Going into the creation of Circle of 6, we knew we had to tread carefully. Too much sexual assault “awareness” is focused on telling women and girls what to do and what not to do: don’t drink too much, don’t leave without a buddy, don’t wear that skirt, don’t flirt, don’t laugh, don’t smile. We didn’t want to replicate those messages.
But what we did need to do was meet people where they were: we know people party and get separated from each other and that friends leave bars alone and stumble home late. Often, someone is stuck making the hard choice of how to get home safely, especially if they have no idea how to tell their friend where they are. In an ideal world, this wouldn’t be a problem—we would all be safe everywhere, at any time. But we don’t live in an ideal world, so Circle of 6’s MMS and GPS location tools let users quickly and easily contact six trusted friends to come pick them up.
Another thing we can all relate to is being cornered – someone is not reading your cues that you’d like to leave, your friends don’t see you making faces that plead with them to get you out of this corner. Two taps – and your phone rings, and you’re out of there. In other words, the Circle of 6 App is designed to be a tool to leverage tight knit social networks and harnesses mobile tech in helpful ways.
We were very careful in the video we produced to make sure that no one could say “well, why would a young girl find herself alone at a party, that’s bad judgement” – or “why would a girl let herself get separated from her friends?” We’re not telling people not to go to parties alone, or not to drink, or not to talk to strangers. We know that most sexual violence is perpetrated by someone the victim knows. What we care about is giving young people a tool to help them get out of a situation that makes them uncomfortable and that might escalate into something dangerous, regardless of whether they are alone, among strangers, or with their partner.
The bottom line is, many, many students who come up to us after screenings of The Line and share their rape stories have several things in common – they could have used the help of their friends to get them out of situations that a perpetrator was exploiting. In our work, and ISIS’s work with dating violence, we know that people suffer in isolation, so providing resources and embedding the information into the app itself can break that silence. Circle of 6 seeks to address this need–connectivity, communication, technology are just one way to prevent future assaults.
No one tool—be it an app, an anti-violence training, or a conversation about consent—will end sexual assault. The solution to sexual violence is a complicated puzzle, and Circle of 6 is just a single piece addressing a particular context of violence. It will not single-handedly end assault, nor is it meant to. We need many more tools–and many more puzzle pieces–before we can begin to talk about the end of sexual violence as we know it.
We welcome your feedback and partnership in building those tools and creating a world without sexual violence.