This Device Is Designed To Prevent Sexual Assault

by Lara Rutherford-Morrison

We use wearable technology to track our activities, fitness levels, and sleep quality, but can a wearable help prevent sexual assault? Roar for Good, the company behind Athena, a sexual violence prevention device, thinks so, and, if their massively successful Indiegogo campaign is anything to go by, others agree. The company met its original funding goal of $40,000 within 48 hours of the campaign going live; as of this moment, they’ve received over $162,000.

On its Indiegogo page, Roar for Good explains that the inspiration for Athena began when its cofounder, Yasmine Mustafa, was traveling by herself in South America. The page says that, while there, Mustafa “met many women (both locals and travelers) who had been victims of assault.” Only a week after she returned to the U.S., she learned that “a woman was out feeding her parking meter when she was grabbed from behind, dragged into an alley, severely beaten, and brutally raped.” The experience led Mustafa and cofounder Anthony Gold to create Roar for Good, a company “focused on developing solutions to help make a difference.” Athena is the company’s first product, aimed at preventing sexual assault, a form of violence experienced by one in six American women.

Athena is a small circular device, about the size of two quarters put together, that, when pressed, sounds a loud alarm and sends a text message to a designated emergency contact. This isn’t the first wearable assault prevention device; Safelet and PRO(TECH)T, for example, are based on similar concepts. Mustafa tells Mashable that the Athena is different from other prevention methods and devices in key ways. Previous prevention devices have been worn on the wrist, but Mustafa explains, “We took a self defense class and we found out that the worst place to wear a safety device is on your wrist, because you only have one hand to activate it. That’s why we designed ours so it’s not a bracelet." Athena can be clipped to clothing or a purse, or worn as a necklace. It’s small with a metal frame (available in silver, black, and rose gold), so that it can blend in with jewelry. Athena also has a leg up on other defense tools like tasers and pepper sprays because users don’t need to worry about having it confiscated by security at airports or that it could be used against them by an attacker.

To activate Athena, the user presses on the device for three seconds. Athena connects via Bluetooth to the user’s phone, which then sends an alert message to an emergency contact. If the phone lacks reception or is too far from Athena (Roar for Good says the device should be able to connect with a phone within 50 feet), then the message won’t be sent; however, the alarm will still sound. Recognizing that there may be situations in sounding the alarm may be unnecessary or potentially dangerous, Roar for Good has also given Athena a “silent mode,” with will send a text alert to an emergency contact without setting off the alarm.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about these kinds of rape prevention devices. Surely, anything that can help prevent sexual assault is a good thing, but these devices can play into a broader cultural dynamic in which, all too often, the onus is on victims to prevent sexual assault, rather than the perpetrators. Furthermore, while these types of alarms may be useful for situations in which women are attacked on the street, most assaults don't happen this way (In fact, 47 percent of rapists are friends or acquaintances of their victims; only one in five rapes are committed by stangers).

Fortunately, Roar for Good recognizes the limitations of preventative technology; as Mustafa told Mashable, “Building these self defense tools or safety tools to us is kind a short term strategy.” The company is dedicated to getting to the root of the problem of sexual violence, and says it plans to donate 10 percent of its proceeds to The One Love Foundation, a nonprofit working to put an end to relationship violence on college campuses through education. Mustafa explained, “The whole idea is educating young children on what constitutes a healthy relationship with the goal of not needing these devices one day.”

To learn more how to get Athena, visit the product’s Indiegogo page. Buyers who pay $100 as part of Roar for Good’s “One for One” campaign will receive Athenas for themselves and will have one donated to Women Against Abuse, a nonprofit that services the needs of victims of domestic abuse.

Images: ROAR for Good/Indiegogo (4)