Launching a New Mobile Safety App for Americans Overseas

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April 7, 2016

Last Sunday, I hosted a brunch at my home with guest speakers Paula Lucas and Samier Mansur, which was well attended by my LadyDoc friends – thank you so much! It was an inspiring presentation attended by an energetic mix of people who embraced my dedication to improving the safety of Americans here and abroad. We’re taking it to the next level using mobile technology and raised nearly $1200 of our $10,000 goal this weekend!

Here are the scenarios we’re thinking about:

A female college student sexually harassed by the driver of a popular rideshare service reports the event via Live Safe immediately upon exiting the car. The driver is apprehended in minutes by campus police…

Leaving a restaurant late at night, another female student feels safer knowing that her friend is using SafeWalk to virtually escort her safely home.  

These are two real life examples of the many uses of Live Safe, a recently developed phone app currently in use on dozens of college campuses and other institutions across the US.  Now imagine this app in the hands of Americans living, working, traveling in thousands of destinations around the globe – having access to 24/7 domestic violence and sexual assault information and caseworkers at the push of a button.  We’re now partnering our crisis support team with the mobile app team to take a great leap forward.

The Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center (AODVC) was established in 1999 by FAUSA member, Paula Lucas, an American expat with three young children who narrowly escaped lethal abuse from her husband while they were all living in the United Arab Emirates.  Her husband stalked her when she finally escaped to the US.  So while hiding in a battered womens shelter, Paula started AODVC to assist other American survivors of domestic violence living overseas.  Read her story in her fascinating memoir, Harvesting Stones.

Over the past 16 years, AODVC has grown into an internationally-recognized, national award-winning non-profit with case managers available 24/7 by phone and online.  The work is done by a pro bono network of International Family Law attorneys, support from professional counselors, and partnerships with local resources worldwide. 

In 2012, AODVC launched SASHAA (Sexual Assault Support and Help for Americans Abused Abroad) to respond to the high number of American sexual assault victims traveling and living overseas, by providing crisis response, prevention, and education.  The Knowb4ugo project provides sexual assault prevention information and education to people planning to study, travel, volunteer, or move abroad, before they go. Finally, AODVC has expanded its mission to include supportive LGBTQ services and a Protecting Pets Program for overseas Americans escaping abuse.

SASHAA also features counseling, connection to medical and law enforcement resources, information about a specific country’s laws, services, and cultural norms, international transition services, long-term case management from specially trained advocates, and assistance with housing and other basic needs in the foreign country or back in the US.  

AODVC/SASHAA focuses services on Americans living and traveling abroad, which in 2014, totaled over 25% of the US population – 8.7 million Americans living abroad, 80 million traveling abroad annually, and 450,000 active duty military and military employed civilians overseas.

Live Safe was created from a spirit of triumph over tragedy and the desire to make the world a safer place by assault victim, Shy Pahlevani, and Virginia Tech shooting survivor, Kristina Anderson, as well as Samier Mansur and Eman Pahlevani. It is the leading mobile safety communications platform, providing a robust and discrete two-way communication channel between individuals and safety officials, often preventing incidents before they occur. Through a smartphone app, individuals can report safety concerns directly to safety officials who monitor the real-time, web-based Command Dashboard. 

Over the past several months, as president of the Board of AODVC/SASHAA, together with Paula Lucas and board member Andrea Gluckman, I have met with senior directors of LiveSafe to create a partnership. Inspired by the mission of AODVC/SASHAA, LiveSafe has offered to create at cost a customized Global Mobile Safety App (GLOMO), to serve the organization’s clients, incorporating the latest in smartphone technology into existing AODVC/SASHAA client services.  The app will focus on: access to country-specific information and resources for sexual assault and domestic violence (INFORMATION), access to AODVC/SASHAA case managers (SUPPORT), and SafeWalk feature which serves as a virtual escort and can provide location tracking in emergency situations (SECURITY).

AODVC/SASHAA is raising money to fund the $10,000 needed to cover the cost for GLOMO and aims to make this vision a reality.  You can be a part of making these vital services available to all Americans abroad by visiting this project’s fundraising page.