Dating in 2018 continues to be dangerous for women and non-binary people. If you go on a date feel unsafe or just uneasy, it’s good to have a plan in place if you need to leave. This is where the Circle of 6 app comes in.
In 2011, then-American Vice President Joe Biden and Kathleen Sebelius, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Health and Human Services Secretary, held the Apps Against Abuse challenge. The purpose of this challenge was to encourage innovators to create apps to help prevent dating violence by keeping young adults connected to friends and resources. This initiative was first aimed to help prevent dating violence in university settings.
Circle of 6 came to creation during the Apps Against Abuse challenge. The Circle of 6 app has two functions: (1) this app allows you to add five contacts who you can send texts to and (2) resources, including emergency hotlines.
A user can hit a button which sends a text to the five people in their Circle of 6 to come to get them, call them or get help if they feel uneasy on a date or are in danger. An extremely positive part of this app is that the person that they are going on a date with won’t see them texting a friend. This way, if you need to get out of a bad situation, you can press a button to text your friend to ask them to call you. When they call, you can tell your date that you “have to take a call” and safely leave the situation, whether you are in a public setting or need to leave their apartment. If you are in a private setting and are in danger, you can also pre-program a text to send to a friend to call 911 or any relevant form of safety.
By using this app, you can protect yourself from dangerous situations through staying in contact with your friends and having an exit plan. Even if it turns out nothing bad was going to escalate and your date just had a weird vibe, you still were able to talk to your friends.
In addition, there are two hotlines which a person can discreetly call the National Domestic Violence hotline and Love is Respect helpline, both which are available 24 hours a day. Both these resources do not record the personal information of the caller. This app allows the user to press buttons on the app to dial these resources for them. While friends are amazing, these resources can be great to get information from an independent source who is trained to help people.
I first heard of this app during high school when my health education teacher had a speaker come into our class to introduce this app and encourage us to use it ourselves. Representatives from Circle of 6 regularly come to schools to speak about it. I downloaded the app at the time and added my friends, as we found this app to be an important measure to stay safe.
Besides the purpose of this app itself, there are various positive features of their model. The first positive feature is that the Circle of 6 is free. The second is that they do not collect any identifying information from their users. This is in stark contrast with many social media companies and applications, which collect and even sell your personal information.
Circle of 6 is not the only app which strives to prevent gendered and sexualized violence. BSafe is another useful tool. When you click the activation button, either by voice or in the app, BSafe tells a pre-determined list of people your location, who are also able to listen to you and your interactions, as well as watch your surroundings through your camera.
While apps like Circle of 6 are both incredibly important to have and be aware of, we should not have to live in a world where people are constantly at risk to be on the receiving end of gendered and sexualized violence. While no one wants to have to go on a date thinking about potential violence, it sure does not hurt to have technology that helps you be prepared. Who knows, maybe one day, people will stop being creepy, but until then, I don’t mind this as a short-term solution.