If you don't use an iPhone, you may not care all too much about iPhone updates. No matter what your device preference is, though, the recent update Apple made to Siri is worth noticing: As of March 17, 2016, when iPhone users tell Siri "I've been raped," Siri now responds by providing resources for survivors of sexual abuse and assault. Specifically, the digital assistant suggests that users reach out to someone at the National Sexual Abuse Hotline and directs people to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) website. It's an important and super feminist update — and one that will likely help a lot of people.
For my many, many sexual assault survivors, just the act of sharing their experience with others and putting it into words is traumatic and exhausting in itself. That's why I think Apple took really significant step in choosing not only to make this update, but to make it in the way that they did. In general, our society is still struggling with how to talk about sexual assault and how pervasive our culture of sexual violence is. Often, it feels like there are too options for survivors to reach out for support and resources. While calling Siri is of course not the be-all, end-all of responses to sexual violence, it might help point people in the direction of the help they need. And that's no small thing.
According to CNN, along with the RAINN recommendation, Siri also offers this statement: "If you think you experienced sexual assault or abuse, you may want to reach out to someone at the National Sexual Assault Hotline." The language here is important; it gives survivors the option of reaching out, but it doesn't create pressure or judgment if the person chooses not to do so. There's no "you should do this" or "you shouldn't do this" — it offers suggestions for a course of action, but then leaves that course of action up to the user. The statement also acknowledges and accepts what rape is and doesn't express any confusion at the situation. In this way, Siri's response validates the survivor's experience, instead of attempting to erase it like so much of the rest of our culture does.
Overall, I think this is a great step forward. While I strongly believe we still need a lot of progress in terms of advocacy and legislation for sexual assault survivors, seemingly small advances in technology may also be a sign that things are moving in the right direction — and that should be celebrated.
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