Building Apps to Prevent Domestic Violence

Speak Out Against Domestic ViolenceWhat do you get when communications technology, creative individuals, the Avon Foundation for Women and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) join together to help prevent domestic violence?  How about the “Ending Violence @ Home App Challenge,” a program to create apps that drive awareness and prevention of domestic abuse – truly, a way to leverage emerging technology to tackle a longstanding problem.

The program grew out of a workshop convened by IOM’s Forum on Global Violence Prevention, at which participants discussed how traditional and new media can be harnessed to prevent domestic abuse.  Funding came from the Avon Foundation for Women, which awards grants to build awareness, education, prevention and direct service programs to end domestic and gender violence. In February 2012, the “Ending Violence @ Home App Challenge” was announced at the 2nd World Conference of Women’s Shelters in Washington, DC, and with communications including a celebrity video message.  The Avon Foundation and IOM invited individuals in domestic violence prevention and communications technologies to combine skills and develop apps to drive awareness and prevent domestic abuse.

The program drew 19 creative submissions from nine countries, and the winners were chosen based upon five criteria:  innovation, design, potential impact, how well they integrate evidence-based information, and their usability in different settings.  Here is a bit about each of the four top entries:

The top prize went to the developers of Çocuktan Al Haberi, or Wisdom of the Children, a website in Turkey that encourages people, especially parents and children, to create positive new expressions from old sayings that condone violence. Using a “Mad Libs” format of replacing selected words, Çocuktan Al Haberi can, for example, change “don’t spare a baby from your wife’s belly and rod from her back” into “don’t spare soup from a women’s belly and sunscreen from her back.” Participants upload new sayings and site visitors vote on their favorites. The site also directs people to resources for victims of violence.

Second place was awarded to the team that created Circle of 6, a mobile app and Facebook pledge designed to prevent dating violence on university campuses. The Circle of 6 app enables users to quickly call six people from their contact lists for aid to prevent violence before it occurs, and the app also comes with preprogrammed hotline numbers and accommodates local helpline information.

The third prize went to the creators of R3, an app that helps health care providers recognize, respond, and refer victims of domestic abuse. Only 10% of physicians regularly screen for domestic violence in part because they lack an evidence-based screening tool and knowledge of how to respond. The R3 app provides a set of four questions that have been shown to effectively identify victims of abuse, an automatic scoring function, links to recommendations on appropriate action based on a patient’s score, and a resource locator.

The fourth prize went to HealtheSAVE, which helps health care providers better recognize and communicate with patients who have experienced violence, and refer them to appropriate services. The program includes a website that will be tied to social media platforms, a mobile app, educational tools and resources, with a focus on applicability to international users.

The results show that the issue of domestic violence and the passion to solve the problem are without boundaries, and that unusual partnerships can be key to success. As the line in a movie once said, if you build it, they will come. In this case, if you ask for solutions, they will be found—sometimes in unexpected places.

Read more about the program and winners here.

About: Susan Arnot Heaney

Former Executive Director, Corporate Responsibility, Avon Products, Inc.

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