“Am I safe?”

Maybe you know you’re way around maybe you are new to an area. For women finding the safest way to simply walk outside is something as common place as navigating to avoid traffic and WalkMeHome treats this reality as the obstacle and threat that it is. Our team wanted to design a platform for women to mark where they have felt uncomfortable and a tool to navigate through the world with other women’s experiences taken into account. How would you advise a friend to get home? “This road is well lit, stay away from that bus stop...text me when you get there.” This familiar farewell is proof alone that we need something. Through Esri’s platform we have the capabilities to collect and store live data, underlay existing crime statistics for an area, and even record users notes to arm ladies with invaluable local knowledge. By collecting this data we can look out for each other, as well as notify lawmakers and business owners about potential problems. Yes, all women, and #metoo can have live data points of what women’s daily experience, and an undeniable conversation piece when comes to gaslighting. It's real what’s happening to us as women, and we're taking notes. It is not enough to play damage control for rape culture, it's been time to tear it down. Our team sees this project having the potential to grow into a way to study women’s safety, and even be a social accountability system to have safety economically tied to local business and workplaces, not unlike glassdoor or yelp. “Lets go for drinks! This place has good food and a place other women recommend!” We are hoping social pressure of not having multiple reports of bad experiences will push business owners to “hold the public space” better and actively look out for predators. Maybe even require training for employees to notice when women are recipients of relentless unsolicited attention, or simply just having adjacent alleys better lit.

When it comes down to it, a world that is safer for women is safer for all folks of all genders, and we would hope that this project can act as a model for all people to get home safe.

What it does

At the moment, we have the capability to find the user’s location and place a dot on it. This is a start! Esri is an incredibly powerful tool with LOTS of functionality. We met a bit of a learning curve figuring out terminology, choosing the appropriate features, and piecing it all together in time. This weekend three of the four team members fell terribly ill, which greatly slowed production, and the last dev hacking now knows survival Java. Even with the Great TreeHacks Plauge of 2019, with all the hours the Esri mentors risked spending with us (Thanks all!!), we have a good handle on moving forward.

Looking Ahead

All four of us, as well as some friends and mentors who we pitched to along the way, are excited to stay in touch and continue development on this much needed service.

In our research we came across the "Free to Be" project in Australia, documenting street harassment and creating a report of harassment hot spots for lawmakers to consider. For six weeks last spring, the project's map service accepted submissions to then later be turned into a report along with testimonials. On receiving such an overwhelming response, they continued on to other major cities. With Esri's help we can turn the energy to report into a tool that can take down the need to.

Notes on Intended Usage

We spent much energy talking about how to design an app that would give the needed safety data without stressing out or triggering our users. Hearing details of someone being seriously and violently hurt nearby when causally mapping a walk home could very negatively affect our user’s mental health. With this discussion in mind we chose to have all reports weighted the same to not feel like a big deal, and to be a tool to record when and when the uncomfortable moments of a women's day are with a simple, causal, and anonymous check mark. We would want people to not feel bad about marking workplaces or restaurants, and for others to see that maybe those companies and establishments may have a problem, while still being a very serious and important tool. The scary stuff, although severely under-reported, we'll leave for now to Esri's crime layer from verified police data, and take this into account in our routing feature to come.

Thanks all!

-WalkMeHome Team

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