Robocopp: To Serve and Protect…You From Rapists
Various rape and sexual assault incidents have recently made the news headlines. They have triggered debates and changed policy in universities. Sexual assault is not a new problem but there is a spotlight on the issue that has people looking for solutions. Is there an easy solution to this problem? No. Of course not. But it doesn’t keep people from trying to invent a solution and there are some seriously crazy inventions out there, including barbed female condoms and electrified jackets.
The most recent attempt is The Robocopp – a bracelet armed with an alert siren, bluetooth, and gps installed into it – only $249. With a push of a button you trigger a loud alarm that can be heard within a quarter mile radius of where you stand. Its immediate effect is to scare off the attacker. It will also send your location to the nearest police officer to come to your immediate aid. Attack averted.
Robocopp was founded by inventor Sam Mansen and Shitai Li. Two men. They are aware of the irony and have two women on staff who get top photo billing on the ‘About Us’ page despite not being founders. Mansen, believes that technology is the way to address and solve the expansive problem of rape throughout the world. The mission is to eradicate 100% of rape worldwide. Yes, world wide. Go big or go home, right? To help fund this venture go to their Indiegogo page. They’re in the last two days of funding though they are way beyond reaching their goal.
I have one big problem with this safety fashion accessory. It is being marketed as a way to eliminate all sexual assault. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) 4 out of 5 of victims in the U.S. are assaulted by a friend or acquaintance. Assaulted by someone they trust! It is unlikely that a victim who is being sexually assaulted by someone they know will press a siren alarm on a bracelet. I just cannot see this device deterring rape in the way they are promoting it on their site.
I do see it as a way to prevent assaults in general. I was recently mugged walking home in Oakland and I could have and would have set off the siren and been glad the cops were immediately called through the bracelet. The assailants would have been frightened by the attention the siren would bring and have for sure fled. It could have definitely saved me some physical pain and perhaps the property they stole. IMHO this is a viable product for robberies and assaults and easier to manage than mace or pepper spray. It can also be marketed successfully to women and men.
Last August I wrote about the date rape nail polish. An invention of four guys (more men) to assure safety of college women. Women wearing the nail polish can dip their painted finger into their drink and if there are any known date rape drugs mixed in the liquid the nail polish will turn black. Thus warning her and deterring any rape attempt before it happens.
When it comes to sexual assault the norm has been to place the responsibility on the woman to manage her own risk of being victimized. Though I do not disagree that women need to do what they can to protect themselves, it is most definitely not our sole responsibility to deter sexual assault. We need to get out of this frame of thought that “women should dress modestly/test their drinks/wear an alarm bracelet/not walk alone to assure their safety” and that doing so would cease all attacks on them. It is not on us!
I applaud that men are taking some thought to finding a way to decrease attacks on women but perhaps they can try developing something that will change the “epidemic” of sexual assault. Perhaps try to solve the major backlog of rape kits, some of which have gone untested for over 10 years in some states. What deters offenders if not jail time? No DNA testing, no convictions. The assault charges fall on deaf ears and women are victimized yet again by the failing system. Let’s look into solving the entire problem and not just the singular incident. What is consent, non-consent, drunk, sober, drugged, flirting, report, stay silent, yes, no, maybe. How do the men know and what can women do? Is there an app for that?
There are two parties in the very troubling problem of rape and sexual assault and the woman is not singular path to the solution. Let’s get that into our heads sooner than later, guys.