There’s a big market for a free application that lets your friends virtually walk you home via your iPhone
Rape alarms sound like a genius solution. That’s what my Mum thought when she pragmatically put one in my Christmas stocking once. But the brilliance of your new device is entirely forgotten when you’re on the tube and a ceaseless piercing scream makes everyone jump, and a couple of seconds pass before you realise the pin has fallen out of the fucking thing and you have to scramble around in your bag trying to find it and shove its silencer back in.
There aren’t any real aids to travelling alone at night. But something to help women get home safely is not just wanted, it’s (sadly) needed. The number of rapes recorded by the police in England and Wales rose by 31 per cent in the past year to 24,043 – the highest level for at least 10 years, according to the Office for National Statistics. Meanwhile, one in three female students are sexually assaulted or abused on campus. Rape culture still has a stranglehold on the UK and, as fucked up as it is, a women can't really walk without danger at night.
So it's a relief that technology has finally caught up. A new app allows women to be virtually walked home from a night out.
Companion allows the user to pick a ‘companion’ from their phonebook. This person will then be alerted when the user reaches their destination. Brilliantly, the app detects any unforeseen changes in movement, any straying from the route, starts running, or if their headphones are pulled out. If a change is detected, the user has 15 seconds to respond to a change before it transforms into an alarm system, warding off anyone dangerous who might be lurking.
Users even have the option to tell the app “I am nervous” at any stage of their journey. The data will hopefully go on to be used by universities to create safer campuses.
The problem is, it was developed in the US and doesn't seem to be fully workable in the UK yet.
If you look at the reviews on iTunes, you'll find a lot of (presumably female) UK users, who are delighted with the prospect of the app but say it doesn't work for them yet. LindseyMHC said: "A great idea...but no joy. Shame. Will definitely use it/when the developers make it work over here". Lornykinss agreed, writing: "I can't wait till it is [usable in the UK] as this is great for a young woman like me."
There are other rape prevention apps but they're mostly from the US, who seem to have their game together when it comes to using tech to help facilitate women's safety. They're also not as advanced as Companion. Safety Siren, for example, is essentially a massive rape alarm button on your screen. My Force is great - an app that hooks you up to a live 24/7 security team who will relay your coordinates to the police – but it costs $119 a month. Companion is entirely free.
Of course, it’s depressing and completely ridiculous that the market is there for this app. No woman should have to be thankful this has been developed but that's the reality.