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MIT Sexual Assault Detector: Here are Some ‘Radical’ Ideas to Make it Work

It’s magic!

Credit: MIT, YouTube

Lo and behold! Science is here to save you from sexual assault. What’s your best guess? An alarm that goes off when someone who has intentions to harass you approaches you? That’s where I started too but no, this is not about people who assault but about people who get assaulted. Once again. [You can shake your head here.]

Yeah yeah, it is not good to be cynical about everything. Isn’t this a welcome step and that too, developed by a woman. Aah! Women are women’s worst enemies. We knew it. Allow me to cut the crap from your mind racing in patriarchal bullshit.

Any step to put an end to sexual violence is welcome. So is this sticker called ‘Intrepid’.

Stage: Passive

Let’s see how it works, as explained in this video from MIT, which created the device. Manisha Mohan, part of the team that developed the sticker explained that there were two ways in which a victim could ask for help. The sticker has to be attached to the clothing of the user. If the assault is happening in an ‘passive’ condition, that is, a condition in which the victim is conscious, they can press a button attached to their clothing.

Now let’s examine this method. Every day, in our great Bharat, women are sexually assaulted not just in homes but in workplaces, on roads, during commute etc. It’s as if a woman’s breasts or any part of the body for that matter, are the property of anybody who wishes it to be so. Reminds me of a joke by Aditi Mittal that the only way Indian women were going to detect a lump in their breast [It was breast cancer awareness week] would be when a man who grabbed it on train told her so after he was done.

So I wasn’t surprised yesterday, when on my way back home from work, a man grabbed my left breast. If it has happened to you, you know that there is no concept of time in there. Everything happens in seconds and before you know it, you are violated. I was conscious (that I have a breast), so was in ‘passive’ mode. But I wouldn’t have been able to press that tiny button because right after, I was only thinking why he did it, if it was my fault, and if it was my breast’s fault. I felt disgusted by my own body. This is when otherwise, if victim-blaming is done anywhere in my vicinity, I send fire balls searing in that direction. Sexual violence displaces you.

Suggestion

We need: Technology that can understand how a victim feels. Why? Because sexual violence is more about how a person was made to feel than it is about how the perpetrator thought the person would feel. This way, the technology can extend to verbal sexual assaults and sexual harassment at workplaces too. So when your boss, thinking you’d like it and says ‘hi sexy’ and you don’t like it, and feel violated and can’t think of what to do, the alarm goes off and everybody in your workplace gets to know that the boss made you feel violated.

The drawback? All these work after the assault, which is why, we need to focus on the perpetrators and what they think before they violate a person. And it should do things on its own, without anyone having to press anything. Asking your brain to ask your arm to move is not the ideal thought you’re going to have when you’ve been violated. I’m sure technology will take us there one day because you don’t want too many violated women around with no means of addressing the problem. It is not going to work well for umm… earth?

Stage: Active

In this one, I’m assuming, (because the video doesn’t say anything about it) that the victim is not in a position to do anything on her own. So it detects movement from the perpetrator. That’s nice. But here is the thing. First, the device memorizes how you typically take off your clothes. If it differs from it, it sends a message to your phone asking if you consent to it or not. But wait, in the ‘active’ mode, is the victim in a position to even move let alone click a button?

Sexual_assault_detector_intrepid_MIT_consent_yes_no
Consent is not always through words. [Image credit: MIT YouTube]

Consent

This brings us to the elephant in the room called consent. Sexual assault is inevitably linked to this word. But how many people understand that consent can be denied in many ways. Remember Amitabh Bachan in ‘Pink’ yelling how the woman had said the magic word ‘no’? Why is so much emphasis given to this form of saying no? Saying no is definitely a good way to say that you do not consent but there are times when you do a lot of other things to say the same. Patriarchy nudges me asking ‘why make it complicated, can’t you just say no when you mean no?’ No. Thanks to you, uncle patriarchy, women and other victims endure even when they don’t consent. Mild pushing away, ‘tch’ ing, or even not responding are all some ways in which people endure unwelcome sexual advances. So what needs to be done?

Consent detector: The device should be able to immobilize the person making sexual advances if the victim is enduring in spite of not wanting it. It should be able to detect if a person consents or not whether or not they say no.

Hi from perpetrator. I’m still here.

If you are not able to answer it in some seconds, the phone makes a loud buzzing noise. If the victim does not respond in twenty seconds of that, their location is sent to five trusted contacts saved on their phone. Apart from saying that people with no friends or trusted contacts can go to hell, this system is again, avoiding the perpetrator. Let the trusted contacts come, alert the police etc. but what about the victim who is still not out of danger? What if the alarm buzzing makes the perpetrator even more violent?

The phone will record it. A call goes to one of the trusted contacts and it records all noises. Yes, it will help in court but ONE MORE TIME, what about the perpetrator?!

Warning! Radical thought ahead

Focus on the perpetrator and not on the victim. Why should we ask women to do things all the time? Carry a pepper spray. Learn karate. Check ‘no’ on your phone. No, instead, a message can go to the perpetrator’s phone ‘what the fuck do you think you are doing?’ or like I said, make them immobile. In case of sexually coloured remarks, seal their mouth. Why do I feel that these sound like things that only magic spells in Harry Potter can do? Feminism is, in a way, magic.

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