Can technology help domestic abuse victims find support? We find out about the new app, and free smartphones.

If a friend or family member were a victim of family abuse, would you know what to do? Know of a volatile home situation? How would you help? These were the questions prompting Vodafone Foundation and Hestia to launch the UK’s first app, Bright Sky, to provide nationwide domestic abuse support, both for the victims themselves and for those supporting them. Domestic abuse charity Hestia observed that a third of us would not know how to support a victim, and with 1.2 million women and 713,000 men experiencing abuse, it is nigh time to see change.

Hestia, the largest provider of domestic abuse refuges in London, uses technology and digital tools to best support the recovery of adults and children in crisis. Bright Sky is a free to download mobile app providing information on sexual violence and consent, stalking and harassment. The app allows users to record evidence in their private journal (via text, audio, video or photo form); photos, videos or notes that are logged in the app are not saved on the phone itself. Users can find and contact their nearest support service, understand the signs of abuse and complete the ‘Am I at Risk?’ questionnaire. Bright Sky also has a section on dispelling myths around domestic and sexual abuse, helping users recognise what they are experiencing and giving them the strength to act.

‘Domestic abuse sadly touches the lives of everyone in the UK, either directly or through our friends, family and colleagues,’ said Patrick Riya, Hestia CEO. ‘For someone who is a victim of domestic abuse, the support they get from their friends and family can be lifesaving. It is heart-breaking to think that so many of us wouldn’t know how to help our loved one in their hour of need. Bright Sky’s innovative features can put an end to this. By simply downloading the app onto our phone, we can all play our part in ending domestic abuse.’

Vodafone has also partnered with another domestic abuse charity SafeLives which is developing technology resources to help users stay safe online. The charity has launched a Tech vs. Abuse initiative researching the potential opportunities, gaps and risks for technology in the context of domestic abuse. ‘For someone experiencing domestic abuse, it can feel like every aspect of their world is controlled by the abuser – and the online world is no different. Although technology can help victims to access information and support, it can also provide abusers with even more ways to threaten and control,’ says a spokesperson from SafeLives. They are giving out smartphones pre-loaded with a SIM card, credit and the Bright Sky app to victims who often have their phones either taken away by, or tracked by, their abuser.

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April 2019