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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……….
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.
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.
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.
So the latest Super Bowl controversy, aside from rapper MIA flipping the bird during her performance with Madonna, is the Fiat Car commercial starring Romanian model Catrinel Menghia. Despite Fiat revealing today that the commercial achieved the highest cumulative increase in car model page traffic, we would like to pop that balloon by cataloguing several reasons why we just plain don’t like it.
Apart from objectifying females and condoning street harassment the advert plays with some very dangerous race and gender stereotyping. The commercial portrays a seemingly dumb white guy, ogling the classically hyper-sexualized woman of color. She is seen as provocative, voiceless and tattoed, a stereotype that we should be rejecting, not reinforcing. Check it out for yourself.
In the past year, Filmmaker and Academy of Art University student, Tiye Rose Hood, has created and released two compelling films. “Objectified” focuses on street harassment, and the latest “Jenella” published in January, explores the blame culture and the issue of silence associated with sexual assault. The inspiration for all of Tiye’s documentaries comes from what she describes as a deep-rooted “interest in work that inspires understanding and social change,” as well as a passion for film and digital cinematography.
Produced in 2011, street harassment documentary “Objectified” debuted on Vimeo in June of last year and was nominated for Best Documentary in Academy of Art’s 2011 Epidemic Film Festival. Being nominated for the award was’ a wonderful feeling’ but Tiye admits that the driving force behind its production was not a quest for critical acclaim. Tiye was inspired by her own experiences of street harassment and the stories that others had shared with her:
“It is often quite irritating to hear honks, whistles, and obscenities when all you want to do is go home after a really long day at work or school, and that’s something we all agreed on. My roommates and I all ride the bus and walk, so we encounter our share of rude and unwanted attention. And pretty much all of the attention occurs (seemingly) without a catalyst.”
As a young woman that spends her life moving through public spaces, Tiye, recognizes the importance of the movement against street harassment:
“I think the movement against it is important, and that ultimately everyone should be able to feel safe and comfortable no matter what they happen to have on.”
With social injustice and the idea of sharing stories still fresh in Tiye’s mind she embarked upon “Jenella”, which originally began as an assignment for a documentary class. However, in the middle of the semester the focus shifted:
“I met Jenella through one of my roommates, who told me a little bit about what happened to her. I knew her story had to be told in some manner. Jenella is the strongest individual I have met to date.”
Originally, the documentary was intended to be about rape crisis counselors, featuring footage from last year’s high profile Slutwalks rather than “one women’s struggle.” But Tiye felt that Jenella’s story was one that had to be told and focused upon:
“I met Jenella through one of my roommates, who told me a little bit about what happened to her. After I met her and started to learn more about her, I knew her story had to be told in some manner. I also met Chimine Arfuso, a speaker, philanthropist, and the creator of Create Social Change. Chimine shared her experiences and the methods she used to cope with them. Jenella and Chimine are the strongest individuals I have met to date.”
The beauty of Tiye’s work is her recognition of the power of story telling, the idea that if we share our stories, we gather strength, momentum and knowledge to make a change and raise awareness. “Jenella” rejects the concept of sweeping incidents under the carpet and tackles the “blame culture” where survivors are questioned as to why they made decisions that could have possibly led to their attack.
Born in the Los Angeles area, Tiye grew up in Pasadena and Altadena and went to school in Pasadena. She loves to randomly bake and admits that she has “fallen deeply in love with the painstaking process of using lights, the sun, and a light meter to create and manipulate the visual aesthetics and get the desired results,” and looks forward to soon be working with 35mm film.
Tiye is inspired by several different directors, cinematographers and musicians including: Paul Thomas Anderson, Spike Jonze, Stanley Kubrick, Emmanuel Lubezki, Joanna Newsom, Bradford Cox. But high profile role models aside, the aspiring director is most motivated by her friends whom she describes as:
“Strong, fearless, passionate and very highly involved in equal rights movements.”
When asked about the future, the Best Documentary in Academy of Art’s 2011 nominee quite modestly reveals that she does not know. However, what she does know is that she really wants “to learn, enjoy life, enjoy the ups and downs of film-making and graduate!” And we at Hollaback! say good luck to you Tiye and keep driving social change and being generally awesome!
Hello Hollaback supporters and revolutionaries!
Take a look at this week ‘s HOLLAnews and updates with February’s first installment:
-Mumbai in Town! This week we met up with Aisha from Hollaback! Mumbai who has been super busy heading up the revolution in Bombay. Hollaback! Mumbai, in collaboration with the families of murdered Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandez, are responsible for change.org petition: Demand Justice for Two Men Killed Trying to Stop Street Harassment, which demands justice for the brutal murders of two bright, brave young men and calls for recognition of the prevalence of street harassment in Mumbai and across India. Also, check out Hollaback! Mumbai’s awesome press coverage in online news publication Hindustan Times.
-In the Press: I was interviewed for online fashion market place, I-ELLA.com. We also got a shout out from the Pixel Project, a non-profit organization that works to end violence against women (VAW) by delivering innovative, powerful viral campaigns across various online and virtual channels including social media. Our lead developer, Jill Dimond, was also featured on mobile app blog, Fueled.com.
-Meetings and Partnerships: We met with the Caruso Foundation and the Transit Workers Union to talk about future collaborative works to stamp out street harassment once and for all!
Thanks Hollaback! supporters for another fantastic week of fighting street harassment and keeping the revolution alive!
HOLLA and out!
Collective Action for Safe Spaces/Holla Back DC! are joining forces for a public performance oversight hearing of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) held by the Council of the District of Columbia. Check out this blog piece that is cross posted from Collective Action for Safe Spaces.
Sexual comments, leering, groping and public masturbation: sexual harassment happens a lot on public transportation in Washington, DC. Collective Action for Safe Spaces/Holla Back DC! has beentracking and speaking out on this issue for three years. Now we’re doing something more – testifying. And we need your help.
We need people to testify with us about the issue of sexual harassment on public transportation during the late afternoon of Wednesday, Feb. 22, for a public performance oversight hearing of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) held by the Council of the District of Columbia.
We are looking for people:
1) Willing to share a story or stories about sexual harassment on metro trains and buses,
2) Who can talk about sexual harassment they’ve witnessed,
3) Who can be part of the audience to help fill the room.
Testimonies are only 3 minutes long (about a page and a half). If you want to learn more about writing and presenting compelling testimony or want feedback on a draft, we will hold an optional training on Saturday, Feb. 18, 1-3 p.m. at the Southeast Library (across the from Eastern Market metro station). Susie Cambria will lead the training.
If you’re interested in providing testimony or helping to fill the room, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org by February 17.
If we have enough people testifying, possible outcomes could be:
Council Member Muriel Bowser (who is overseeing the hearing and is from Ward 4) will be aware of the issue and could even propose legislation to help prevent sexual harassment on Metro.
Council Member Bowser could question the Director of Metro to find out why our concerns have not been addressed.
The Director of Metro could be more likely to address our concerns and take actions we recommend such as providing training for employees.