Smartphones saving victims of domestic abuse

In 2014, Veronica Arreola began a goal of taking a selfie once a day for a year in an effort to capture herself in real life situations – an attempt to support the idea that selfies could be used as a platform of humanizing women (a goal of feminism, to counteract the objectification of women). She encouraged other women to do the same and created the hashtag #365FeministSelfie

Over the course of the year, something happened: the community started to notice women who repeated posted selfies wherein they celebrated things like surviving another rant from their husbands about “how worthless you are.” The community started to ask questions:

Some eagle-eyed selfie-ists noticed a pattern with a few fellow participants: far too many selfies posted with a caption about a husband’s rant. The questions began. Does he do this a lot? Are you happy? What else does he say to you? Do you have friends close by who can support you? 

It soon dawned on a few of the women in our community that their husbands were emotionally abusive and had separated them from nearby friends and family. These were not typical quarrels; this was domestic abuse. The awakenings were devastating.

I wanted to post this because this narrative offers two revelations.

1. A call to engineers and designers to use technology for social change

I’d like to see more makers – those who hold the skills to create – rise to the challenge of becoming heroes for social change. To those I say: you hold the ability to change the world; why aren’t you doing it yet? Said with love.

2. The potential for mobile devices to make positive social change

I believe mobile computing is a powerful tool and we are still trying to figure out how it integrates into our lives. Behavioral sciences are still processing what data they have about the use of mobile devices, but this narrative provides clear evidence of how the integration of these devices might actually provide help to those who otherwise wouldn’t have it: 

People can be physically isolated from their communities, but a simple smartphone can connect us to people across the country who are able to see the forest for the abusive trees. 

The moral of this post is that we are ultimately accountable to each other. How we use our talents and leverage the tools at our disposal impact others. I’m thrilled that Veronica Arreola started her hashtag and saw it through to the end, finding ways to support the social change it stirred up. We should take our cue and join her.