Each year, there are about 293,000 cases of sexual assault. More than half of those crimes go unreported, and 98 percent of rapists never spend a day in jail. Not feeling physically ill yet?
Sexual assault statistics are so ridiculously high that there’s good chance that you or someone you know is a victim.
Yasmine Mustafa was aware of these statistics, but they didn’t hit home for her until one happened literally right outside her home. When a woman was brutally attacked one block away from Yasmine’s apartment, she decided to take action. Yasmine started ROAR for Good, a company that is developing wearable defense technology for women. Crowdfunding for the project begins in June, and it’s already generating tons of buzz.
Read on to learn more about how ROAR’s wearable technology works, how any woman can better protect herself and how you can get involved in the movement against sexual assault.
You started ROAR for Good after learning about the sexual assault of a woman just a block away from your apartment, along with countless other stories you heard from women during your solo trip to South America. What was it about these stories that caused you to take action and start ROAR for Good?
That trip and the break in by my house were the instigators. The trip gave me this awareness I didn’t have before. I was traveling alone and because I was alone, people would tell me these stories. It was staggering to me, especially when I looked at stats – 1 in 4 college women will be raped and every two minutes a woman is attacked. Everyone knows at least one person who have been attacked. The prevalence of sexual assault is what shocked me.
How did the idea come about for your wearable self-defense technology?
When I read that story about the woman who was attacked by my apartment, I was thinking, what could she have done to protect herself? She was grabbed, dragged and beaten. How would she have time to reach into her purse and pull something out? I started talking to women and found that the most popular self-defense tools are pepper spray and knives. But those are also weapons that could be used against them.
How is your product different?
It’s part jewelry, part safety tool and it calls 911. Once you activate it, it launches an alarm and a light, and you use the element of surprise on your attacker. It acts as a deterrent and gets you help right away. It has this feature we call the Virtual Bodyguard, an app will tell your friend, boyfriend, mother or whoever you choose that you’re heading home and they can see where you are at all times.
Sexual assault is difficult to talk about because of the idea that women need to change their behavior if they want to stay safe. How do you respond to those who insist that if women didn’t walk down certain streets or wear certain clothes that they wouldn’t be assaulted?
I hate when I hear these things. The self-defense industry shouldn’t need to exist. I was walking with my roommate one night and these two guys started following us. Eventually they went away. Later on we saw a cop, and I told him what happened and asked him what I should’ve done. He said, well do you have pepper spray?
I got really mad. It’s always on the women. Don’t wear that, don’t go down that street. To that end, we donate a part of the proceeds of our product to an education program. Our culture perpetuates certain things that are not true, and education is the key to diminishing the instances of sexual assault.
What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to a woman who wants to feel safer in her surroundings?
Be vigilant about where you are and where you’re going. Also, a lot of women aren’t aware that 70 percent of the time, they know their attacker. Be aware of that stat. The media hypes up those opportunistic attacks.
Feminist Apparel has been placing No Catcalling signs all over New York for anti-street harassment week. Since you’ve started ROAR, have you seen more of these smaller movements ignite the conversation around sexual assault?
There’s been more awareness than ever. There’s been a lot done to get rid of the stigma and shame to sexual harassment and assault. The men I’m meeting now consider themselves feminists. Ten years ago, that would not have been the case. It’s gaining momentum.
For those who want to get involved and spread awareness about sexual assault, what do you suggest they do?
To learn more about ROAR for Good, sign up for their newsletter here. And be on the lookout for their crowdfunding campaign that starts in June!