HELP for Victims of Abuse is Here

New mobile app is designed for prevention, education and protection of victims of sexual violence

Tellisa Ramadhani and Ronald Indrawan
Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The media has been full of stories about violence against women and children in Indonesia in recent months, with particular anger over the alleged gang rape and murder of a 14-year-old schoolgirl in Bengkulu in April

And in the past few days, President Joko Widodo has announced tougher measures against child sex offenders, including possible chemical castration and the death penalty.

Against this backdrop of mounting public alarm, the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), of the US Department of Justice, has been working to raise public awareness of the problems, and also to support the victims through HELP, an app that aims to improve the sense of security among women and children and give them more insight into the issues they face.

ICITAP hosted the soft launching of HELP on April 21, 2016, also Kartini Day, during a celebration of Indonesian women for equality and justice at @America in Pacific Place, Jakarta.

ICITAP came up with the idea of HELP and provided the platform for various partners to fill the app with information and services. Those partners include the Indonesian National Police, the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection (KPPPA), the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Social Affairs, 130 NGOs under the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other agencies.

The development of the application also involved many victims and survivors to get a firsthand view of what women really need and want to feel safe. ICITAP said that it created the app not to compete with existing apps, but to improve on what was already available. This is what makes the HELP app distinct from the others, because it aims to gather all services in one platform. It is more than an SOS button, it also provides information for users on the various types of violence that often happen to women and children.

The issues covered by the HELP app are human trafficking, domestic violence, violence against children and sexual violence.

The app features four main functions: hotline; buzz; 110 and SOS. The hotline button connects the user to four agencies during working hours: Komnas Perempuan, KPPPA, the Ministry of Social Affairs, and IOM, to give information on the issues covered by HELP.

The buzz button works helps a user help herself through a personal network. When users sign up for the app, they will be asked for a maximum of five emergency contacts. If the user is not feeling safe, she can press the buzz button to notify the emergency contacts in real time and to provide the user location; an attachment also can be included, for example, a photograph of a taxi driver’s ID card or a street scene.

The 110 button on the app is the emergency number for the police. Last but not least is the SOS button. This feature will record the first 30 seconds of anything that happens once the button is pressed and the recording will be sent to the emergency contacts and police. The main screen of the app shows a map of where the user is and hospitals, police stations and other agencies that could be helpful in case of emergency.

The HELP app also provides information in the form of articles, videos, regulations and an e-library for users to get to know more about violence against women and children. One innovation is a self-assessment function from the articles available on each topic. It does not confront the user with the issue, but gives them an opportunity to ask themselves a string of yes or no questions as a self-assessment on whether violence has occurred to them or not.

The app developers sees the project as more than just a safety net for women and children, but also as a tool for women’s empowerment. On the menu, there is an option called “Empowerment Activities,” which is meant to accommodate the corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs of companies that work in women’s empowerment. For example, L’Oreal is a partner of the HELP app and it offers makeup classes for violence survivors. ICITAP collaborates with Facebook, Google, and Twitter as part of its marketing efforts for the app, also receiving their IT expertise for the app’s development.

When asked about the government’s plans to ramp up punishment of the perpetrators of violence against children and women, Gerald H. Huett Jr, the Director of ICITAP Indonesia, said relying on punishment wouldn’t work and that a broader approach is needed.

Huett noted that the police need adequate training to deal with sexual violence. At the moment, he said, victims are often not treated well during the investigation. The low number of women officers in the police is also problematic. Having more women officers would help to identify issues, especially from a woman’s perspective.

Another important issue is the social stigmatization faced by victims of rape or violence, and also the psychological scars created. Any action to eliminate this prejudice should be supported.

“I hope someday, someone will stand up and campaign to abolish community stigmatization,” said one of the brains behind the HELP app, Dina Ernawati.


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