HarassMap report. (Courtesy of HarassMap)
This is part six in my series on the global epidemic of violence against women. (Here are my posts on Serena Williams’s victim-blaming, the sexual assaults happening in Egypt, the forced sterilization of incarcerated women in California, rape and social media, and George Zimmerman’s prior acts of violence against women.)
The advent of smart phones and social media has not only ushered in new methods of shaming rape victims but also generated applications, some of them free, used to prevent sexual violence itself.
This is how they work: GPS-enabled phones send data to Circle of 6, OnWatch, Bsafe and other app makers to show your location. Some apps also allow users to receive an emergency phone call from their contacts, call 911, or track them as they walk to their destination).
Many of these apps were submitted in the White House’s 2011 “Apps Against Abuse” technology challenge—a national competition to provide young adults with tools to help prevent sexual assault and dating violence.
Circle of 6 was one of the two winners. “In the fight against gender-based violence, mobile and mapping technology provide concrete tools to connect people to each other and to critical resources,” said Nancy Schwartzman, co-creator of the Circle of 6, an app that is both free and simple to use.
On Circle of 6, you upload six of your most reliable contacts (your trusted circle) to which you can send the following texts: “I’m looking up healthy relationship info,” “call me I need an interruption” and “come and get me” and your location will be immediately sent to them.
I did send the “call me” text to my circle at lunchtime, and the only responses I received were “I am in meeting right now” and two phone calls fifteen minutes to an hour later. My friends seemed to be thrown off by the Circle of 6 verbiage that preceded my “come and get me” alert (at least that’s what they said).
Schwartzman texted me that to avoid such responses, "We usually encourage folks to talk to their friends about the app and putting them in their circle, so it is not a surprise when it happens. It can be of course, but the app is also trying to encourage conversations." I’m definitely rethinking my circle now, not the app. Of all the ones I tested, Circle of 6 was by far my favorite.