Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh.
Since the Santa Barbara killings, the Internet has been ablaze with discussions of misogyny, rape culture, sexual violence, and the staggeringly universal fear women have that saying no to a man could put themselves in physical danger. Rape culture will likely take decades to change, and while women are never responsible for their own attacks, the LadyBits team has been talking about the best apps and programs to help us stay safe without living in a state of paranoia. Here are 11 apps and gadgets that can contribute to feeling more secure.
The unfortunate truth is that sexual harassment is part of life for most women. We get honked at by moving cars, catcalled by men on the street, and subjected to inappropriate jokes and comments in the workplace. These verbal assaults can be so jarring that we're too shocked to think of any response. Canadian nonprofit METRAC addresses this issue with Not Your Baby, an iOS-only sexual-harassment response generator. Because, you can't just yell expletives at everyone. Not Your Baby allows you to select who is harassing you (family, stranger, boss, coworker, etc.) and where (work, street, public transit, online, etc.) and it generates suggestions for how to proceed, such as, "Call a friend or family member for the remainder of your journey home," (stranger/street) and, "Provide a polite response that defuses the situation, avoid the boss, and figure out who you can report the behavior to," (boss/work).
Hollaback, one of our favorite organizations dedicated to ending street harassment, offers Hollaback!, a free iPhone and Droid app customizable by language and location. Use Hollaback! to map and report incidents to warn fellow users, learn areas to avoid based on others' reports, plus learn how to respond as a victim or a witness of street harassment. The app contains a helpful guide on crucial information to observe if you intend to make a police report, as well as a customized list of anti-harassment organizations in your local area. What's particularly powerful about this app is it allows you to read how others have reacted, so you can form your own opinion on just how to handle street harassment if it happens to you.
If you need help LIKE NOW, meaning there's no time to talk or text, having the $1.99 SOS iEmergency app for iOS is crucial. Simply tap the alarm button and SMS and email messages will be sent to your pre-set emergency contacts and local medical, fire, or crime units containing your GPS coordinates. All it takes is two taps: one to select which emergency response team you need, and a second tap to confirm.
Kitestring is a brilliant, free service that sends an SMS to check up on you. Tell Kitestring when you're heading out, and it'll text you later to make sure you're okay. If you don't reply (on your phone or the website) within five minutes, Kitestring will send an alert to your chosen emergency contacts. It also allows you to set a secret "duress code" that can immediately reach your emergency contacts, if you find yourself in distress. Great for those of us who are glued to our phones; not so great for those of us who often forget we've left our phones on silent.
If clutching your cell phone makes you feel safe, consider the free SafeTrek app for those eerie after-midnight walks home. Simply keep your finger on the "safe" button, and release it in the event of an attack or emergency to notify police. You can cancel the alert within 10 seconds if you accidentally released the button to pet a stray cat on your walk home.
While smartphone apps are certainly helpful, they're all useless if your phone is taken from you. The Bia sports watch comes with a GPS Go Stick, adding an SOS safety feature to the typical training-log functions. With a 17-hour battery life and impressive water resistance (you can swim with it!), it's no wonder this 2012 Kickstarter project has made it to market. With a $279 price tag, the Bia sports watch isn't cheap, but can you really put a price on safety?
We've long known that keeping a key or two between your fingers is a great makeshift weapon, but why not upgrade your whole keychain situation to something that looks cute enough to make it through airport security but is deadly enough to save your life? Slide two fingers through the eye sockets of this cat keychain and you've just attained Wolverine-level abilities sure to intimidate any would-be attacker.
Instead of mindlessly playing Fruit Ninja on the train, why not use your commute to learn some real martial-arts based self-defense tactics? The free Krav Maga Self Defense app for Android is packed with video lessons on hand-to-hand combat. Specially designed for real-world encounters, the app explains the 10 most common moves muggers use in an attack and teaches you how to defend yourself against them. You’ll learn how to get out of a headlock, key things to notice when scanning your environment, even how to destabilize your attacker and put him in a hold.
If you're really in a pickle, Japan's Marudai Corporation offers an insane bulletproof case for the iPhone 4 and 4S. The one-inch thick, armor-plated case is designed to withstand a direct hit from a .50-caliber slug. The manufacturer also cautions that its case is the heaviest iPhone case in the world, weighing in at nearly five pounds. YouTuber RatedRR put it to the test, and it does literally stop a bullet, but we can't recommend going all Wonder Woman's wristbands with it.
As New York City straphangers, we know all about the value of personal space — mostly because it seems like others have no sense of it. That’s why we love Kathleen McDermott’s Personal Space Dress. Sewn into the dress are two ultrasonic sensors that detect when someone’s getting a little too close. Then, four motors go to work expanding the dress, effectively forcing Mister Creepo McHandsy to back off. It’s a hilarious art piece that provokes a bigger conversation about corporeal safety for women, and technology’s role in securing it. What’s more, it’s totally DIY. On her site, McDermott gives detailed instructions to make the dress yourself, though this one’s not for beginners — experience with both sewing and soldering is required.
Sure, you love to travel, but did you know 911 is 112 in Germany and 000 in Australia? For 99 cents, ¡Emergency! gives you the emergency numbers of numerous countries around the world, plus maps the locations of nearby hospitals and American embassies. Arigato, technology!
This post was authored by Katie DeRogatis.