Sexual harassment is not as discussed a topic as it has to be. There are thousands of women who are afraid of walking alone at night and that is a serious problem. Since technology is developing so fast and one of its aims is to give security to its consumers, an application was rolled out in order to prevent women from potential risks. The founder of this app is Emma Kaye – a woman who experienced harassment, groping, and flashing. She commented:
“Our app is really bitter-sweet because, of course, we love that we’re busy. However, we really wish it didn’t have to exist. No-one wants to live in a world where we need a safety app, but sadly there is a place for it,”
The app, WalkSafe, is expecting its new feature – women will be provided with a live map where their friends and family will be able to chat with them and follow their journey. At that moment, the app gives an opportunity to plan the safest route to home, by looking at recent crime data.
According to her, the app encourages people to have precautionary measures to avoid crime, rather than reactionary measures when in an unfortunate situation. She also added:
“We have senior ex-Metropolitan Police detectives and crime analysts comb through this data, and categorize it into areas the user would want to know about. By looking at the crime patterns, users can identify crime hotspots so they can plan safer routes.”
Another safety product is a women’s smartwatch app called ‘Epower’. It is in the process of developing at the University of Bath. It will automatically send alerts every time when the user is in distress, as for that aim it will monitor the heart rate and body motion. E-J Roodt is the co-founder of that idea and admits that she came up with it while jogging in a badly-lit park, and worrying about the risk of an attack. She said:
“When I saw that smartwatches were being used to detect heart attacks I thought, well, maybe that technology could be applied to women’s safety,”
What is more interesting is that the application uses artificial intelligence in order to recognize distress, and respond if a user is attacked when walking or running alone. Ms. Roodt added:
“It occurred to us that a smartwatch with this app may be a way to alert others if a woman is restrained or struggling. The key is that it would all happen automatically, and an assailant would have little or no time to prevent this – which is not always possible with conventional panic buttons, rape alarms or your mobile phone.”
Rich Larsen is a man who believes that his app for smartphones called “bSafe” will help bring about prosecutions. His application has a voice-activated feature that automatically starts live-streaming video and audio to chosen contacts, and records everything that is happening. He said:
“These recordings could be used in evidence in court cases – like rape – which are often hard to prove.”
The reason for this feature is based on his daughter, Charlen, and her experience because she was raped. She chose not to hide and save her anonymity but chose to speak out on the issue. In her words, she wouldn’t be so ashamed if she had had bSafe back then.
The application has been of interest to other companies and in Mr. Larsen’s words, currently, he and his team are developing an API platform that can easily implement these features in other applications. The government also does not remain indifferent to this matter. In July the Home Office launched a £5 million fund to help improve the safety of women when they are in a public space, especially at night.
In Bristol police are using new kits which are supposed to test whether drinks have been spiked in nightclubs. On the other side, Cheshire police are improving current call handling technology which aims to provide an instant visible and reassuring response to a female who is calling for support. Access to an online link with safety information for women on public transport is promoted by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. Thanks to bus tracking, there is no longer a need to stand alone at a bus stop, for example.
Although technology is meant to help in that case, there still are people who will be trying to misuse it. That’s why the national anti-stalking advocacy service, Paladin, warns that tech companies need to give their best in order to protect victims of being misused. Rachel Horman-Brown, who is a chairwoman of the charity, said:
“Many victims are tracked and monitored through their phones or tablets by spyware. So actually stalkers don’t even need to physically get a tracking device on the victim to be able to monitor them. Spyware is concerning as it can enable a stalker to switch on the camera on a victim’s mobile phone, so that they can see and hear what is happening. They can also read and send text messages from the victim’s phone, as well as tracking their whereabouts.”
In her words, all these tracking devices which are meant to help you find your wallet, keys, or luggage, are the ones that make it quite easier for a stalker to track their victim’s whereabouts. But it is more than just an issue that can be solved by technologies, though. Farah Nazeer, who is a chief executive at Women’s Aid, says:
“Whilst technology – such as safety apps on phones and smartwatches – can play a role in helping women feel safer on the streets, these interventions are temporary sticking plasters, which ignore the real cause of male violence against women. Women feel unsafe on our streets, not because of a lack of street lighting or safety apps, but because of the culture of sexism and misogyny, which makes violence against women and girls all too common. It must not be tolerated any longer.”
He thinks that we must focus on challenging the sexist attitudes that are deeply rooted in these services and systems so that women can walk home feeling confident that they are safe and protected.