It seems like smart phones are becoming more and more common these days. Education and awareness of interpersonal violence is also spreading as well. Have you ever wanted to combine the technology of a smart phone with ways to promote education and prevention of sexual assault or dating violence? Well, there’s now an app for that. Two apps actually. Circle of 6 is an iPhone app that is designed to serve as a mobile way to look out for your friends and help get them out of uncomfortable or unsafe situations. It aims to prevent sexual assault and rape. The Love is Not Abuse iPhone app serves as an educational tool for parents. The app simulates digital dating abuse and provides a multitude of resources for users who want to learn more about dating violence. Both apps are free.
Circle of 6 is one of the winners of the White House Apps Against Abuse Competition. The White House released a statement saying, “Young women aged 16 to 24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, while one in five will be a victim of sexual assault during college. Many of these assaults occur when the offender, often an acquaintance, has targeted and isolated a young woman in vulnerable circumstances.” This is where Circle of 6 can help. It is designed for college students and is modeled after the idea that there is safety in numbers, even if you might be separated from your friends at the time you need help. After downloading Circle of 6, users must choose six trusted friends from their contact list who live near them. A text message is then sent to these six notifying them that you have put them in your circle. The app is very simple and uses icons to represent actions so no one around you can see what you are doing.
With just two taps, users can immediately send text messages to the six people in their circle. The user can send a message asking friends to call and pretend they need the person in order to serve as an interruption and chance for her or him to leave. The user can also ask for her or his six friends to come get her/him because she/he needs help getting home safely. GPS technology allows a Google Map to be sent with the message so friends know exactly where to go. Phone numbers for national hotlines are pre-programmed into the app, and local hotline numbers can be entered as well. There is also a button that will send a message to everyone in your circle to let them know that you have received help and are safe. Circle of 6 provides young people with concrete strategies to support each other and stop sexual assault from occurring in their circle.
Love is Not Abuse was started in 1991 by Liz Claiborne Inc. to help combat domestic violence. The Love is Not Abuse App “is designed to teach parents – in a very real way – about the dangers of teen dating abuse and provides a dramatic demonstration of how technology can be used to commit abuse. Over the course of the experience, text messages, emails and phone calls will be received real-time, mimicking the controlling, abusive behaviors teens might face in their relationships.” It is often hard to begin to understand what victims and survivors of dating violence go through, and this app gives a small glimpse into what forms of digital abuse a teen might face. Users can select different examples of abuse they wish to experience, such as threats, excessive contact, sexting, and privacy invasion. For the forms that the app is unable to simulate, users can watch short video clips that provide examples of that type of abuse and the effect it can have on a teen.
The app provides immediate, concrete, steps for parents to take if they are concerned their child may be a victim of dating abuse or may be an abuser. It offers suggestions for how to talk to your teen about dating violence and tell them that no one deserves to be abused. This app challenges the notion that all abuse is physical. You often might not be able to tell if a teen is involved in an abusive relationship just by looking at her or him. Even if you are not a parent, it is a great app to check out because it allows you to experience first-hand some of the forms of abuse victims of dating violence are facing and also learn more about dating abuse.
There are positives and negatives to all apps, so we encourage all iPhone users to download the Circle of 6 and Love is Not Abuse apps and see if they would serve as good resources for you. These apps provide two more ways that we can help make sure our friends and family members are safe in their relationships and provide them with concrete ways to escape a potentially violent situation.