UBC students set to launch app to help women stay safe

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — How do you tell your friends you’re in trouble, especially when you need help right away?

That’s a problem a group of students are trying to solve with a new app called “Bolt” that aims to improve safety.

“The situation all over the globe faced by women pertaining to their safety is devastating,” says the website. “According to statistics by UN Women, one in three women have to face sexual violence at some point in their lives. We strongly believe that women’s safety should be a responsibility committed to by all communities.”

Co-creator Vedanshi Vala says the app connects a user to a chosen group of “safe buddies.” They can keep that group informed about their plans–whether they’re studying late at the library, or meeting someone they don’t know very well for a first date. Then, if there’s a problem an alert can be sent quickly and easily.

“All they have to do is type out @help,” Vala explains. “We have a section on the app that outlines a response mechanism.”

This response mechanism outlines what steps to take if you receive an alert, which can include calling 911.

“Not all victims actually want to be put in touch with emergency services and we’ve got to respect that,” Vala says.

The app also features an experts hub where counsellors, martial artists and others share their insights and safety tips.

Vala wants people to understand that although the app is meant to be used by people–particularly women–when they are in danger, an app alone can’t prevent violence.

“We also really believe in putting the blame on the perpetrators of sexual violence. Our aim is not to be victim-blaming at all,” she explains. “This app is not the solution to the problem, the problem is systematic but I think it’s important for all of us to take our platform as an opportunity to start an important conversation in our communities.”

The app is being launched on Dec. 18 at UBC.

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