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Domestic Violence Australia: Smartwatch to help keep victims safe

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Domestic Violence Australia: Smartwatch to help keep victims safe


Secret and secure technology that can be programmed to a smartwatch could be the key to helping at risk women stay connected and get much needed help at the time of crisis.

The StandbyU Foundation have developed a world-first solution to put control back in the hands of the victim with technology that can record what is happening so it can be used as evidence against the predator.

Women who face high to low risk family and domestic violence can simply click a button on their watch to activate an alert, allowing chosen support networks to listen in, find the victim and organise help for them.

The alert loops through a caller list of selected contacts – which comes through as a regular phone call – and can allow a conference call for all members who answer and so they determine their next move in order to help.

The StandbyU Shield creates a secret and secure way for people at risk to stay connected to their friends, family, case workers and police. Image: Supplied
media_cameraThe StandbyU Shield creates a secret and secure way for people at risk to stay connected to their friends, family, case workers and police. Image: Supplied

The software can be programmed to watches or devices that have a SIM and has the function to make calls.

A trial of the StandbyU Shield, commissioned by the Federal Government, found 93 per cent of participants said the watch significantly increased their safety.

All of the surveyed women also found their emotional wellbeing and mental health improved from having the watch.

Of the 3000 alerts that were sent during the 12-month trial, only one needed police assistance, which showed having friends or family present could de-escalate many situations and provide reassurance.

StandbyU Foundation Founder Chris Boyle said by making friends and family first responders, it freed up emergency services to look after more serious community issues, responding only when they were needed.

“When we put the authority, control and decision making back into their hands (the victims), you recognise the signs, you’re no longer in a cue with everyone else in society that calls the police,” he said.

Findings from the trial found 93 per cent of participants agreed having the safety watch significantly increased their safety. Picture: Supplied
media_cameraFindings from the trial found 93 per cent of participants agreed having the safety watch significantly increased their safety. Picture: Supplied

“Instead, you’re up the front of your cue with people who know you, love you and will do anything to keep you and your kids safe – so when you think something is worrying you, when you start to feel your heart beat (faster), that’s when you press the button.

By intercepting things early, often there is no escalation because they gave themselves permission to reach out to people who care.”

Mr Boyle — who worked for more than 25 years as a social worker — said one of the biggest flaws within the sector was how quickly someone could intervene when a victim was not feeling safe, which sparked the idea for the technology.

He said limited housing for women looking to escape was another shortfall.

StandbyU Founder Chris Boyle said victims had been let down by the inability of someone to come and intervene quickly – a problem he intends to help solve with his watch. Picture: Supplied
media_cameraStandbyU Founder Chris Boyle said victims had been let down by the inability of someone to come and intervene quickly – a problem he intends to help solve with his watch. Picture: Supplied

“We know human connection is the fundamental principle to leading a healthy and happy life, so domestic violence impacts people’s mental health and wellbeing with symptoms through anxiety, loneliness, poor self-esteem and loss of confidence, hope and freedom.

“All of those things can be addressed through connections and having people who love and care for you by your side.”

A watch, complete with the programming installed and a 12-month subscription, can be purchased for $1500 outright, and money raised through the charity is spent to deploy the watches to those who need one but cannot afford it.

Back in 2019, the StandbyU Foundation received a grant from the Department of Social Services to trial the technology on 100 women.

The one-year trial was part of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children.

For more information on how to get a watch, contact StandbyU Foundation on 1800 069 010.

Originally published as How a watch is saving women’s lives

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