Can an App Prevent Rape?


Sometime last year, Nancy Schwartzman came across a tech competition — the 2011 White House “Apps Against Abuse Technology Contest.” The Brooklyn filmmaker and founder of The Line Campaign wondered: can a simple app prevent sexual assault and dating violence?

So the Sunset Park resident partnered with Deb Levine, ISIS founder and mobile app expert, to design Circle of 6 — which sends out a help-seeking text alert to six friends with two taps. The pair submitted their prototype to the contest and won, but the iPhone app just launched several weeks ago. It has already been downloaded some 20,000 times.

Schwartzman tells Runnin’ Scared: “We basically just wanted to make it really easy for people to get out of bad situations.”

How does it work?

Circle of 6 basically operates like this: First, you pick six close friends to add to your circle.

Then, if you ever need help getting home safely, you select the car-shaped icon, which texts these contacts saying “Come and get me. I need help getting home safely” and gives a GPS map of your exact location.

If you are trying to avoid unwanted advances and worry about safety, selecting the phone-shaped icon sends your circle a message reading “Call and pretend you need me. I need an interruption.”

A third, speech bubble-shaped icon, alerts your friends that you would like to speak to them about sexual or dating violence.

“A lot was really inspired by student stories,” Schwartzman says.

The app is free.

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