Manisha Mohan, a research scientist at MIT Lab, has developed a sticker-like wearable sensor that can detect sexual assault in real time and quickly alert nearby people, as well as send distress signals to the victim’s family and friends. This sensor to detect and prevent rape sticks to clothing just like a sticker would, and can be trained to learn the difference between when a person is undressing themselves and when they are being forcefully disrobed.

If the device detects forceful disrobing, it sends a message to the wearer’s smartphone to confirm if the act was consensual. If the wearer does not respond in 30 seconds, the phone emits a loud noise to alert nearby people. This alarm can only be stopped by the user with a predefined password used within 20 seconds. If the alarm is not stopped, the app automatically sends distress signals to family and friends, along with the victim’s location.

The sensor learns from the environment and is trained to differentiate between normal undressing and forceful disrobing, which allows it to detect signs of an assault even when the victim is unconscious or not in a position to fight against the attacker. This can act as a life-saver, particularly for victims that are minors, bed-ridden patients or intoxicated people. This sensor to detect and prevent rape works in two modes. In passive mode, the wearer is assumed to be conscious and can set off distress calls on their own by touching a button in case of an impending danger or threat. In active mode, the sensor tries to detect signals from the external environment.

From heart rate monitors to fitness watches, wearable technology is becoming a norm in today’s society. In a world where an estimated 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced some kind of physical or sexual violence, Mohan’s sensor to detect and prevent rape comes as an immediate and effective solution. In Mohan’s own words, “We don’t need bodyguards, I think we should have the ability to protect ourselves.”

In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly signed a Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. More than 20 years later, one in three women still suffer from physical or sexual violence. It is estimated that 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual violence some point in their lives. However, some national studies show this number to be as high as 70 percent. In 2012, a study conducted in New Delhi, India found that 92 percent of women reported having experienced some form of sexual violence in public spaces. Adult women account for almost half of all human trafficking victims detected globally and women and girls together account for about 70 percent, with girls representing two out of three child trafficking victims.

Jagriti Misra

Photo: Flickr