One in six women in America will experience sexual assault in their lifetime. Globally, the numbers don't look much better. Younger people around the world (women between the ages of 18-34) are also at the highest risk of being a rape victim, according to the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN). Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology decided to change those statistics.
Manisha Mohan works as a second-year master's student with MIT Media Lab. She specializes in wearable technology for safety and security.
"I consider sexual assault a disease in our society," Mohan said. So she set out to change the course of that disease. She developed a garment add-on that can be taped to any piece of clothing a user wouldn't want forcibly removed. It uses a Bluetooth connection to track the wearer's location while it's activated.
The technology -- called Intrepid -- works in two ways: active and passive.
In Passive stage, Mohan explains, users can tap on the button to activate an alert feature if they're conscious and in a potentially dangerous situation.
Intrepid's Active system relies on the strip gaining information about the force being used around the garment. If the strip senses force, it will send a message to the user's cell phone asking if they consented to the act. Users have 30 seconds to respond to the message. Once that time elapses, however, it will start buzzing with a loud noise for an additional 20 seconds. After those 20 seconds end, Intrepid will also send out the user's location to contacts set up in a predefined safety circle. These are friends or family of the user who get the location and a potential danger warning about their friend.
The variations of the technology show impressive sophistication in what looks to be a simple strip.
This wearable technology isn't just for women. Men could also benefit from the strip. RAINN estimates that just over 5 percent of undergraduate males experience rape or sexual violence in college. However, due to social stigmas surrounding rape, assault, and sexual crimes, most of those go unreported for men.
"Our clothing design is based on input from sexual assault survivors, 338 on-line participants, 67 volunteers and 20 users who helped us understand the real world feasibility of our system," Mohan wrote. "Users evaluated the clothing appeal, functionality, cultural sensitivity and provided feedback on their general sense of security wearing the smart clothing."
[Image Source: MIT Media Lab via YouTube]
Mohan also created this with children in mind, particularly the Active setting. Young children and elderly or disabled users might not be able to ever press the button in the Passive mode.
Ultimately, Mohan noted that the technology has one crucial goal, and she thinks they can reach that goal.
"We believe our technosocial approach can help improve user safety and prevent sexual assault," she said.