A rough sketch of our logo
A forum where they can build a support system and a community of people who have experienced similar problems
A chatbot to help empower the children to find resources and a map to show where they can get help in person
A collection of blog posts that show them how to identify abusive homes, get help, and learn more about abuse statistics
An explanation of why we started and how to utilize our website
The home page
There are nearly 3 million reported cases of child abuse. In 2018, there were almost 700,000 confirmed cases of child abuse -- equivalent to 10 packed football stadiums. Over half are school-aged and have access to technology. Now with one-to-one policies in schools, allowing students to have access to laptops, online resources are more important than ever. I have a friend where regularly they tells me about how they had a lock on the outside of their door to be kept in, the pressure from their parent to drink, and the constant demotivation where their plans deviated from their parents. Now, they struggle to work through that part of their past, despite the better environment they're in now. If they had a resource like this where they were younger, they could have sought out help earlier. Instead of waiting for someone to intervene and ask the right questions, victims of child abuse can look to our website for support and resources. We called it FIN (Friends In Need) to not only exemplify that they have a support system, but to keep it discrete in case they do have a parent monitoring their device.
What it does
This website is a hub for resources. We designed it to be yellow and blue, both colors of happiness and calmness. We included happy photos of families to help normalize the love you should see that they may not get. Clicking "About," the average user can learn more statistics about child abuse and why this website was created. Clicking "Locations," the user to see a collection of safe spaces near them and where they can get support in person. Clicking "Chat," the user will reach our chatbot where they can describe their situation and confide in. If the conversation gets serious, they are asked if they want to speak to someone. If not, they are redirected to hear what their peers say so they still have a support system. Clicking "Blog," the user can find a few articles about abuse and how to identify in their own space. Clicking "Forum," they can talk to other peers they have faced abuse and start a conversation about how they work through it.
How we built it
Utilizing HTML5, CSS3, and Bootstrap, we created a website customized to our needs - a simple hub to not overwhelm the user and single-paged to make it easier to pursue. For the chat bot, we used the Microsoft Azure chat bot and preloaded the knowledge base with specific keywords that pointed towards physical, sexual, or drug abuse. For the map, we used Google Maps API to see what locations were in the area.
Challenges we ran into
This was the first time that either of us worked with APIs on our owns and it was a learning curve. The Google Maps API was not reacting as expected and it was hard to find our specific error in documentation. We also had to add a security certificate for our site as otherwise, we could not take current location. Right now, we're waiting for our security certificate to go through. This may take up to 24 hours to implement so the demo is done locally. For Microsoft Azure, we were more concerned with what we were putting into the knowledge base. Biases in machine learning can seriously affect how different abuses are perceived, especially physical. For the purpose of this demo, we went down a drug abuse path, leading to fear in the household. In the future, we'll work with therapist and professionals in the field who can help better navigate the area with proper language.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We're proud of the scroll as it adds to the seamless finish of the website. We also like the minimalist design of the site that makes it not only easy on the eyes, but allows the user to focus more on the content without getting overwhelmed. We're also glad to be filling this gap in the market, as there are many resources for domestic abuse, but few marketed for child abuse.
What we learned
What's next for Finspace Online
To continue this resource, the next step would be to talk to professionals in this field and make the knowledge base of our chat bot more comprehensive to handle different situations with a higher sensitivity. We'd also like to natively implement a forum so it's more cohesive with the rest of the site and focuses on anonymity.
Fin stands for Friends In Need. We wanted to have a name that not only highlighted that they are not alone, but was discrete in case they have an abusive parent monitoring their internet usage.
What if they don't want to talk to someone?
Forcing someone to talk to someone when undesired will often isolate them. To work around this, we direct them to resources that can help them gain more knowledge about the situation until they feel comfortable enough to talk to a professional.
What if they don't have internet at home?
Schools are now implement a 1-to-1 policy where students get their own personal device on loan from the school. This could be a great resource for guidance counselors to come into classrooms and introduce the website to the students and allow them to explore on their own.
What if I want to use this site to help someone I know who is being abused?
While this site was designed for specifically child abuse victims, anyone can use these resources to learn more about child abuse and see what it is like through their perspective.
What kind of flexibility does your chat bot have?
The chat bot takes into account synonyms and typos and works around this to produce results close to those desired.
Who created this?
Danielle Zevitz and Mara Hart are 2nd year Computer Science majors from the University of Virginia. They took early morning flights to get to LA and participate in an all-female hackathon. They also founded the Girls Who Code chapter at their university and are passionate about how technology can affect our future.