Most women know the fear of walking down a street alone at night - and the feeling of panic when there are footsteps a bit too close behind you.
Personal safety phone apps have become increasingly popular, with some having hundreds of thousands of users, and a variety aimed specifically at women.
Among them is SafeUp, which recently launched in London, but is available around the world - and has 100,000 members signed up globally.
‘We saved her life’ - the inspiration for SafeUP
Neta Schreiber, co-founder of SafeUP, knows first hand that danger can be encountered anywhere: it was finding a friend under attack that prompted her to create the app.
“Any woman can connect to the problem of feeling unsafe in the street,” Neta explains.
“For me personally the first time I understood the meaning of feeling unsafe was 10 years ago when I went with some friends to a party.
“Suddenly I realised one of my friends was missing. I started to look for her [and] after a few minutes I asked another friend to join me - we searched this house until we heard a sound from one of the rooms, we got close to the door.”
When they entered the room they saw her struggling with two men.
“In that moment we entered the room the guys ran away, we actually saved her life,” Neta adds.
The SafeUP app was originally launched in Israel in October 2020, and then in the United States in late 2021. However it is active in a number of countries around the world, and this month it launched in London.
The app works by connecting members in the cities it is active in with other females who act as guardians - who can come to their aid if they feel unsafe or are in danger.
After launching in a city, they work to build its community. “To get the best experience from SafeUp it’s better if in your area there’s a lot of guardians and community members,” Neta explains.
“We actually spread SafeUp in cities so we are now focusing on London, and we are putting effort into building a community of guardians that are active and want to help.”
How does the app work?
Of SafeUP’s 100,000 global community around 10,000 are guardians.
All the women who act as guardians are volunteers, over the age of 18 and receive training. The app pinpoints the number of guardians in the area who can help either through telephone, video, or by physical accompaniment.
The app will connect the community member to two or three of the nearest available women.
“SafeUP is a social network of women,” Neta says. “It will enable each member to help each other to feel safer in the street.
“The first value she will get from that is to see herself on the map and to see how many guardians there is in her area. This gives the community member an immediate sense of safety that they are not alone.
“If she is walking in the street and feeling a bit uncomfortable she will click on ‘call guardian’ and start a call with the nearest guardian [and] they will make sure she is safe.”
Neta says the feedback so far has been “amazing” and says that there are community members who use it “every day”.
“Every time they need to walk the 10 minutes between the school to home, to the office or to their car, they just open the app open and go with the app open to any place,” she says.
“I hope people will spread the word and tell their daughters to join us and download the app because it can save lives.
“The streets are not so safe these days, there were already two horrible cases last year in London which show us that we are not safe in the streets, so we need to make sure we are not alone.”
What are some of the other safety apps available?
WalkSafe - The app’s map shows police and WalkSafe community reports of dangers such as knife crime, sexual assault and mugging. Among its features is the tapsafe option which can be accessed if you feel unsafe while walking home. The app’s website states: “As soon as you open TapSafe your loved ones are notified. If something goes wrong and you stop tapping your protectors are automatically alerted and shown your location.”
PathCommunity - A crowdsourced safety and navigation platform, it allows people to flag up problematic areas to councils and police. It also recommends safe routes to take. The app will track your route and notify someone you’ve chosen from your contacts if you stop moving, stray 40 metres away from your route or start moving at a much increased speed. Find out more on the Path website.
Red Panic Button - While the app has a range of uses, it can be used as a personal safety tool. Users of the app can press a red button and It will immediately send a text and an email containing your GPS coordinates in a Google Maps link to all your emergency contacts. The app also has a feature where you can post in real time a panic tweet to your entire list of friends and followers, revealing your current address and a Google Maps link.
OneScream - This app for women and teen girls is triggered if you are in danger and scream in panic. It is specifically geared towards detecting a panic scream. You add three people as nominated contacts to be notified if you need help. The app is left to run in the background. If the app is triggered a loud siren sounds, and there is a 20-second window to cancel the alarm if needed. Co-founder of the app Uta de Veer describes OneScream as “designed to allow women to pursue anything while keeping themselves safe.”
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