Wearable technology is a rapidly expanding area of development and merchandise that I admit I was slow to fully grasp. My first experiences with wearables were as personal fitness and sleep trackers, and they all took the form of bracelets or wristbands, like the Nike FuelBand that sits on my wrist right now.
My introduction to the Dipper audio necklace by Tinsel and my fantastic conversation with Tinsel CEO Aniyia Williams really opened my eyes to the many ways tech visionaries like her are looking to enhance our lives with wearable technology, and now there’s a wearable that just might save it.
Currently in pre-production via Indiegogo, Athena is the name of the introductory device from the company ROAR for Good, and it is a small, sleek personal safety alarm and emergency contact device. It’s roughly the size of a half-dollar and an ounce in weight, and it’s designed to be worn as a necklace, clipped to your waistband, slipped onto a purse strap or keychain, or wherever you’d like to wear it.
Through research and mock attack trials with their prototypes, ROAR discovered that “the least effective place to wear a safety device is on your wrist. as it restricts access when you need it most. As such, Athena was designed to be worn on various locations on your body to provide you easy access, and to be activated with just one hand.”
Named Athena after the Greek goddess of wisdom and courage, this fashionable safety wearable emits a loud alarm and sends text messages to your friends & family with a distress message and your location when activated. Because there are different levels of incidents, there are also different levels of activation; you have to press Athena’s button for three seconds to activate it, a time long enough to prevent accidental activation but also short enough to make it functional in an emergency situation. It also features a silent mode that only messages your chosen contacts with your location if you don’t want to call attention to the fact that you’ve alerted anyone with the 85 decibel pulsing beep alarm and flashing LEDs.
Athena operates on a small replaceable battery lasts up to 3 months, and there are three colors to choose from for the backing – Rose Gold, Antique Silver, and Timeless Black. The front is interchangeable to suit your preferences and lifestyle, and the design, while attractive, is also functional: the raised dots swoop in such a way as to guide your finger to the recessed activation button, so it can be pressed inconspicuously and without looking at it.
ROAR for Good was founded by CEO Yasmine Mustafa, who had the idea for the company after traveling across South America on her own. During this trip, she met many women, South American locals and fellow visitors alike, who had survived terrible assaults. With this already on her mind, she returned home to Philadelphia, where a woman was brutally raped one block from Yasmine’s apartment in the following week.
Hearing about that horrific incident ultimately led her to enlist her friend and “serial entrepreneur” colleague Anthony Gold to officially start ROAR for Good. Both Yasmine and Anthony have impressive backgrounds in both hardware and software engineering, and they also work extensively with non-profit organizations, such as Girl Develop It. Yasmine started the Philadelphia chapter of Girl Develop It, which provides affordable, accessible programs to women who want to learn software and web development. Yasmine is also a board member for Coded by Kids, a non-profit that helps inner city youth learn how to code.
It bears mentioning that as many of us work arduously to dismantle rape culture in the United States, it can feel both saddening and maddening to be developing new technology for self-defense. After all, we should be teaching boys not to rape instead of coming up with multitudinous ways for women to combat our victimization, right?
Well, should is a tricky word and we live in a dangerous world, one that we still have to inhabit daily while we do the work necessary to change minds on the massive scale needed to make such actions obsolete. Simply put, we’re not there yet. Personally, I know my rights and I fight for my full humanity, autonomy, and safety as a woman to be recognized and honored, and yet I also have to walk through a terrible area after dark on most nights to get home from the gym unless I want to give most of my money away in Uber fees.
The ugly truth is that nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States have been raped, and I myself am a survivor. Almost half of us have experienced sexual assault other than rape, and then there are non-sexual assaults and crimes like straight theft or mugging.
ROAR for Good says they are dedicated to “empowering women, reducing assaults, and transforming society,” and each element of that mission statement is crucial and reflected in the organization. Athena is the first-ever smart jewelry self-defense tool that helps deter attacks though the alarm alone, instantly notifies multiple parties for help, and it’s worth noting that it can’t be used against the user, unlike mace, brass knuckles, or a gun.
Athena is moving us forward in the world of personal self-defense tools, which haven’t innovated in over 70 years, but what’s just as crucial is how ROAR is focusing on one day making its own product unnecessary. ROAR for Good has partnered with The One Love Foundation, which “works with young people across the country to raise awareness about the warning signs of abuse and activate communities to work to change the statistics around relationship violence.” ROAR is also working with Women Against Abuse, a Philadelphia-based non-profit whose mission is to end violence through advocacy and community education.
ROAR aims to operate fully as a Certified B-Corp, meaning that it is dedicated to and held to a set standard of using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Ten percent of proceeds will go directly to The One Love Foundation, and ROAR will invest in non-profits that teach empathy and healthy relationships to children, in an effort to foster change at a generational level.
Of course there are sociopaths and true criminals out there, but the psychology of violence against women is a deeply tangled and poisoned web of patriarchal oppression, entitlement, and power dynamics that is far more complex and insidious than just a comic book image of a villain lurking in a dark alley. Those sort of attacks happen, yes, but the “villain” could also be lurking in your own home or bed, with US statistics for experiencing intimate partner violence at 35.6% for women and 28.5% in men.
There’s no one cookie-cutter situation or environment wherein you might need to thwart an attack, or let people know where you are and that you need help without your attacker knowing. And yes, men and senior citizens are groups that could also benefit from Athena, and it intentionally features a design that is not overly gendered, but ROAR is focusing its message on young women in response to the tragic statistics of violent assaults against us.
As the company says, “We don’t want to just put a Band-Aid on the problem; we want to get to the root cause of violence against women. Our goal is that one day, devices like Athena will no longer be necessary.”
Until then, we have to stay safe.