In the US three women are murdered every day by their partners. Domestic violence is a global epidemic and a complex, multi-layered societal issue, but could technology potentially help to save lives?
One developer certainly thinks so: Alicia Carr, founder and CEO of Pevo. Carr started her career in retail then worked as a database programmer for a bank.
In 2011 she was waiting in a queue at an Apple store to buy an iPad and got chatting with a 16 year old boy. She asked how he could afford $800 for an iPad, and he explained he'd built a mobile app, having taught himself how to code via YouTube videos.
"I went to my husband and said 'I want to do that'. He let me quit my job and follow my dream," Carr tells Techworld during an interview at GitHub Universe.
Carr, who is 54, spent the next couple of years teaching herself the programming language Objective-C through online tutorials and a $125 bootcamp. In 2014, her app Purple Pocket (now Purple Evolution or Pevo for short) was born, thanks to encouragement from her tutor. It took Carr just three months to build the app on her own from scratch.
The app offers a range of resources for domestic violence victims. These include a quiz to check if you are in an abusive relationship, where to find shelter, legal rights, how to get food and clothes, plus help to exit the relationship, for example through financial advice.
Pevo is disguised as a fashion app within the lifestyle section of the Apple store, with no reviews permitted, to help hide it from abusers should they go through their partner's smartphone.
When Carr began to build the app she had to consider every aspect - she knew it had to be more resource-based, with numbers to call directly. She had to think about what to include, and she knew details about shelters had to be in it.
But she also had to put herself in the shoes of an abuser: what would an abuser do if they found the app? How would an abuser engage with the survivor's smartphone?
"When my tutor suggested it I started to cry," Carr says. "My mother, aunts and so many people I love have been victims of domestic violence.
"I thought building an app would just help me get a job, be something I could use as a resume, I never thought I'd get to the point where it is my job."
Pevo exploded in popularity since it was featured in a video during a keynote at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in 2015.
"I've had people contact me from Canada, Australia, India and, closer to home, California," she says. "My first goal is to expand from Georgia to make it national, then I want to take it outside of the US."
Carr says she has received support for this project from GitHub, Apple, GoFundMe and Square.
"Apple has been amazing, GitHub have been phenomenal," she says. "They gave me a free account so I can get others to help me build the app. The tech community will help me build this, I believe in it wholeheartedly."
However, Carr is critical of the lack of diversity within the tech sector.
"I can speak about unconscious bias," she adds. "I have dealt with it. I'm black, I'm 54 and I'm a woman. That's three strikes against me. It can be an emotional drain. But now I see it as a benefit, as I get to speak on this issues and get the tech sector to understand, you've got to stop with the bias."
Carr also says that just as technology can help people to escape from abusive partners, it can just as easily be used against them.
"Technology has a huge effect on domestic violence and stalking, with buying software and malware to track victims," she says. "A lot of tech companies don't understand what they're doing to affect victims."
Domestic violence is a subject close to Carr's heart, having seen both family and friends suffer the awful effects of abusive relationships.
"I have a girlfriend who died. I told her to get out, but she said she couldn't, she had a new house and needed him to look after the kids. When she said she'd leave, he shot her in their driveway," Carr says. "Leaving an abuser is incredibly dangerous for domestic violence victims.
"If you're in a bank and a robber walks in, do you just walk straight out knowing he'll kill you? No, you strategically plan your exit. That's where Pevo can help."
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