Threatened by Domestic Violence? There’s an App for That

November 22, 2013
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mobile health for womenIf you have followed the recent stories about George Zimmerman, the guy who killed Trayvon Marten, you know that he was just released from jail, on bail, after being accused of domestic violen

mobile health for womenIf you have followed the recent stories about George Zimmerman, the guy who killed Trayvon Marten, you know that he was just released from jail, on bail, after being accused of domestic violence.  According to news reports, the story goes something like this.  Zimmerman’s girlfriend, called 911 to report that her boyfriend was breaking things, including a glass table, in her house.  He also pointed a shotgun at her.  After he pushed her out of her house and locked the door, he called 911 to report that his girlfriend had been breaking things in the house.  This is a classic batterer’s tactic – blame the victim for the violence.  In court, it becomes a “he said, she said” situation – difficult to sort out and often ending badly for the woman.

But now, there’s a device, called the PanicButton, that helps women get help quickly and provides evidence about what actually happened in the incident.  It is being tested in Vitoria, a town with the highest rate of domestic violence in Brazil.  Women in abusive relationships are given the PanicButton when they obtain a court-issued restraining order against their abuser.

Women wear the device on an elastic band around their waist.  If they are threatened by their abuser, they can activate the button by pressing on it for 3 seconds.  It transmits a distress call to a special unit of the Municipal Guard.  It has a GPS unit embedded in it so the mapped location of the event is transmitted to the closest police who respond, often within minutes.  Finally, there is also a recorder in the unit so that the conversation – threats and all – are heard by the police as they rush to the scene.  The recording is transmitted and stored in a police database to be retrieved later to be used as evidence against the aggressor – thus mitigating the type of “he said, she said” situation that occurred in the Zimmerman case.

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This device, which cost about $40, has led to arrests and is serving as a deterrent to further abuse.   My only question is how fast can we make this available to abused women everywhere?

(app for victims of domestic violence / shutterstock)