Want to find the nearest sushi bar? There’s an app for that. Want to launch cartoon birds to assault their enemy swine? There’s an app for that. Well, now there’s an app to help stop sexual assault.
Called The Circle of 6, the iPhone application is designed to provide tools for users to avoid unwanted sexual advances. Anyone with access to an iPhone can simply activate their Circle of 6 app. The app lets users program up to six emergency contacts to quickly get a hold of if they feel threatened. Once a contact is selected, the user is given the option to send a message that says:
- Call Me – "Call and pretend you need me. I need an interruption." The idea is that an incoming call will give the user an excuse to leave an area they feel uncomfortable in.
- Come and Get Me – "Come and get me. I need help getting home safely." The user sends out their location using the iPhone’s GPS device. The emergency contact will then use the GPS beacon to find and accompany the user.
- I Need Some Advice – "I'm looking up information about healthy relationships and respect. Just letting you know." Links to loveisrespect.org and whereisyourline.org are sent along with the text. This keeps the user’s circle informed of what's on their mind, but doesn't ask for immediate action.
The app also has national hotlines on-demand, and allows users to program any other number they deem fit, such as campus security.
Nancy Schwartzman is one of the lead designers of the iPhone app. She is the Founder and Executive Director of The Line Campaign, a non-profit organization using media and action to prevent sexual violence. She said the Circle of 6 app was a project she and her colleague Deb Levine of Isis took up when Joe Biden challenged
iPhone developers last year to create an app that prevented sexual assaults. Levine and Schwartzman’s app ended up winning
, and was first made available for download on Thursday, and has since generated over 20 thousand downloads.
Schwartzman said she hopes the app will spread awareness of the reality surrounding rape and sexual assaults. She said one in five of women have been raped, and she thinks that is a conservative estimate since that only counts reported rapes. Schwartzman said there is not enough education on this issue, but she hopes her app will remedy that a bit.
“We know that violence, pretty much touches either everyone or someone that you know,” Schwartzman said, “This app, just out of the gate, creates a really easy way to talk about this.”
Schwartzman went on to say lack of awareness could potentially increase risk. She added not knowing what the definition of rape is – which Schwartzman defines as any contact in which the other party has not given explicit consent – at the heart of all the confusion surrounding the issue. Schwartzman criticized media outlets for adding to the confusion.
“I’ve seen in the news, ‘a man had sex with a woman while she was passed out,’” Schwartzman said, “Actually the legal definition of that is ‘raped’ a woman, because you can’t have ‘sex’ with a woman that’s passed out, that’s rape.
Schwartzman said that increased education and awareness of rape and sexual assault are key to tackling the problem. If people can learn the difference between consensual sex and rape, then the battle against unwanted sexual aggression will take a major step forward. The Circle of 6 app, Schwartzman hopes, will help with this need for education, and possibly enlist in the fight against rape.
“We as a culture when we are silent about it, let predators get away with it, so we need to engage our allies, which in my mind, are all the great young men out there.”