By Holly Russel, Regular ContributorSeptember 19, 2015
Whether you live in a big city or small town, walking by yourself late at night (or anytime, really) can sometimes be scary. You never know what can happen and who – if anyone – would be around to help if you ran into trouble. For women, it can be particularly frightening. Case in point: a school I once attended had a long stretch of lonely sidewalk between campus buildings and the train station that students referred to as “the rape trail.”
image via rvanews.com
Feeling safe in public spaces is a right, not a privilege, but for many people (women, people of color, homosexuals, transgender men and women, children, the elderly), that right exists only in best case scenarios. To address this discrepancy, a handful of University of Michigan students put their heads together to create a public safety app called Companion.
The app uses a GPS signal that lets you designate a person to track you on a Google map as you move from one destination to another.
If at any point you get a creepy feeling, you can press an “I Feel Nervous” button to alert your virtual companion that you feel unsafe. This logs the location of the perceived threat and starts a phone call between you and your friend. Other features include a “Call Police” button that dials 911 and a loud alarm that sounds if you get pushed over, start running, have the headphones yanked out of your phone, or don't make it home in time. Best of all, your companion doesn’t need to have the app installed on their phone for it to work; they simply receive a text with a link to the map when you activate the service.
Companion gained 500,000 users in just two weeks (75% of whom are women), and many colleges are partnering with the app to coordinate a campus police response to perceived threats and other incidents. If you’re interested in getting your school involved, talk to your campus safety department about the app, but your school doesn’t have to buy in for you to use it.
Everyone deserves to feel safe when they’re walking alone, and the Companion app gives people that power even when a friend isn’t available to walk with them.
It could even be useful for people who are nervous about using Uber or for those times when you get into a cab that makes you feel unsettled. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need anyone to accompany us to ensure our safety in public, but until then, this smart little app could turn out to be your new best friend.
Read more about the Companion app here.
Have you ever been nervous or scared walking alone? Would you use this app? Tell us below!
Holly Russel has a BA in Journalism from New York University. She’s a Senior Marketing Copywriter for a pet health company and counts dogs among her favorite things on the planet – along with tacos, books, social media, and the City of New York. When she makes it out from behind the computer screen, Holly spends her time practicing yoga, kayaking, and indoor cycling. She lives and writes in Wilmington, NC.
Every girl is a work in progress. If you need more help, click here.