The Maneater

Concerned inventors start fighting rape with new technology

Different inventions are working to make women feel protected against sexual assault and rape.

Inventors have been thinking outside of the box to create a last line of defense against sexual assault. Many different ideas, prototypes and businesses have been made available to prevent rape. These technologies range from serving as a barrier to giving people a window of opportunity for escape.

Underwear

AR Wear is women’s underwear that is resistant to pulling, tearing and cutting, which creates a barrier between a woman and a rapist. According to AR Wear’s Indiegogo website, these pairs of underwear are constructed to be comfortable to wear during normal activities and fit smoothly under form-fitting outer clothing.

“We developed this product so that women and girls could have more power to control the outcome of a sexual assault,” according to AR Wear’s website. “We wanted to offer some peace of mind in situations that cause feelings of apprehension, such as going out on a blind date, taking an evening run, ‘clubbing,’ traveling in unfamiliar countries and any other activity that might make one anxious about the possibility of an assault.”

AR Wear's website said it prevents the “completion of a rape” by using an “innovative skeletal structure.” The waist, thighs and central panels are made with specially designed, cut-resistant straps and webbing. The waist is tightened with a locking device that does not allow the underwear to be pulled down, and the thigh straps can be adjusted to fit tightly against the woman’s skin, preventing unwanted access by another person. The user is able to take the underwear off by using one of the 132 combinations on the locking device, which can be put in only from a clockwise position.

Teeth-lined condoms

Another invention is female condoms with razor sharp teeth lining their interior, called the Rape-aXe. This anti-rape device was invented by Sonette Ehlers in an effort to help women in her homeland, South Africa, where a woman is raped every 17 seconds. The spikes inside of the female condom allow penetration, but once the rapists try to pull out, the teeth dig into the penis. The teeth cause such a large amount of pain for the rapist that the woman is given time to escape. The condom must be surgically removed at a hospital, forcing the rapist to turn himself in.

Virtual walk home

Five students from the University of Michigan created Companion, a mobile app that allows friends and family to virtually walk loved ones home. With GPS, users can request multiple different people to “walk them” to their destination, and the friend or family member will receive a text message with a link to an interactive map showing the user’s current location and destination. The person who sent the request does not need the app in order to accept the request. The app detects changes in movement, so if the user ever goes off of the mapped path, or if they are pushed or start running, the Companion app will ask the user if they are okay. If the user does not respond “yes” in 15 seconds, the user’s phone will began to sound off a loud alarm and give an option to call the police. The Companion app is free and can be installed on iOS and Android devices.

Hold Until Safe

MU alum Zach Beattie created an app that aims to keep students safe when walking alone. SafeTrek is a mobile personal safety app that will automatically call 911 when it detects an unsafe situation. How it works is when you are in a situation where you may feel unsafe, you can open the app and hold your thumb down on the “safe button.” When you remove your thumb from the safe button, the app gives you 10 seconds to type in a four digit passcode to reassure you’re safe. If the passcode is not typed in on time the app will call the local police for you.

“SafeTrek was developed by college students, for college students.” according to SafeTreck’s website. “After constantly receiving crime report emails and hearing stories from our friends about incidents that were occurring on campus, we decided to tackle the problem that the campus blue light system was failing to solve.” SafeTrek works anywhere in the US and is available on both iOS and Android, and it costs three dollars a month.

Effects on rape culture

A debate on whether these inventions are helping or blaming victims has begun in response to this new technology. Vicky Simister’s blog post, “The problem with anti-rape underwear,” suggests the new technology blames victims. “Why don't we see people rushing to donate to awareness raising campaigns that aim to change society's attitude to women and to lock away more rapists, rather than our vaginas?” Simister wrote in the blog. “Why do we still live in a world where the onus is on a woman not to get raped?”

Simister said that these products do not help men and people with disabilities. AR Wear has said that their product is not a long-term solution for rape.

“Only by raising awareness and education, as well as bringing rapists to justice, can we all hope to eventually accomplish the goal of eliminating rape as a threat to both women and men,” according to AR Wear's website. “Meanwhile, as long as sexual predators continue to populate our world, AR Wear would like to provide products to women and girls that will offer better protection against some attempted rapes while the work of changing society's rape culture moves forward.”

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