ReDawn is a mobile app built to put power into the hands of survivors of sexual violence. It serves as a platform to get 100% confidential advice in a conversational matter, with its primary functionality being a chatbot named Dawn. I felt like this was the most natural approach because people are just naturally conversational beings, and being able to talk to someone and knowing it’s impossible to get traced back to you can really make all the difference in a sensitive situation like this. Aside from that, there’s a tab that connects people to local resources that can help them in a time of crisis after the matter, a tab to log past incidents of abuse, and a tab dedicated to hotlines and 911, as those are always the most vital resources in times of immediate crisis / is important to lay out accessibly.

To create this app, I used a myriad of technologies: for Dawn, I used the DialogFlow API, allowing me to integrate the chatbot within my app’s code remotely while being trained through the cloud. For location data, I webscraped from Planned Parenthood’s and RAINN’s websites to find the information about health and community centers, coded programs in Ruby/Javascript to parse through them, convert addresses to longitude/latitude, organised/formatted information, and stored the information in over 7,600 lines of JSON code. After collecting my data and training my chatbot, I began app development with Swift and integrated the aforementioned technology into the front/back-end engineering of the app.

 

What inspired you (or your team)?

September 16th, 2018, one of my closest friends was drugged and raped. I desperately wanted to help in any way that I could, but all I had ever been taught were “preventative” measures: “Don’t wear this, don’t act like that, learn how to fight, and NEVER walk alone at night”. While I rhymed there mostly unintentionally, it’s as if these precautionary tales were like verses of a poem we had to internalise and live by. Unfortunately for us, these tales ended at prevention and left us in the dark following such a harrowing incident, where a light at the end of the tunnel would have made all the difference.
We resorted to vigorously googling everything we could in hopes of finding next steps. At this point, I couldn’t imagine what my friend was going through considering how painful and confusing the process had been and, a bit selfishly, I had no clue what I would do if something similar happened to me. Along with the lessons I was learning in my first ever Women’s and Gender Studies class, I quickly came to the realisation that the system as it stood was stacked against us. Overwhelmed with rage, fear, and confusion, I couldn’t wrap my mind around how the road for abusers was paved with yellow bricks, while the road for survivors was barren, and unpaved. I felt that it was more important now than ever to have something that would give survivors, their communities, and anyone with a yearn to learn a resource that would hopefully prevent things like this from happening again.
The population of app developers is overwhelmingly white males, which is not very representative of my experience and viewpoints. I truly believe that necessity is the mother of invention, watching something like this from the sidelines alone opened my eyes to a myriad of injustices survivors experience, and I felt that as a female software engineer in the making, it was my responsibility to use my skills to give back the community that fostered my interests in the first place. So, I decided to create an app.
To circle back, my friends case was dropped, despite boundless evidence. A lot still needs to change institutionally (which takes eons), but until then, we must equip ourselves with the knowledge and resources necessary to react appropriately in these dire situations. Every 98 seconds, someone in America is sexually assaulted; while survivors and loved ones may still feel in the dark, after dusk, there is always ReDawn.