Johnson in 2017, the app uses location-sharing technology and a point system to reward users for every hour spent together. These points can then be exchanged for discounts to restaurants or retail stores.

However, the app has now become a popular tool used by students on campuses to stay safe. Bthere collaborated with “It’s On Us”, a social movement founded by the White House Council on Women and Girls to fight against sexual assault on college campuses.

How it Works

The app contains a feature that allows users to form permanent or temporary circles of friends, roommates, or families. During a night out, friends can be accountable for each other by sharing messages in the circles, sharing their locations, or a pin on the map. Circle members can coordinate exit plans even if they are separated and can also get updates on each other’s battery usage. Users earn reward coins by being in close proximity to each other or just by having their phone in possession.

The app is free and available on major college campuses including the University of Texas, University of Alabama, USC, and several others.

 

Is there an app in your country that we should know about? Leave a comment below and tell us about it.

 

 

[1] https://fablabs4america.org/app-for-women-for-android/

Photecred: EveryPixel

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