Making dates safer

Increased interaction between people on the internet is what drives the success of social technologies like Twitter and Facebook. Online dating and chat rooms are, with all their attractive opportunities for finding love, easily accessible platforms for sex offenders. 

The website recently said: “Technology certainly influences human behaviour and even though exposure to the internet does not create predators, a number of cases suggest access to mobile technology and the internet can facilitate sexual assault.”

The latest crime statistics in South Africa show that sexual offences are still high and despite the drop across many categories of offences over the 2011/2012 period, the incidence of rape has only decreased by 1.7%. But technology can also help when you are on a date with a stranger and things take a turn for the worse.

Developers have come up with a number of applications that try and reduce the risk of sexual offences. One example is Circle of 6 (, which is meant to prevent violence before it happens. The app is available for Android, Windows and iPhone platforms and is free. It won the App Against Abuse technology challenge in 2011.

The challenge was part of the 1is2many campaign, an initiative started by US Vice President Joe Biden in September 2011 to help reduce dating and sexual violence. With this app, you choose six friends’ details to load onto your circle of “safe” people.

They receive an sms notifying them of their selection to your circle. Four icons (a car, phone, chat or exclamation mark) will appear around your circle, and you choose the option that will be most helpful in your time of need. The car icon will send a message to your circle with a pre-set message that reads: “Come and get me I need your help” (the message can be changed to suit your needs).

A GPS map with your exact location will be attached to the message.

The phone icon will send a message that reads: “Call me and pretend you need me. I need an interruption.” The chat icon sends out the message: “I’m looking for information about healthy relationships. Just letting you know.”

Links to organisations that deal with questions relating to relationships and other issues will be available. This option does not request the help of your circle but keeps them informed about what is on your mind. The exclamation mark icon provides you with pre-set hotline numbers and an option to set a local emergency number of your choice.

The button immediately speed-dials the emergency services. The app is simple and appropriate for university and college students, who tend to rely mainly on their cellphones for assistance on dates. It gives them easy access to help when they are in danger.

It also ensures that many people receive an alert at the same time, making the possibility of help and rescue much higher. Another example is the Watch Over Me — previously known as, pronounced “secure me” — app.

Similar to Circle of 6, it allows you to enter the activity you will be doing along with the location you will be at. If you do not arrive at this location at the set time, the app immediately alerts all your emergency contacts about your missed activity.

It will also send out the GPS coordinates of your location if you are in need of rescue. Finally, a personal safety app that helps you keep track of how much you have drunk — and whether you should drive. DrinkTracker Breathalyzer was developed by

When you enter what you have had to drink and at what time, DrinkTracker Breathalyzer calculates your blood alcohol level. The calculation is based on your profile which requires you to enter your gender, height and weight. The default measurements are in metrics and should be under 0.05g per 100ml of blood if you are going to drive on South African roads.

Although this article has been made possible by the Mail & Guardian’s advertisers, content and photographs were sourced independently by the M&G supplements editorial team. 

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