We know that the pandemic has spurred negative emotions in many Americans, but just how bad is it? News reports say that homicide rates are up 28 percent in 2020 and aggravated assaults are up nine percent. Some officials state that the civil unrest this year caused police to redirect energy away from anti-crime programs. Some say job loss and stress are to blame for the rise in violent crimes.
Now more than ever it’s important to be on high alert, especially if you are a woman who lives alone, or often goes out alone. Even though most violent crimes against women involve intimate partner crimes (of which Black women are historically the largest victims), it is still important to be aware of one’s surroundings and take precautions when away from the home. We may not all remember to keep mace or a taser on us at all times, but what do we typically have nearby? Our smartphones. Here are personal safety apps women should download.
Best for apartment hunting: My Safetipin
Today, just about everything is subject to online ratings, from restaurants to hotels to food trucks. So why not the safety of neighborhoods? That’s just what this app is for. Before visiting an area, you can search it in the app and see its safety ratings. It will provide a ranking based on things like visibility, crowds, public transportation, and how visitors have felt. You can also enter your data and experience, helping provide information to other users.
Best for living alone in the city: Circle of 6
There are varying degrees of feeling unsafe, and the Circle of 6 app aims to address each of them in a way that is discreet. You add six people you trust to your “Circle,” and then, any time you are in distress, you can tap one of three icons to send for help. The Pin Icon will say you need someone to come get you and provide your GPS location. The Phone icon tells your circle you need someone to call you. And the Chat icon tells your circle you need someone to message you.
Best for surviving an attack: Noonlight
Noonlight can manually override your physical functions when you’re too afraid to dial 911 or call for help. Here’s how it works: activate it when entering an area or situation in which you feel unsafe, and put your finger over the blue light that appears. When you feel safe again, take your finger off the blue light. It will turn red, and you’ll have a short period of time to enter your pin, stating that you’re safe. If you don’t enter it in that time frame, an alert will be sent to the police with your location. You can also enter your medical information in the app, in case you need to be resuscitated or taken to the hospital when the police arrive.
Best for cleaning up the city: Hollaback
The Hollaback app is part of an important initiative to report and keep a running record of incidents that occur in nearly any neighborhood. Whether you witness or experience harassment, you can enter your location in the app, and select from a drop-down menu to choose the type of things you saw or went through. There are options like indecent exposure, racism, being followed, verbal abuse, and many other distressing situations. You can share your experiences, as well as look up those reported by others for any area on the app’s map. Those using the app in New York City can also report the incidents through the app to the New York City Council.
Best for a crisis: Silent Beacon
There might be times when the best way to keep yourself safe is to make sure your potential attacker doesn’t know you feel unsafe and doesn’t know you’ve sent for help. That’s where this app comes in. One push of a button will send out your GPS location as well as text and email notifications to your emergency contacts. Its panic button will also allow you instantly call 911 without having to dial the number.
Best for surviving an attack: StaySafe
The StaySafe app can be good to activate any time you’re entering a situation where you think there is the possibility of harm, like a first date with someone you met online, or a night jog. Set your timer, and if you don’t check in as safe by the time it goes off, an alert along with your location will be sent to your contacts. It also has one very clever feature we appreciate: you’ll be assigned a pin to type in when you genuinely want to turn off your alarm, but you’ll also be assigned a decoy pin you can type in when an attacker is forcing you to turn off your alarm – the decoy pin sends an alert that you need help.
Best for scaring off an attacker: Scream Alarm
You’d like to think that if you were in danger, you’d yell for help. But the terror might cause you to freeze, and freeze in silence. So long as your finger works, you can still sound an alarm. Simply push one button on the Scream Alarm app and it will sound an incredibly loud alarm that sounds like a woman screaming. It can be your voice when you don’t have one.
Best for living in a new city: Watch Over Me
If you are in a situation where even looking at your phone might aggravate your potential attacker, this app can save your life. Simply giving it a shake sends your GPS location and an emergency message to your contacts. The app also has cool features like notifications that tell you when you’ve entered a high-crime area, and the ability to set a time frame for when you’d like to be watched over. If you don’t hit the “I’m safe” button by a certain time, an emergency alert will be sent out to your contacts.
Best for Internet dates: Kitestring
Kitestring is simple but effective. Whether you need an innocent “interruption text” on a first date that may or may not go well, or you need actual assistance, it can help. Notify the app when you’re going into a sketchy situation. It will send you periodic texts, checking up on you. If you fail to respond to one, it will send your location and an alert to your emergency contacts. It could save your life, or give you a chance to say, “Oh shoot. It’s my friend. It’s an emergency, I have to go” and get out of a bad date.
Best for documenting an incident: bSafe
The bSafe app can document your journey and experiences, and report it to your emergency contacts. If you enter an unsafe situation, hit the big SOS button on the app’s homepage. It will instantly begin a live audio and video feed of what’s happening around you and send an alert to your emergency contacts. You can also use the “Follow Me” feature to track your steps when you’re traveling somewhere you feel unsafe and the app will send those updates to your emergency contacts. The premium version allows you to activate the SOS button using just a code word, for times you cannot reach your phone.
Best for international travel: TravelSmart
While this app may not seem too useful during a pandemic when few are actually traveling, let’s hope that one day it will be relevant again. The TravelSmart app lists emergency phone numbers such as the police, fire department, or local embassy for destinations around the world, and offers quick translations for words and phrases pertaining to your health and safety. It has a 24/7 hotline that can assist you with medical and safety emergencies but also helps with more practical travel matters by giving you real-time updates on your flight time and boarding gate.
Best for a crisis: Eyewatch SOS for Women
Using your Eyewatch app, you can add guardians such as your spouse, friends, or family members. When you feel unsafe, click the alert button and it will send an email, text, and phone call to your designated guardians, providing them with up to 60 seconds of audio and video (taken by your phone) that occurred leading up to you pressing the button. It will also provide your GPS location. In addition to its panic button, it has buttons designated for certain types of emergencies including a medical emergency, or calling for a taxi, and sends an alert to the appropriate authorities.