Could a push of a button prevent instances of sexual violence?
This is the question Athena, a personal alarm system, hopes to answer. Created by a non-profit ROAR for Good, Athena is a fashion-forward, cute, coin-sized clasp that can be clipped on to your jewelry and clothing. With a push of a button, Athena sends an alert message including your location to three selected contacts. The developers have created two functions for Athena: SilentROAR (how clever), and Alarm Mode. Both features are designed to increase safety for all Athena users. Activated by pushing the button three times, silentROAR sends your location to three contacts of your choosing without triggering an alarm. This mode ensures that in moments of unease, you can share your situation without drawing any unwanted attention. Alarm mode, on the other hand, is designed to scare off attackers by emitting a screeching alarm. By pressing the button for more than three seconds, Athena sends your location to your three chosen contacts while simultaneously emitting an alarm to ward off any threat, and alerting nearby officials to your situation. Let’s also not forget that Athena is super charming, with three color options: Pink, black, and silver, so it’s bound to match any outfit!
The inspiration behind Athena started when co-founder, Yasmine Mustafa, embarked on a solo trip to South America. Throughout her travel, Yasmine visited a total of six countries; one by one, she embraced diverse cultures and experiences. However, the stories of violent sexual harassment of women from all age groups and background cast a dark shadow on what was otherwise an incredible adventure. When Yasmine returned to her apartment in Philadelphia, she was met with devastating news: A violent rape crime had occurred a block away. At this moment, Yasmine Mustafa realized her purpose of fostering a system where women felt safe. Establishing ROAR for Good took time, patience, and lots of coffee. Yasmine and her team devoted days and nights (34 months to be exact) to develop and improve Athena. All members of the team strongly believed that the core purpose of Athena would be to provide a safety tool that fit the day to day lifestyle for all women. The design of Athena also captured a sense of women’s empowerment. Yasmine and her team wanted the device to empower women, and encourage them to have control over their safety. It was then and there did the two ideas — safety and empowerment — came together in the form of a trendy jewelry alarm, and Athena was born.
Despite promoting empowerment and safety for women, Athena received extensive push-back from leading consent awareness and sexual education groups. Critics explain that society already tells women what to wear, what to say, how much to drink, etc in order to prevent sexual assault. Rape whistles and personal alarms have been produced and tried for many decades, and yet we still witness an overwhelming surge in instances of sexual assault. One in four college women will be sexually assaulted, 65% of women experience street harassment, and one in three women suffer from violence at the hands of their intimate partners throughout their lifetime. These numbers, stories, and women do not lie.
In the face of such devastating odds, critics fear that Athena makes women feel even more vulnerable, like they cannot protect themselves. More so, placing the responsibility on women to send out a distress signal could lead to victim-blaming, where not taking the proper actions, such as not buying Athena and/or using it, shifts the conversation back to what women could do more of to stop being raped and not what perpetrators — the majority of whom are men — could do less of, like stop raping and sexually assaulting women!
Athena and similar products are not meant to eradicate sexual assault; they are, as ROAR for Good says, a “band-aid.” The road towards a future where women are free of the fear that they will end up as another sexual assault statistic requires the delicate navigation between complex thoughts and opinions. Athena, with its new fashionable take on personal safety, attempts to pave a way for future security and empowerment. Now, the day technology sets up an alarm to sound independently when a disgusting, misogynistic comment or action occurs, I’d be impressed. If that happens though, I fear the world would be one loud continuous alarm.