This is an edited version of an article originally published on: Al Kingsley
Technology has changed people’s lives, especially how they communicate. It’s given people a chance to speak to others who they wouldn’t normally have encountered and make connections that have changed their lives for the better – like finding a social life and meeting people with the same interests, and so on.
And just as technology has enabled these things to happen, it provides a voice for those who, for whatever reason, feel powerless to speak out about issues that are troubling them. So, for instance, in the same way that NetSupport School’s chat feature provides exceptionally shy students with a way to contribute and share their ideas without the ordeal of having to speak out loud in front of the class, technology can play its part in helping people to reach out, despite feeling compromised.
So what if young people need help in situations away from the protected environment of school? Phone apps are now becoming available to provide a lifeline to those in abusive situations. And, just as it’s often easier for people to reveal their deepest worries or fears to someone they don’t know, an ‘anonymous’ app can make it easier to reach out for help or collect evidence via a smartphone.
The reach of these apps extends across many social and cultural lines; they’re a completely non-judgemental route to help, which makes it easier (particularly for those who feel immense shame about the situation they are in) to use them. The good thing is that it’s reported that they’re increasingly being used by those in cultures where women are expected to be passive, regardless of what’s happening to them at home – or where young women are at risk of forced marriage and so on.
For instance, the Bright Sky app encourages people experiencing domestic abuse to log private journal entries in the form of text, photos and videos, which are then sent to a designated email address – away from the smartphone and prying eyes. This information can be used as evidence and even sent to the authorities at a later date, if necessary.
The app also uses GPS to find places to go to for help nearby – and offers advice for those in abusive relationships, or for people who are concerned about someone else. The app is neatly disguised as a weather app so as not to raise the suspicion of the abuser.
Likewise, the Freedom app was established to save the lives of vulnerable young people who are at risk of – or are subjected to – violent crimes, FGM, dishonour-based violence and forced marriages throughout the UK. Because it’s aimed at younger people, it’s packed with information about what to look for – and has information for others to help their friends – alongside a map showing locations of hospitals and police stations, etc. At first glance, it looks like a game, which, again, is an important disguise for when any authority figures in the house look at the phone.
Once someone has found the courage to speak out – even if it’s through an app – then that’s the first step towards finding a solution to their problems and changing their lives for the better. If technology can enable that, then more power to it.
Hollieguard turns your smartphone into a personal safety device for use when out and about.
Aspire News is an app containing resources for victims of domestic violence, disguised as a news app.