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Can Two New Apps Help Women Avoid Sexual Assault?

The Obama administration has harnessed mobile technology to help combat sexual assault among young women.

Back in July, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the "Apps Against Abuse" challenge. Because women between the ages of 16 and 24 are the most likely to be raped or sexually assaulted, Sebelius and her staff wanted to support the development of something to help those women via the handheld devices they use every day. Apps Against Abuse was a call to developers to come up with novel uses for mobile technology in the fight against sexual abuse. Yesterday, Sebelius announced the winning apps.

Circle of Six


The Circle of Six app works by allowing women to quickly access their six closest contacts in uncomfortable or unsafe situations. With just two taps of a finger, Circle of Six allows someone to tell the six people closest to them things like "Come and get me. I need help getting home safely" or "Call and pretend you need me. I need an interruption." An emergency button automatically calls the Love Is Not Abuse help line.


Like Circle of Six, OnWatch allows users to reach out to emergency contacts quickly and easily, but with a few added bells and whistles. OnWatch has a special "campus security" button that allows college students direct access to campus police with two taps. If OnWatch users are in immediate danger, they can hit the "panic" button. Not only will that immediately dial 911, it will also send text messages and emails to your designated friend group letting them know you're in trouble and giving them your phone's GPS coordinates.

Both apps, which will be available in early 2012, are customizable to fit the needs of the user. And they'll both be free and potentially lifesaving, so if you own a smartphone, you really can't afford to not use them.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Lee J Haywood

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