The messages we send: The Circle of 6 app

Lakeidra Chavis/Sun Star Editor-in-Chief
Oct. 29, 2013

The “Circle of 6” app premiered at UAF in late September at the Safety Fair.

Residence Life hosted an informational booth about the app, which aims for people to take an active approach to preventing violence by relying on friends and technology to get out of potentially dangerous situations.

The Line Campaign Inc. and Internet Sexuality Services co-created the app in 2006.  That year, the Circle of 6 won the White House and Health and Human Services award for “Apps Against Abuse Technology Challenge.” The app won the award again in 2011.

The app is available on Google Play and the Apple store. It has been downloaded more than 30,000 times since March. It currently holds a 4.5 out of five rating on Google Play.

The app works by a user pre-programming a message that friends will read when they are in danger, such as, “Come and get me. I need help.”

When a person feels unsafe, they can press one of four icons that will send the message. The user doesn’t need to have exactly six friends in order to use the app.

There are four icons the person can use: a car, a phone, a chat icon and an exclamation point. If a person uses the car icon, the pre-programmed message will be sent to their friends and a GPS will track their location so they can be picked up. The phone icon encourages friends to call them while the chat icon will create an ongoing conversation to discuss the potential dangers of the situation. The exclamation point lets the friends know what’s up but that the situation does not pose immediate harm. The app also features to build-in national hotline numbers.

Residence Life incorporated the app into their programs after it premiered at the Safety Fair by hanging informational  fliers around the Moore-Bartlett-Skarland complex and other dorms.

The fliers around MBS are headlined in bold with phrases like, “Don’t be a statistic.”

I’m pretty sure sexual assault victims don’t set out to be a statistic. It’s an insulting and insensitive way to get the message across.

The flier also features numbers that say 50 percent of college sexual assaults involve alcohol and that 80 percent of rapes are committed by an acquaintance. The fliers feature statistics that coincide with those from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.Alcohol is involved in the majority of sexual assaults that happen on campus, according to UAF Police Department Investigator Steve Goetz.

The app even has a Facebook campaign called, “Take the Facebook pledge: ‘I won’t let violence happen in my circle.’”

However, the thing about “don’t be a statistic” and “I won’t let violence happen in my circle,” is that it places the responsibility to evade or prevent sexual assault on the victim.

The app, perhaps unintentionally, reinforces the message of “don’t get raped,” instead of don’t rape.

It is important to acknowledge that these crimes exist, and it’s great that violence prevention programs are being incorporated into technology. However, this doesn’t mean that it comes without scrutiny.

I think the Circle of 6 app is a great idea and it’s awesome that our campus is taking more forward steps to address solutions to violence. But perhaps the app works in theory better than in reality.

The app is designed so that everyone participates in this app to prevent violence except the potential perpetrator.

In order to create a safer society, it will take a cultural movement in which everyone becomes more educated and aware, not just women, not just friends, but every single individual.

I walk home every Sunday night, sometimes in the early-morning hours that bleed into Monday when putting together the paper takes too long.

If I am in danger, the last thing I will do is reach for my phone and pull up this app.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *