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BY CATHERINE FAVORITE
We had a chance to pick the brain of one of the business minds behind the bSafe smart phone app, Nils Knagenhjelm. Created by Bipper, (the makers of smart phone safety apps), “bSafe”, among other things, allows the user to alert selected contacts of their whereabouts, in case they find themselves in a threatening situation, with a simple touch of a button. Nils shared his insights behind bSafe, as well as his inspiration for working for Bipper.
Why did you decide to work for Bipper?
About 3 years ago, my wife (who is American) had a scary experience while we were on vacation in my hometown of Oslo, Norway. She had been out to dinner with my sister-in-law and was going to take a taxi from the restaurant to my parents’ house less than one mile away. However, the cab driver decided to ignore my wife’s instructions and got onto the high-way heading out of town. She told the driver to turn around, but he insisted he knew where he was going even though the 2 minute ride had turned into 10. She was lost and scared, but told the driver (who barely spoke English) my sister- in-law had the cab number and was expecting a call from her as soon as she returned home.
The driver then mentioned he mistakenly had the wrong address, made a u-turn and 10 minutes later dropped my wife off at the correct address.
First thing we agreed on after this episode was to always carry a cell-phone, but we also saw a need for an alarm or location device of some sort. Coincidentally I was introduced to Silje and Bipper shortly after and I was intrigued by the start-up that wanted to develop mobile solutions to increase personal safety for kids and families. This was a company I could relate to and I wanted to be part in making these solutions available to everyone.
What do you think inspired the founder of Bipper, Silje Vallestad, to create this smart phone application?
Silje has, as many other women, experienced uncomfortable and frightening situations and had her own personal reasons for developing a solution that made it easier to alert people if they felt threatened. It was initially a feature that was included in a mobile parental control solutions we developed (Silje’s own kids was the motivation for developing that solution) We got lots of feed-back from mothers (including Silje) who mentioned that they would take their kid’s phone when they went out at night for walks etc because of the safety alarm. When Silje was named Female Entrepreneur of the year in Norway last year she decided to use the prize money to develop bSafe and to make it available to everyone for free.
One of the options of the bSafe application, the “Risk Mode”, is that it notifies the user of dangerous areas. What sort of data does the bSafe application use to determine the level of “danger” in an area?
The risk mode feature has actually been renamed “Follow Me” to better describe its purpose (we are working on a feature more in line with how you have explained it…). “Follow Me” is a helpful feature for those who are walking home or jogging alone. Select those Guardians you want to follow you and they will receive link to trace you live. bSafe can be set to automatically activate the alarm if you have not checked-in in time.
Smart phones are a great resource for protecting ourselves when we’re alone, in public (whether through enabling us to take photos of a street harasser, or having an emergency button that alerts contacts of our exact location). Do you see any potential for victim blaming (if, for example, someone had this app on their phone, but did not use it in the event of an assault)?
Unfortunately victim blaming is an issue in itself. It’s hard to say who is more exposed to that. Those who have bSafe kind of apps but for some reason don’t use it, or those that get assaulted but have no emergency app, pepper-spray or other self protection devices.
How do you think this application empowers women and the LGBTQ community, in particular?
Everyone has the right to be and feel safe, unfortunately that is not the case, which is why great initiatives like yours are launched. BSafe was developed to make people feel safer when walking alone and to give them confidence and security against threats and dangerous situations.
Knowing that you are surrounded by a network of Guardians should be a comforting feeling when you are walking alone. The ability to alert them makes you feel safer and that they can see where you are or follow your movements to make sure you get home ok adds a level of security.
With bSafe you never walk alone……….
On top of being a full time student, I have a part time job at my university. On one Monday morning that had already been difficult for me, I was walking around a building on campus running errands for my boss when I walked by two guys sitting on a bench. I heard one of them make a noise that sounded like a dog barking but I assumed they were joking with each other and continued walking. A few minutes later, I walked by them again and heard the noise again, followed shortly after by a comment, of which I only caught the end… “I like her earrings though”. At this point, I realized, they were saying something about me. I was wearing particularly large and shiny earrings that day, one of my favorite pairs, and had received a few compliments, all of which had made me feel good. None of them had made me feel uncomfortable until I walked by those jackasses. At this point I went to the bathroom and attempted to waste a few minutes hoping they would go away but of course, they did not. Sure enough, when I walked by the third time, they made that noise twice and said something again, this time about my ass. Unfortunately, I was wearing my work uniform at the time so I had to resist the urge to turn around, flip them off, lecture them on respect and tell them to go fuck themselves which was extremely difficult for me. I almost never let those kinds of things go and I certainly never rely on anyone else to stand up for me, I believe that empowers the harasser. Instead, I marched into my boss’ office and told her what had happened. My boss then called someone higher up on the chain of command who came, spoke with me for a minute about what happened and then went to talk to the harassers. Even though they went away, I didn’t feel any better. What gives them the right to harass me at work? To put me in a position where I had to either stick up for myself and risk my job or to let it go? Who are they to cause me to have to go so very far against my morals and values? To make it so that I have to get a man to go and defend my honor instead? What the hell gives them that right?
BY VICTORIA TRAVERS
On Thursday we published an article condemning a Target Valentine’s card that trivialized stalking and urged readers to sign the Care2 petition against it. The following day target announced that they would be pulling the card from their shelves. Target spokesperson, Kristy Welker wrote in an email to Forbes:
“It is never our intent to offend guests with the products we offer and we take feedback from guests’ very seriously. We immediately made the decision to remove this card from our selection.”
So hats off to all you wonderful activists that put your index fingers to great use and signed the petition! There is a valuable lesson to be learned here and that is that ACTIVISM WORKS! And you have proved it! The power to change the world is in our awesomely capable hands, so take one of those hands and pat yourself on the back because you rock!
BY EMILY MAY
Hello Hollaback! supporters and revolutionaries!
Take a look at this week ‘s HOLLAnews and updates with our latest installment:
- Awesome Collaborations: We spent the week hanging out with Jenn Sayre and Marigail Sexton from national bystander campaign, Greendot, hammering out our collaboration with them, which will include trainings on how to be a bystander administered by our site leaders. To learn more about our soon-to-launch bystander initiative, see our “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign video.
- Out and About: I was honored to be invited to Council Member Julissa Ferrera’s State of the District address on Thursday in Jackson Heights where she discussed her ongoing commitment to ending street harassment. Plans for the coming year include holding the 2nd annual street harassment hearing in April and a community safety audit in Elmhurst/Jackson Heights.
Thanks Hollaback! supporters for another fantastic week of fighting street harassment and keeping the revolution alive!
HOLLA and out!
This is your opportunity to use your time, hands, feet, voice and general awesomeness to raise awareness of teen dating violence in the month of February!
The statistics featured on the Teen-Dating Violence Awareness Month website are staggering: One in three teens in the US is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner; nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year; one in three teens in the US is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner; only 33% of teens who were in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about the abuse; and 80% of parents believe it is not an issue.
But together we can change this! There’s an abundance of ways that you can get involved to make teen-dating violence not only common knowledge but a thing of the past. Here’s some ways in which you can alter the course of history:
– Write a Letter: Use our templates to petition the leaders in your community to celebrate February with you.
– Join a Group: Join the movement against dating abuse by joining already existing campaigns.
– Host an Event: Organize a press conference, poetry slam or play – you name it we have the tools you need to get started.
– Write an Op-ed: Make your voice heard across your entire community by writing an op-ed. We have a template, writing tips and submission ideas to get you going.
-Post About It: Spread the word by posting a virtual message or actual poster about Teen DV Month.
Teen DV Month is now in its third year of existence. It is celebrated by leaders in government student bodies, schools, youth service providers, community-based organizations, parents and now you! So get organizing and make a change so the next generation won’t have to.
One afternoon this summer I was biking home from our local bike co-op when I pulled up to a red light next to one other vehicle. The light had just turned red when I stopped and almost instantaneously the windows of the car next to me rolled down and two men in the car began shouting at me. The driver was quietly saying sexual threats that I could hardly hear under a passenger yelling “I like your bike. Is it a nimbus 2000? Is it Lance Armstrong’s bike? You’re really cute.” It seemed harmless enough until I heard the driver shout “I want to put my dick in your helmet… I want to put my dick in your ass.” As soon as the light changed, I found an alternate way home to ensure that the car couldn’t follow me home. The whole time it was happening I was heartbroken that the woman in the front seat didn’t try to stop them from harassing me. I am a very femme-presenting man and I will not let ignorance keep me from living openly. I holler back.
BY CATHERINE FAVORITE
This year Target is selling one Valentine’s Day card that draws only the sound of crickets and tumbleweeds rather than laughter. The front of the card reads:
“Stalker is a harsh word” and the inside says: “I prefer Valentine”.
Considering that 54 percent of female murder victims reported being stalked, this is one crime that should never be equated with love. Regardless of your feelings about Valentine’s Day, it should go without saying that there is never a good time to make light of stalking, especially not on a day that is supposed to be about letting the people in your life know you care about them. Apparently, Target has not gotten the memo, yet.
By making light of what is a serious, terrifying and potentially violent crime for 1 in 12 women and 1 in 45 men in the United States, Target is normalizing the message that stalking is acceptable behavior. Even worse, they are diminishing the concerns of victims of stalking and contributing to the dangerous attitude that one should not report it to the police. So Hollabackers, let’s call Target out on their insensitivity! By signing this Care2 petition, you will help send a message to Target that jokes about stalking are not edgy or humorous.
I was pumping gas when a group of teenage boys pulled up to the intersection. They rolled the windows down and one began yelling things – starting with “pump that gas, girl.” I looked up then turned to ignore him. He kept yelling, getting more suggestive but not explicit.
After months of walking to the bus to yells of “hey, girl” or horns being honked by anonymous drivers, I was fed up. So I flipped him off and yelled, “f**k you, come say it to my face, you little chickenshit.” And there was silence. Then I heard a weak, “that’s not very nice.” And they drove away.
I love his response. He wanted me to be passive, afraid, shamed, an object of his attention. My aggression set him back. I’m sure he won’t forget it soon. I wouldn’t recommend my method to anyone, but considering my audience and genuine willingness to fight it was fitting.
I was baby sitting for my sister and brother in law while they went out to spend time with my brother in law’s brother who was in town. they came home after a night of partying and while every one else went to bed my brother in laws brother decided to get touchy. I told him no multiple times and he still continued to touch me, kiss me and grope me. He was drunk and wouldnt stop. i didnt sleep at all that night. I just want to find closer with this. it happened about 3 years ago. no charges were ever pressed(family said we would deal with it) I havent seen him since.
BY CATHERINE FAVORITE
A blogger out of the U.K. has an excellent suggestion that we would like to reiterate: “Operation Creep-Be-Gone”. Have you ever marveled at what street harassers get away with in public? Has there ever been a time when you were being followed, catcalled or made to feel unsafe in a public place and why, despite all the other people around you, you still felt unsafe or threatened?
The inspiration for “Operation Creep-Be-Gone” came from this blogger’s particular experience at witnessing another woman being harassed:
I saw a woman, on a busy Euston Road at 6pm, being hounded by a man. He wasn’t being outwardly aggressive, but he was sliming round her like a slug in an overcoat, asking questions and ignoring all clear signals (headphones in, one-word answers, refusal to make eye contact) that she wasn’t interested.
I caught the girl’s eye and mouthed “are you ok?”, to which she shook her head. So then I had a decision to make, quickly. To barge in like the Green Cross Code Man and say “STOP, letch! She doesn’t want to talk to you. RETREAT,” before blasting him with a sonic ray gun, or the alternative; pretend to be her mate. “There you are!” I cried, launching myself on her (for if I’m going to do a good deed I may as well get a hug out of it). “Hi!” she faked, as I dragged her away. Then we stood together on the pavement miming friendly chat like a couple of am-dram actors, while Slug Man stared, lingered, and eventually slithered off back to his cabbage patch.
While this blogger rightly stepped in to help, she noted, “There must have been 20 people within view and earshot standing nearby, yet nobody else paid the slightest attention.” Does our fear of bringing unwanted negative attention onto ourselves influence a decision not to step in to assist someone, or is it because many still dismiss street harassment as a legitimate threat?
Regardless of the reasons behind this seeming ambivalence, this woman’s story serves as an important reminder to speak up, not just against your own street harassers, but to the street harassment of others, as well.
…nobody’s saying you have to leap in with your handbag swinging. Even a stern glance or a calm, disapproving presence could help. A well-timed ‘tut’ might still go some way to helping these lowlifes learn that harassing us for the simple crime of possessing ovaries is Not Ok.
The idea behind Operation Creep-Be-Gone could go a long way toward combating not only the actions of street harassers, but to countering the quiet, implicit acceptance of anyone who witnesses another person getting street harassed.