NEW DELHI — Safecity is a new app designed by ElsaMarie D’Silvia in 2012 that creates an interactive map that can show where women were sexually assaulted so as to prevent future assaults in the same locations. This app was created after a woman in India died after being gang raped on a bus earlier in 2012.
This incident sparked many protests and was what motivated D’Silvia and some of her friends to create an app that would let women share their stories as well as tell other women where places are unsafe. Thus, Safecity is helping women in India, and around the globe, stay safe.
Safecity was originally created for helping women in India, but after four years the app grew and became a worldwide map. The app works by crowdsourcing and documenting assaults reported by women. Within the app, the home page is of a map that can be zoomed in and out, and the dots that show up on the map are where other people reported experienced assault.
There are also categories of assaults that can be used to show places where women have experienced anything from catcalling, to inappropriate touching, or even rape. The app allows women to report these assaults anonymously, as well as provide the option to write a description of what happened.
The App’s Mission
Safecity’s main mission is to create awareness about sexual assault and to ultimately get local administration involved to stop further abuses against women. D’Silvia wrote in a blog post that after speaking with women and girls of all ages, she realized that many of these females did not know their legal rights, and only thought of assault in the two extremes of sexual assault and rape.
D’Silvia decided to take the app beyond the digital space and to motivate women into action. She accomplished this inspiration by collaborating with partners across Mumbai and Delhi. Through the reports given by women, Safecity was able to identify “hotspots” of harassment as well as get authorities included. Once involved, the authorities could increase street-side vigilance or fix street lighting — both strategies that significantly aid in the quest for women safety in India and around the world.
Safecity also works with individual communities to bring people together and do something about these issues. One example comes from a blog post where Safecity hosted a workshop and asked women what they wanted to change after learning where a hotspot of assault was in an urban slum of Delhi. There was a specific place where men would intimidate and stare at young girls, making them uncomfortable; by identifying such a place, Safecity could then work to improve such a seedy part of town.
The workshop organized the young girls to create a mural of eyes with the words “look with your hearts and not with your eyes.” This subtle way of bringing attention to such a prevalent issue caused the loitering and staring to stop; now, women can walk in that area of Delhi without being uncomfortable.
Safecity is a digital space that lets women help other women through the documentation of dangerous places. Allowing women to post anonymously is good for women who may be afraid to speak out in public circles, and the space of Safecity is important in informing women of places’ danger levels.
Going beyond the reports, Safecity also mobilizes communities to take action and stop assaults from occurring. Overall, Safecity is an app helping women feel safe in the places where they live.
– Deanna Wetmore