After becoming a survivor of sexual assault, Mercedes Molloy decided that she wanted to use her experience to help others. Molloy had searched for safety apps for herself, but she was unhappy with what she found. So, Molloy decided to create a safety app herself, which led to the creation of the Safe Squad mobile app.
Sexual assault is a crisis that desperately needs to be confronted. According to RAINN, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds. If you want to feel safe, it can be hard to find tools that help you feel protected. Some apps that have a similar purpose as Safe Squad have popped up over the years to help people feel more secure.
Molloy saw a chance for the potential for an app like Safe Squad to be developed after seeing more progressive changes in the tech industry in 2018. “I never realized the intersection of social justice and STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] before,” Molloy said. “I learned how to code self-taught, really, through YouTube.” Molloy cites having a mentor and a team of interns to help her push out a secure product.
The Safe Squad has four main features, Molloy told The Tempest. “You enter your location information and timeframe like within the calendar prior to going to an event,” Molloy explained. “At the end of that timeframe, when it says the hours up, it’s going to ask you if you want to snooze, add time, or dismiss.
“If the app senses that a new person is interacting with the calendar or inconsistency with your touch, it would then send a message to five selected contacts a person pre-selects with their location. Also, for instance, if I encountered a date rape drug, and I’m not fully cognitive, it’ll recognize the inaccuracies within the touch,” Molloy said.
Molloy decided to make the app free to make it more accessible to people. In her research of safety apps, Molloy found that most safety apps catered to women. This frustrated Molloy because marketing towards one group of people is not intersectional or inclusive.
“Minorities are the more susceptible to encounter unsafe situations and are the most in need,” Molloy said. In the United States, women of color are more likely to be assaulted than white women. She hopes her safety app is more inclusive to vulnerable populations. “Safety is a fundamental right,” Molloy added. “I don’t think that companies should really try to market specifically to one type of person.”
Recently, Molloy has noted that “since the [Black Lives Matter] protests started again, people are using it for that sort of specific purpose.” She describes the Safe Squad App for protestors as “an armor of resource and just a preventative measure.”
Many women face barriers when they pursue projects or jobs in STEM fields. In general, it can be hard to pursue a project when people do not support you. Molloy recalled the difficulty of her ideas rejected “from people who are supposed to be within my support system.” This included family members in her case. She recommends that other people with minority communities use this as motivation.
“Just because you don’t get it right the first time doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road,” Molloy said. “Remain persistent.”
Molloy looks forward to working on and making updates to the Safe Squad mobile app. “I would love to sort of have a messaging platform so people can communicate with each other with the safety app.” She also wants to continue to advocate and mentor young women. In the past, Molloy served as a mentor for International Women’s Day. Molloy hopes to attend more in-person events on behalf of Safe Squad when it is safe to do so. When she does, Molloy will have the Safe Squad app to help keep her safe while going to events.